All of my regular readers know that cruise ships play a significant role in my life, both in professional and recreational terms. I sell cruises, I work on cruise ships and I take cruises simply for pleasure. The tragedy still unfolding in Italy is obviously on my mind a lot.
I watched this tragedy develop starting about 2 hours after the Costa Concordia was beached on the island of Giglio. The first images I saw were of the ship grounded and listing – a significant event but unlikely to be life-threatening, it seemed to all of us discussing it on cruise forums.
Stories about the initial stages of the rescue operation were brief and often contradictory. Not until photos such as this started appearing did the magnitude of the accident become much clearer. This photo shows hundreds of people on the bow – where do you go from there?
The first image of the ship toppled over was so dark that although the photographer said that’s what it showed, it was impossible to verify. The morning light produced shocking images of the ship…
…and of the shocked and stunned passengers.
It quickly became clear that one man was solely responsible for the wreck, and his actions probably played a large part in the tragedy that ensued – Captain Francesco Schettino.
If you haven’t been on, or at least very close to a cruise ship, it’s hard to imagine the scale that rescuers have to deal with.
When you add in the chaotic conditions inside the ship, it was no surprise to hear this morning that some 20 people are still missing and that rescuers have started to collapse from exhaustion.
There has been endless speculation about this wreck’s effect on Costa, on parent company Carnival Corp, and on the cruise industry in general. My feeling is that you’ll find that once all the knee-jerk reactions have subsided, there will be some impact on Costa, but none on Carnival or the industry in general. I have dozens of clients sailing in the next 3 months, and have not had a single email or phone call about cruise ship safety. The majority of the travel agents in my network are reporting the same – there are no questions resulting from the accident, but lots of new cruise bookings.
The reality is that cruising is the safest form of travel that exists today. The vast majority of people recognize that this is an incredibly rare event. Many people think that the flight to your ship is the most dangerous section of the trip, but it’s actually the drive to the airport! The tightened regulations and enforcement that will no doubt result from this accident will make cruising even safer than it has been up until now.
I’ve only booked 2 people on a Costa ship, and I encouraged them to sail with a different line. Price, however, was their main criteria and it was very cheap. The reality is that Costa just doesn’t get good reviews from North Americans who have cruised with other lines. Cathy and I sailed on the Costa Mediterranea in 2006 and it’s extremely unlikely we’ll ever be on another Costa ship. The food and service were both mediocre and the decor was described by us and many others as “gaudy” – in a Baroque cathedral sort of way.
This commentary is not a sales pitch for cruising. In fact, I gave my 30-day notice to the travel agency yesterday. It’s been fun, but I’m going back to photography, writing and house renovations. And more cruising.
My thoughts remain with the thousands of people who have been affected by this tragedy. I can only hope that it doesn’t get any worse.