The initial article about Hurricane Katrina evacuees staying on Carnival Cruise Lines ships ["$236 Million Cruise Ship Deal Criticized," front page, Sept. 28], at first filled my heart with pride and joy. Here was a major corporation making a huge contribution to those in need.
Then the article noted that Carnival would receive $236 million in compensation from the federal government, and my pride and joy turned to disgust. At $1,275 per week per evacuee (a seven-day Caribbean cruise can cost as little as $599 per person), I believe Carnival is making a huge profit.
My greater disgust, however, is directed at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which negotiated the contract with Carnival and then left the ships less than half full after many evacuees opted to go elsewhere. Where does it say that evacuees have the right to choose housing provided at taxpayer expense? Fill those ships.
At $1,275 per week, that's more than $182 a day. The federal per diem rates for government workers in Houston and Dallas are about $150 a day and include a bit more than $90 for accommodations.
The Red Cross negotiated a deal for emergency motel accommodations in eight states, at an average rate of $59 a night. Maybe we need to have the Red Cross, rather than FEMA, negotiate housing for evacuees.
The Sept. 28 story "$236 Million Cruise Ship Deal Criticized" pointed out the average cost of a one-week cruise, but it did not point out that the average cost of a cruise from Dec. 20 to Jan. 5 is twice as much, and that rates in February and March are substantially higher than rates in September.
Second, it did not point out that Carnival Cruise Lines probably is not getting much income from the casino, bars, shops and optional excursions on which tourists usually spend lots of money during cruises.
Finally, Carnival had to compensate travel agents for commissions they had earned on vacations that the cruise line had to cancel, as well as pay the frustrated vacationers whose cruises it canceled and who had to cancel the flights they had booked to meet their cruises.
The writers are the owners of All Ways Travel in Bethesda.
The Sept. 28 article on criticism of the Carnival Cruise Lines contract was a fine example of a classic Catch-22.
If the Military Sealift Command had subjected the cruise ship contracts to the normal contract evaluation and approval process, the professional finger-pointers would have accused it of endangering human life for the sake of "paperwork." But because the Sealift Command had the courage to expedite the contracting procedures and provide immediate haven for evacuees, it stands accused of ignoring its fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers.
No good deed goes unpunished.
HEINZ O. RUPPMANN