/ Travel & Leisure

Has the Costa Concordia tragedy put you off cruises?

After wall-to-wall coverage of last Friday’s horrific Costa Concordia cruise ship accident off the Italian coast, cruise operators will be braced for a difficult year. Has this disaster put you off cruises?

Carnival Corporation, which owns Costa Cruises, expects to lose around US$95 million as a result of the tragic accident.

Other companies will worry that the striking image of a ship lying on its side will shake consumers’ faith in the safety of cruises, resulting in fewer bookings.

Until now, the cruise industry has fared pretty well in recent years. While other package holiday companies, like Thomas Cook, have struggled during the economic downturn, cruise operators have seen a year-on-year increase in passenger numbers. Last year, around 1.7 million people in the UK alone took a cruise, up from about 1.3 million in 2007.

Safety concerns on cruise ships

You may get a refund and even extra credit if you’re already booked on a future Costa Cruise. But if you’ve booked with any other company and now have second thoughts, it’s very unlikely you’ll get a refund if you cancel.

With bitter irony, the 100th anniversary of Titanic sinking is just a couple of months away, reminding us that last week wasn’t a one-off. But do we really have serious cause for concern?

It’s fair to say that this tragedy has been such a big news story because it’s an unusual event – major cruise ship accidents are thankfully a rarity. However, the tragedy does raise questions about the safety of modern cruise ships and how well trained their staff are.

There are reports that the Costa Concordia’s safety drill wasn’t held on the evening that the ship left Rome’s Civitavecchia port. Hopefully this will be a wake-up call for cruise company staff and passengers alike to treat safety checks and procedures seriously, in order to ensure there are no casualties in future tragedies.

Are you less likely to take a cruise?

Personally, I think this accident will only deter a small number of people in the short-term, and probably only those who haven’t been on a cruise before. Most people don’t stop taking flights after seeing reports of a plane crash, so I’m assuming this incident won’t put most people off cruising in the long-term, especially if they are seasoned sea-borne holidaymakers.

I’d certainly go on a cruise tomorrow without hesitation. And with operators like Costa Cruises probably desperate to encourage people back onto their ships, there could well be many cruises going for a song in the coming weeks.

So has the Costa Concordia tragedy affected your keenness on cruise holidays? Or perhaps it has just put you off large ships in favour of smaller ones?

Carrying 3,800 passengers plus crew, the Concordia was one of Costa’s largest ships. And the more people there are aboard a ship, the more potential for difficulties when trying to evacuate these crowds in an emergency. The era of the ever larger liner may now be over.

Has the Costa Concordia disaster put you off taking a cruise?

I’ve never been interested in taking a cruise anyway (39%, 95 Votes)

No – it hasn’t put me off cruises (36%, 88 Votes)

Yes – I’m less keen on cruises now (25%, 60 Votes)

Total Voters: 244

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I’m not one for cruises anyway but I really doubt this would put me off.

This was, allegedly, a mistake made by a captain who sailed too close to rocky waters in an attempt to show the boat off to some locals.

A mistake like this happens once in a blue moon, and unfortunately it takes an accident or two to make safety better for the rest of us. In this case, every single cruise operator and captain in the world will now be on high alert, making sure they don’t stray from their course or make any mistakes – purely because the media is on top of them. If I dare so, now is probably a better time than ever to be taking your cruise.

* If I dare say so. Typo’s will be the end of me.

I would be reluctant to set foot on any boat that looks as top heavy as the Costa Concordia.

flapjackman says:
17 January 2012

Maybe a wake up call for this industry. The size of cruise ships? safety? training?? Daredevil captains?
The record of cruise liners sinking on this scale are rare…… lets hope this incident acts as a reminder to the shipping companies, and crews what enormous responsibilities they have!!! I do not feel this will put people off cruising holidays…. the industry may initially have a decrease in bookings perhaps…. however i am sure it will recover quickly, and cruise operators will discount holiday packages……

From (port for) Rome-Genoa-Barcelona and return of abt a
week’s duration, it seems like an extended ferry service
…. nah, shan’t deter me from any cruise but maybe avoid Italian
-operated ones where enforcement of standards is not that
strict in any event.

Even the Medit at this time of year, weather can’t be all
that good…why go on the cruise then, the huge discount

C Concordia is only 114,500 tonnage… there’re much larger ones at
twice the size or weight at 225,000 and still larger ones being planned
or built….cf the QE2 was only around 70,000.

I feel most people will rationalise this incident. tpoots [above] makes good points. It seems odd that a calamity like this can happen so close to land in shallow water but those are where the risks are greatest and always have been throughout nautical history. Barring the presence of icebergs, collision with another ship, or deviation from a safely-plotted course, such an event is unlikely to happen on the high seas or in deep channels.
We have cruised with Fred. Olsen Lines, P&O, and Holland-America and in every case felt that the emergency drill was both timely and comprehensive. The drills usually take place very soon as the passengers are embarked and on Holand-America it took place before the ship left its berth. As well as the passenger drills, various other drills and tests take place during the cruise for the crew [deployment to action stations, evacuation procedures, and preparation of apparatus] and for the systems [like the launch of tenders and lifeboats and the closure of the internal airtight doors] and I have felt relatively reassured. Tragic though the disaster has been and the loss of life, it is amazing that 4000 people have survived – this would not have been the case two decades ago. There are, however, a number of worrying aspects to this catastrophe that should send alarm bells ringing around the cruise companies:
– Why was the captain relying on a chart and not the extremely sophisticated navigation aids that are installed on all large vessels and why did the deviation warning system not alert other senior officers to a potential mishap? – Perhaps the captain was perverse or resistant to any challenge.
– Why did the ship turnover so rapidly? – The hole was on the port side but the ship is lying on its starboard side so perhaps the re-balancing of ballast was not done correctly or perhaps there is even more extensive damage than so far revealed.
– Why did there seem to be a long time lapse between the collision with rocks and the order to abandon ship? – Maybe the captain was loath to admit an arror and was hoping to right the vessel or get closer to land.
– Did the watertight doors deploy? – These separate parts of the ship from each other to reduce the risk of an inrush of water capsizing the ship or a fire from engulfing the entire vessel; these doors are massive and on powerful springs so that after a loud warning their detente is released and they slam shut very noisily making the whole ship shake [passengers will be able to report whether this occurred].
– Is it good enough to provide for lifeboat embarkation only when a ship is more-or-less vertical? – Obviously, they cannot be launched on one side of the vessel if it is tilted at an angle; in the case of Concordia, at least half the tenders and lifeboats were unavailable for use [luckily land was close and they could run a shuttle operation].
– Was there enough equipment and apparatus available to enable passengers and crew to evacuate across and down the hull? – Pictures have shown a line of passengers clinging to a rope and slithering over the upturned bottom into the water; perhaps ships should have ladders applied to their sides or at least have ropes, nets and floats available on the deck capable of being fired or cast overboard as soon as the lowering of lifeboats becomes impractical.
– Are there enough lifejackets? While personal survival equipment for every person on board is provided in each cabin, life on board might mean that people are in the theatre or restaurant when the need to execute emergency procedures arises; we have never been told what alternative provision is available in convenient lockers in the public areas.
– Is four thousand not just too big a number of people for one small team of duty officers to deal with in an emergency? – If the captain was navigating, presumably the second officer was in charge of the evacuation preparations [if he was allowed to get on with it].
Are the conventional assumptions about evacuation adequate? – It is assumed that the ship will remain upright, that passengers will have time to return to their cabins to collect their essential possessions [e.g. passport, medication, money], that they will report to their muster station [e.g. the restaurant or lounge] while the lifeboats and tenders are deployed, and then that they will proceed in an orderly fashion, under professional escort, to their deisgnated boat.
On large cruise ships the overwhelming number of passengers are berthed on lower decks [above the water line but in fairly cramped conditions] and the crew are accommodated even lower down. The corridors are long and narrow and might not be able to cope with a surge of passengers trying to escape without chaos and panic. The interior design must be reviewed in the aftermath of this occurrence.
On some ships passengers are required to surrender their passports on embarkation and they are returned to them if required at any ports or immediately prior to disembarkation. People feel uncomfortable about this and would prefer to keep their passport on their person at all times [apart from anything else this helps with identification in the event of a disaster].
If any of these issues [and the many other that will arise as the story unfolds] are not examined quickly by the Italian authorities [sadly my expectations are not high] then the International Maritime Organisation [based in London] should set up a grand inquiry with full force of implementation.

I enjoy cruising – but only go on smaller vessels.
The idea that 4000 or more people can be safely “managed” in an emergency is simply naive.
Two legged Self Loading Cargo is regarded in many circles as the most dangerous afloat.

Cruise ship captains may think they are good at PR but it has been interesting to read what other professional seamen think of them:

and see how the Costa C “bow” was not an isolated incident: