Carnival ships off 'Tropicale' to Europe
By STEVE HUETTEL
© St. Petersburg Times, published December 8, 2000
The Carnival Cruise Lines ship Tropicale, which attracted national attention on an ill-fated cruise from Tampa last year, is headed for Europe. But first the ship will get a makeover and a new name.
Carnival sold the 18-year-old ship to sister company Costa Cruises, which will send the vessel to Genoa, Italy, in February for an extensive refurbishment and refit before putting it into European service next summer, the company said Thursday.
The Tropicale, which left Tampa for Fort Lauderdale last month, was scheduled to begin two- and three-day Bahamas cruises from Port Canaveral in March.
But Costa made an offer over the weekend on the vessel, the oldest in Carnival's fleet, said Tim Gallagher, a Carnival spokesman. Parent company Carnival Corp. bought half of Costa in 1997, then purchased the rest this year.
Carnival wasn't shopping the 1,022-passenger Tropicale, he said, but the company's future is in newer ships that can carry three times as many people. Carnival Corp. also wants to bolster Costa, Europe's biggest cruise line.
"We've said all along that Costa will be our primary platform for expanding our European business, and the transfer of the Tropicale is consistent with that strategy," said Micky Arison, Carnival chairman and CEO.
Tropicale became Carnival's first Tampa-based ship in 1994 and was replaced with a larger ship before returning to sail the company's first four- and five-day cruises.
But on a cruise in September 1999, the Fun Ship was anything but fun.
Black smoke billowed out the rear of the 660-foot-long vessel as crew members spent at least five hours putting out an engine room fire. Passengers said they were sent to "muster stations" near lifeboats, then waited for 12 hours with little or no information.
Even before the fire, toilets overflowed in hallways, air conditioning failed and telephones went out, passengers said. Returning to Tampa on one engine, the ship was rocked by 12-foot waves from Tropical Storm Harvey.
"This boat needs to be taken out there and made into a reef," Larry Clark, mayor of Lake Alfred in Polk County, said after the ill-fated cruise.
Bookings fell off after the bad trip but soon rebounded, Gallagher said, and the ship routinely sailed at full capacity.
But Genie Moore, owner of Cruises & Moore in Tampa, said she didn't try hard to sell customers on the Tropicale because Carnival and other lines had newer vessels at about the same price. "It's one ship we steered away from," she said. "There are so many nice ships out there."
Bookings were light for the Port Canaveral trips, Gallagher said. But passengers typically don't purchase trips far in advance for such short cruises, he said.
Customers who booked trips will receive a full refund plus a $100 per cabin future cruise certificate redeemable on any of the line's three-, four- or five-day voyages in 2001.
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