Degree Type

Honors Capstone Project

Date of Submission

Spring 5-1-2014

Capstone Advisor

Professor William Jasso

Honors Reader

Professor Robert Kucharavy

Capstone Major

Public Relations

Capstone College

Public Communications

Audio/Visual Component


Capstone Prize Winner


Won Capstone Funding


Honors Categories


Subject Categories

Public Relations and Advertising


This paper examines the problem that Carnival Cruise Lines (Carnival), a famous cruise ship line for vacationing, continues to endure crisis situations yet fails to take the appropriate actions for rectification.

It is common knowledge within the public relations field that a crisis can make or break the sustainability of a successful organization. It is for this reason that it is necessary for professionals to analyze past events within a company’s history in order to improve its relationships with its stakeholders to keep the business afloat.

This study focuses on three major incidents. The first one involves a fire in the Splendor’s engine, which stranded the ship out at sea in November 2010. The second incident involves the Costa Concordia that crashed off of the coast of Italy in January 2012. Lastly, the study discusses an engine fire on the Triumph, which also resulted in a stranded ship out at sea.

The methodology used to explore Carnival includes heavy research into media publications around the time of each crisis being studied as well as in-depth interviews with three key professionals in the industry. The first expert is Colonel F. William Smullen, a crisis management professor at Syracuse University and former Chief of Staff for Colin Powell. The second professional is Donna Stein, who owns an investor relations firm. Lastly, the strategic communications expert Michael Meath sheds light on Carnival’s crises from a management perspective.

The combination of research and interviews that is used to expose the issues with Carnival’s company brings a higher level of credibility to the study. Smullen, Stein, and Meath especially provide valuable information because they possess experience in both practicing in the public relations field and teaching the material as professors. Thus, they have the advantage of knowing real-world experience from a first-hand perspective while also understanding how to best communicate their knowledge to a novice audience.

The case study argues that the organization struggles to effectively communicate with stakeholders both during and after each crisis. It examines the company’s methods for communication, from in-person press conferences to social media usage. The evidence to support this argument lies in the many negative articles published regarding each crisis.

Ultimately, one can conclude that the company is not as prepared as it should be to handle the various crises that have happened over the years. Some of the key reasons for this include a lack of strategic messaging, inconsistent decision-making processes, and an unclear management structure. The study, however, also provides concrete ideas and recommendations to the company to prevent these reoccurring issues from arising again.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.



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