When we first heard about the stranding and disgusting sewage situation aboard the Carnival Triumph (apparently there was untreated toilet water running down walls after the boat lost power due to the fire), we didn’t feel as badly for the passengers as we did for the crew, who not only shared the experience but also had to work hard through it.

The second thing we wondered, after hearing about the ship’s disgusting voyage, is who would ever pay full price to cruise on the boat again? And who will have the unenviable job of cleaning up the ship — and how long does that take?

Precious little information is available about when the ship will be back in working order, though according to Reuters the ship was towed to a facility in Mobile, Ala., where damages will be assessed. The news service also reported that 14 upcoming voyages, those scheduled through mid-April, have been canceled.

The New York Times reported that it would cost $500 million to replace a ship like this, so however much it costs to clean it still makes that option worthwhile (and probably a more eco-friendly one). Andrew O. Coggins Jr., a cruise expert from Pace University’s School of Business in New York, told The Times, “They can rename it and move it to another part of the company and another part of the world. The bad publicity will eventually fade away.”

Typically, cruises run on a tight schedule, and every hour the ship doesn’t have paying passengers aboard, it is losing money, mostly because the capital investment in ships is so high. Plus, cruise vacations are deeply discounted (cruise companies make almost all of their money on shore excursions, additional food and alcoholic drinks, onboard casinos, and paid cruise activities like the ever-popular Bingo). Ships really do run 24-7, 365 days a year, and that’s necessary for companies to turn a profit. Most typical cruise ships disembark passengers for a mere six to seven hours before new ones come on board; and with 4,000 or so people, that is a serious job, not only moving people and luggage, but also cleaning and restocking. (See the video below of how this enormous job is accomplished.) Considering what a task it is on a typical boat, it’s hard to imagine how they are going to get this ship clean.

No doubt Carnival is losing a tremendous amount of money on this latest disaster, which follows the much more serious grounding of a ship in Italy, a disaster that ended with over two dozen casualties. While the recent cruise might have been incredibly gross, nobody died and everyone on board handled themselves well, despite the frustrating conditions. And considering the popularity of cruising, with about 19 million passengers a year hitting the high seas, something tells us the company won’t be losing money for long.

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Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.

What will it take to clean up the Carnival Triumph?
The Carnival Triumph is too expensive to ditch but cleanup of the once-stranded cruise ship will be complicated.