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To Boost Safety, Cruise Lines Want to Be More Like Airlines

The fire-damaged exterior of Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas cruise ship docked in Freeport, on the island of Grand Bahama, on May 27, 2013
The fire-damaged exterior of Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas cruise ship docked in Freeport, on the island of Grand Bahama, on May 27, 2013Photograph by Jenneva Russell/The Freeport News via AP Photo

After a fatal capsizing and two high-profile fires aboard ships, observers began wondering whether cruise lines were operating with minimal regulatory oversight. An engine-room fire that leaves a 2,750-passenger ship adrift at sea for days? In 2013?

That incident aboard the Carnival Triumph—beamed round the world for days courtesy of CNN’s saturation-coverage strategy—followed the 2012 grounding of a European ship in which 32 people died. Three months after the Triumph blaze, meanwhile, a fire damaged Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas. The incidents deeply embarrassed the industry, decimated Carnival’s financial results, and prompted politicians and regulators to make noise about tougher oversight. Late last year the industry’s two largest companies, Carnival and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, hired retired military admirals to oversee their sea operations.