TODAY   |  February 16, 2013

Is $500 enough cash to compensate for cruise ship ordeal?

“I sort of thought they could’ve gone in a little higher,” said Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor-in-chief of cruise magazine Cruise Critic. Carnival Cruise Lines has offered passengers of the Carnival Triumph $500 cash, a full refund and a free cruise credit.TODAY’s Lester Holt interviews her.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> so what rights do you have as a cruise ship passenger? carolyn spencer-brown is editor-in-chief of

>> thank you for having me.

>> i'm sure the ticket has fine print .

>> so much fine print .

>> that people don't read. what does it say?

>> it says essentially unless it's a serious physical illness or death, you don't really have any rights.

>> nothing?

>> nothing.

>> is that because a lot of ships have foreign registrys?

>> that's part of it. i mean, the way the cruise ships operate is different from how hotels operate. they have flags, their flags are in bahamas, malta, because they get advantageous tax situations. it's all about finance.

>> and to avoid the situation which we saw here, i thought it was interesting reading over the notes. you say if you get on a newer ship you might not have gone through this. explain that to me.

>> here's what's good news coming out of a bad situation. in 2009 , there was a new law passed by the international maritime organization which actually sets the standards of how cruise ships operate no matter where their flag is. it's called safe return to port. it requires ships built after -- in 2010 and beyond to have dual engine rooms. so if for some reason an engine room is iscapacitated as it was on carnival "triumph," you've got a backup.

>> you can get back on your own power. let's talk about compensation. folks are saying they'll get a full refund, free cruise credit, and $500. in your view, is that enough given what these folks have been through?

>> you know, it's a new precedent for the cruise industry. they don't normally hand out cash bonuses for surviving an experience. i have to say, it was dismissive, i thought. your experience is only worth $500. i thought they could have gone in a little higher.

>> i've enjoyed some of the watercooler conversation about this. there are people who are diehard cruise fans who don't seem at all shaken by this and will continue to take cruises. others say, well, that's the reason i've never taken one. what's your take on whether the industry is going to take a hit here?

>> well, the industry will take a hit. it will take a hit no matter what anybody says. there are going to be people who haven't cruised before, who looked at this and said, my god, no way. but it won't take a hit for long. if the industry survives after the " costa concordia " which was tragic with 32 people dead, and it's rebounding now, it won't take too long a hit for this. i think what's important is to understand that this is not the norm. that cruises generally are very safe. in fact, these people were safe the whole time they were on board. wasn't comfortable or pretty, but they were safe. and it is a very magical vacation.

>> i've heard some voices out there who argue that the industry has gotten too large, it's grown too fast. is that something you've weighed in on before?

>> i don't think that's the issue at all. i think the issue is this ship had problems before it went out on the sea, that carnival did not solve immediately as it probably should have. we don't know that those problems, the propulsion problems are related to the engine room . we have no way of knowing that at this point.

>> right.

>> i think it's more that cruise lines have to be focused on -- i think it's more -- there's more cutbacks than too many ships and don't know how to handle it.

>> as mark pointed out, there's going to be a full ntsb investigation to get answers.

>> that will take time.

>> we appreciate your answers. thanks for being here. we asked you to weigh in on our web site ,, asking if you had been a passenger on the carnival "triumph, "would you ever cruise again. 30% answered yes, 70% said no. keep in mind, that's