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 http://www.theluxurycruisecompany.com/luxury-cruise-blog/blogs/azamara-quest-fire-from-passenger-perspective-264/
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 is General Manager for The Luxury Cruise Company, based in Hove.