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Carnival Promises $300 Million In Ship Upgrades

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – After three of its ships developed serious problems mid-cruise since the beginning of the year, Carnival Cruise Lines has announced that they will spend $300 million to add emergency generators, upgrade fire safety and improve engine rooms on all of their ships.

"With our investment, we will introduce new technologies and enhance current systems to our fleet. Additionally, we are forming a new Safety & Reliability Review Board comprised of leading third party experts from organizations such as United States Navy, United States Coast Guard, as well as leading airlines and equipment manufacturers," according to a letter sent out by Carnival Cruise Lines President Gerry Cahill.

The Miami-based cruise line said they also plan to "expand the availability of hotel services in the rare instance of a shipboard event that involves the loss of primary power."

"At the Carnival Corporation, safety is our number one priority. It has to be because everything starts with a safe secure vacation," Carnival Corp. CEO and Chairman Micky Arison said. "We've had a great safety record over the years. We are absolutely sure we are going to have a great safety record in the future. We are absolutely committed to delivering the best vacation to all of our guests."

Carnival's problems began in February when the Carnival Triumph. An engine room fire left the ship crippled and adrift in the Gulf of Mexico with more than 4,200 people aboard. The scheduled four-day cruise stretched into eight days as tugs pulled the vessel into port in Alabama. Food was scarce and passengers sweltered in the heat with no air conditioning. There were also reports overflowing toilets and human waste running down the walls in some parts of the ship.

Last month, the Carnival Dream was in St. Maarten on the final stop of a Caribbean cruise when the crew announced it would not be sailing home to Port Canaveral because of a mechanical issue with a backup emergency diesel generator. Some passengers reported when the power went off and some toilets stopped working while they were docked at Philipsburg.

Carnival flew the passengers on board the Dream back to the U.S.

Days later the Carnival Legend developed technical difficulties that affected its sailing speed. The Legend was on the last leg of a seven-day Caribbean cruise and returning to its home port in Tampa. The ship was forced to skip its last stop in Grand Cayman to complete its schedule. Guests were refunded $100 and given 50 percent off any future Carnival cruise.

In the letter, Cahill tried to reassure travelers that there was no need to put off future bookings until the upgrades were complete.

"It's important to note that all of our 24 vessels operate safely today, and have strong systems in place to prevent, detect and respond to emergency situations," said Cahill. "We meet or exceed all current regulatory requirements and are committed to delivering our guests a safe, reliable and enjoyable vacation experience."

"I think it's a good idea to get business back and get people going on cruise ships right now," said Tonya Bowers.

Tourists who spoke with CBS4's Peter D'Oench at Bayside in downtown Miami said they still cringe when they think of the Triumph being stranded but most applaud the plans by Carnival.

"They need to do this to improve morale and get people back," Bowers told D'Oench.

"I would agree with that too," said fellow Michigan tourist Jamie Omo. "People are now skeptical about going on cruise ships."

"I can't imagine what it was like aboard the Triumph," said Bowers. "I'm glad I was not on board."

Some people we spoke with disagreed.

"It's too little, too late," said Mike Turner, a tourist from Canada. "The damage was done."

Carnival, based in Doral, is the largest cruise line operator in the world, It owns Costa Cruise lines, which operated the ill-fated Concordia, and other well known lines like Cunard, Princess, and Holland America. The company operates more than 100 ships across its different lines.

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