There has been a lot of press lately about cruise ships and disasters – coinciding nicely with the Titanic centenary shortly upon us.

Of course the Concordia accident in January was a terrible tragedy and the blame has been firmly laid with the captain of that ship. I was speaking to a CEO of another cruise line about how can a captain just steer the ship where he wants, and it turns out that he cannot – under any circumstances -deviate the course of the ship without the signature of 3 deck officers and a shore-side captain too – so Captain Francesco Schettino and the other deck officers really did disregard standard procedures. 

Another Costa ship lost power and then more recently the Azamara Quest experienced a small engine room fire and lost propulsion for a while – however it was extinguished and the ship made it to port. We had a couple of guests onboard that sailing and they sent us an eyewitness account – you can read it here. Azamara Quest Fire from a passenger perspective

The way that Azamara Club Cruises handled the situation on board was exemplary, and also to be commended was the way they handled the PR – they immediately advised of the compensation package (all money back for that cruise plus a free cruise in the future, hotel stays and flights all paid for, plus more, and the president of the line flew out to meet the guests) In all the press coverage I have read there has been nothing but praise for the staff and crew onboard – so props to Azamara for showing Costa how to handle a situation well.

But how safe is a cruise? Lets put it in perspective – While even one death is one too many, between 2005-2011 cruise lines carried more than 117 million passengers with a total 21 deaths related to marine casualties. That is less than 0.18 fatalities per million; in comparison there were nearly 16,000 fatalities on the UK roads for the same period, yet we all still drive cars.

Cruising is a very safe form of holiday – each ship has a detailed emergency plan and every member of staff is allocated and trained to undertake a safety role if there is a problem. Staff continue to be trained and practice regularly even while they are at sea. Regular completion of practice safety drills is a requirement of maritime law.

In light of the Costa incident, cruise lines have voluntarily agreed to operate the lifeboat drill for passengers before leaving port, as opposed to within 24 hours as current law dictates.

Cruising remains statistically one of the safest forms of holiday available.

Scott Anderson

Scott Anderson is General Manager for The Luxury Cruise Company, based in Hove.

Costa ConcordiaThe recent grounding of the Costa Concordia is a very tragic accident and our thoughts and prayers go out to those families who have lost loved ones.

The media have been having a field day printing all sorts of mis-advised facts and figures, in what amounts to - in my mind – sloppy journalism. Still that’s the news media today –never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

 Carnival Corp, the parent company of Costa Cruises, have already issued a statement saying that it was human error that caused the accident. Apparently the captain steered the ship off its normal course to wave to an ex crewmember on the island of Giglio. This may seem an absurd action to take, however I have been onboard ships where the captain has altered course to sail past his home town and sound the ships horn. In time, once the investigation is complete, we will know for sure what happened.

Time for new legislation I think from SOLAS (International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea) that govern the rules onboard the world’s cruise ships. These rules c0ver smoking areas, the amount of wood allowed onboard, the number of lifeboats needed, fire-fighting equipment etc. That’s why a lot of the old traditional liners have been scrapped – as it would cost too much money to bring them in line with the latest SOLAS standards.

 That is a real shame as there are so many wonderful old ships sent to the Alang scrap yard in India to be broken up. Many cruise lines are building bigger cruise ships, however there is a trend in the luxury cruise market to build smaller vessels. These 6-star cruise ships carry from just 49 guests to 700, and offer all-inclusive luxury.

Carnival Corp also owns such a brand, Seabourn, and has built three new ships over the past four years, to compliment their existing fleet of three smaller vessels. These new ships, Seabourn Quest, Seabourn Sojourn and Seabourn Odyssey carry just 450 guests.

On these ships you can want for nothing, everything is included, champagne on tap, butler service, amazing cuisine and superb service. Cruise ships can be thought of like hotels, just on the water, and they are assigned star ratings too, based on their levels of cuisine, service, accommodation etc – much like a 3-star hotel would be OK, and then the Ritz would be a 6-star hotel.

All this luxury comes at a cost of course – however fares are coming down and you can get a seven-night cruise with flights from about £1,599 per person. The price of the Costa cruise by comparison would cost about £599 per person, but you do get what you pay for.

Another big advantage of cruising on a luxury cruise ship is that it wont take 2 hours to evacuate in an emergency.

By guest blogger Scott Anderson, General Manager of The Luxury Cruise Company