Cruising in the wake of Concordia disaster
The cruise industry was jolted, but not grounded, after the Costa Concordia passenger ship struck a rock and capsized off the Italian
on January 13, leaving at least
17 people dead and more than a dozen people missing. island of Giglio
Since the accident, the cruise industry has announced plans to re-examine its emergency procedures even as it asserts the safety of its ships. And while some Americans are now wary of heading out to sea, others seem to view the tragedy as a horrific anomaly that has no bearing on cruise safety.
"I don't understand why anyone would be leery of taking a cruise," said Matt Mayfield of
St Paul, who
will set sail in the Caribbean in mid-February
on his honeymoon with Rachel Hultman.
Both are first-time cruisers. "If you see someone else in a traffic accident, you feel bad, but do you stop driving" he asked.
In a poll at www.cruisecritic.com, a website that caters mostly to veteran cruisers, about 65 per cent of the 6000 who responded said that they are unfazed. An online poll conducted by the Wall Street Journal, which presumably reaches a broader audience, found that 52 per cent of more than 3000 respondents are less likely to take a cruise after the disaster.
Most people understand that human error was to blame, said BJ Hall, a travel adviser and cruise expert with Indigo Journeys. No clients of the Twin Cities-based travel agency have expressed fears about taking a cruise. In fact, since the accident, Hall has been busy with customers looking to book cruises.
"The ship was safe," she said. "Somebody made a stupid decision. I think people understand that."
The Costa Concordia, which was carrying 4200 passengers and crew members, ran aground after the captain steered to within 500 feet of the shoreline, well off course, for a look at Giglio. A rock slashed the hull, leaving a 49 metre hole.
About 70 minutes passed before the evacuation alarm sounded. Making matters worse, about 700 passengers who had joined the cruise at
Civitavecchia, the ,
had not taken part in a muster drill designed to instruct passengers about what
to do in the event of an evacuation. Cruise ships are required by international
law to conduct such a drill at least 24 hours after embarkation. The Concordia
drill was scheduled for the following morning, when more passengers would
embark at port of Rome . That would have been within
the legal time frame. Savona, Italy
Cruise ships, many of which carry enough people to populate a small town, all have voyage plans and deviations from those plans require at least a two-person review. Italian authorities have recovered the ship's voyage data recorder, equivalent to an airline's black box, so they're likely to learn if such a check occurred on the Costa Concordia.
In the meantime, the industry is taking action to review safety practices. Carnival Corporation, the parent company of Costa and nine other cruise lines including Princess Cruises, Seabourn and Holland America Line, announced on January 19 that it would assess emergency response practices.
The Concordia accident raises questions about the company's safety, Carnival Chairman and CEO Micky Arison acknowledged in a statement.
"While I have every confidence in the safety of our vessels and the professionalism of our crews, this review will evaluate all practices and procedures to make sure that this kind of accident doesn't happen again," he is quoted as saying.
Cruise Lines International Association, which represents 25 of the major cruise lines serving North America, has also begun a review of safety operations among its members, and "is fully committed to understanding the factors that contributed to the Concordia incident," according to a statement on its website.
As a travel agent, Hall has received letters from many cruise lines outlining their safety practices and standards since the Concordia accident. She said cruise lines will be looking at their hiring, training and evacuation plans. But she sees no major changes in what the sailing public will see.
"Ships are extremely safe," Hall said. "They just aren't meant to be run in shallow waters when they are that big."
For our vacations, we anticipate sunny skies and smooth sailing. But sometimes the worst occurs. Cruise ships are quite safe. According to Cruise Lines International Association, which represents 25 of the major cruise lines serving
North America, between 2005
through 2010 there were 16 marine casualty-related deaths out of nearly 100
million passengers worldwide. Still, it never hurts to know ways to protect
yourself if the unexpected occurs.
1. Attend the muster drill and pay close attention. Cruise lines must conduct these safety drills at least 24 hours after setting sail; most do so before ever leaving port. As boats have grown in size, the drills have moved from decks near the lifeboats to large areas, such as a dining room or theater, from which passengers would be led to their lifeboat in an emergency. If that's the case, ask a crew member to show you your lifeboat so you know how to get there.
2. Study the ship's layout and carry a map of the ship everywhere you go onboard.
3. Wear shoes with good treads, especially if you're going on deck, where surfaces may be wet.
4. Crime, though not common, poses the likeliest threat onboard a cruise ship. Combat it the same way you might at home: Don't flaunt cash or jewels, avoid walking alone through unpopulated areas and don't drink excessively. By law, doors must have peepholes. Always use them