Carnival Faces the Next Wave of Blame

In an unexplained absence from the scene of the stricken cruise ship, Costa Concordia, off the coast of Italy, Micky Arison, chairman and CEO of Carnival Corp (NYSE:CCL), is managing the fallout of the accident from Miami.

Arison has engaged communications consultants Burson-Masteller in an effort to allay concerns about the safety about the company’s ships, particularly in the middle of the peak cruise bookings season. “Whenever there are fatalities and serious injuries, it’s important for the most senior leadership to be visible,” said Peter Hirsch, director of reputation risk at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, without specifically commenting on Carnival. “Some visibility is certainly a good thing.”

The accident is reportedly the cause of human error, and may be due to a diversion the captain made from the computerized course, to show the tourists the nearby Tuscan island of Giglio. The captain is currently in criminal custody, and the press is being faced by Pier Luigi Foschi, CEO of the Costa unit.

Foschi has held two press conferences in Genoa, Italy, to address questions about the crash, and said that top group executives may still come to the scene to help.

“Carnival’s management has already offered to come here if we believe it’s appropriate for them to come,” Foschi said. “We’ll decide together.” The company’s senior management “has been in constant contact with the leadership of its Costa unit,” COO Frank said in an e-mailed statement.

The accident has had an extremely negative fallout on the stocks of cruise lines – Carnival fell 14 percent to $29.44, Royal Caribbean (NYSE:RCL) was down 6.3 percent and similar falls were noticed in cruise companies quoted in London and Oslo.