As a long time advocate of cruising it seems appropriate to comment on the demise of the Costa Concordia. In the 39 years that my wife and I have been cruising we have experienced first hand the steady emergence of fleets of mega-liners and rapidly became fans of them. According to Wikipedia encyclopedia 47 mega-liners ranging from 101,353 to 225.282 gross tons entered service between 1996 and 2011 including the 114,500 GT Costa Concordia. We have sailed on 11 of these enormous ships but not on the Concordia nor Costa Cruise Lines.
Throughout our cruising experience we have seen a vast improvement in sophisticated satellite navigation equipment, sonar and electronic guidance systems along with fire control and safety equipment. We have personally toured the bridge with captains both at sea and during docking operations on most of the mega liners we have sailed on. Every cruise we have taken has had a safety drill for all passengers upon leaving the dock or very shortly thereafter. Seeing the equipment and operations first hand reinforces the secure feeling we experienced. At the same time we recognize that human intervention can override the best of equipment. That appears to be the case with Francesco Schettino who captained the Concordia since it entered service in 2006. Italian prosecutors have accused him of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandonment of his vessel before all passengers were evacuated. The recordings in the ships recovered black boxes should establish whether the ship was recklessly taken off of its approved routing while the Coast Guard will undoubtedly testify to their charge of untimely abandonment of the ship. If convicted he faces up to 12 years in prison.
To a number of passengers, as well as others, the demise of the Concordia brings back thoughts and images of the Titanic sinking in the North Atlantic 100 years ago after its encounter with an iceberg. In this case, however, the encounter was with the well charted rocky coast close to the Tuscan Island of Giglio, Italy shortly after the ship left its home port. Excessive speed and poor judgment may very well have played a key role in both accidents. The odds of such occurrences are mighty slim – just ask any of the millions of people who took a cruise last year! Travel agents have reported no rush in cruise cancelations.
Costa Cruise Line, however, is in the midst of an image crisis. Just six weeks after the Concordia capsized, a fire in the electrical generator room of its sister ship, the Costa Allegra, knocked out power to its engines, lights and air conditioning. Adrift in the Indian Ocean, in an area frequented by pirates, it took days to tow the ship to port. Passengers spent 3 days out on its decks to avoid 100 plus degrees in their staterooms and had to cope with the fact that all toilets were no longer functioning.
Despite these incidents, it is the view of this writer that, cruising is and will remain the proven overall safest mode of travel and an uforgetable experience.
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