You might be surprised to learn that they actually DID do a few things right! (How fast they did them…or should have done them…that’s another discussion.)

Five key learnings from the Carnival Cruise Crisis:

1.The personal apology has merit. It was the right thing to do when Carnival’s CEO Gerald Cahill, boarded the ship and personally apologized to passengers and even lent a helping hand. It humanized the organization and placed responsibility for the incident squarely where it belonged – on the carrier. The apology will carry weight with passengers, even if that wasn’t immediately apparent.

2.Staff training made all the difference. Though the cruiser was a mess, the staff was in ship-shape and may actually be cruise line’s saving grace for saving its reputation.  The staff’s perseverance under difficult circumstances was lauded by passengers (and even spoofed on SNL). The lesson? Hire and train a staff that represents you personally. You never know when they’ll be called upon to act as your representative.

3.To rebuild trust, Carnival needs to announce – in detail – the steps it will take to ensure this will never happen again. What’s the backup plan for a future power failure? More back-up generators? Emergency food and supplies?  A partnership with the Coast Guard?  I have no idea, but someone does – and it needs to be announced and implemented.

4.Acknowledge that $500 is too small a sum for the indecencies these people suffered. Everyone knows these passengers can’t bring lawsuits, due to the ticket language. So do the right thing. Give them each a decent amount (I suggest $5,000) and make the amount in addition to their reimbursement and a complementary cruise in the future (if they want one!).

5.Don’t book a cruise anytime soon.