On January 13, 2012, the Costa Concordia cruise ship ran aground and capsized off the coast of Italy, resulting in the confirmed deaths of at least 32 of its passengers and staff. Barely six weeks later, Costa Cruises (parent to the Costa Concordia ship) unbelievably made international headlines again when a fire onboard the Costa Allegra left it drifting without power for 13 hours in waters frequented by pirates before the ship was taken under tow. In case you’re not familiar with the company, Costa Cruises is a British-American owned cruise line that is under control of the Carnival Corporation & plc. Its ships sail in the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and South America. Although cruise ships and airlines have suffered major calamaties before, have any suffered two in such a short timespan from each other?
By all accounts, the Costa Concordia tragedy resulted from deadly human error, whereas the accident on the Costa Allegra was just that. However, reports from passengers on board the Allegra said that the ship’s staff was “clueless” and not at all helpful or efficient. An article in the March 2 issue of the UK newspaper The Telegraph details how “the crew had been clueless as to how to deal with such an emergency and their actions only served to put them in further danger.” Conditions onboard the Allegra were described as horrific after the power had been knocked out, “passengers were forced to sleep on deck in sweltering conditions of up to 95 degrees and described the stench in the cabins and corridors as horrific.” Allegra passengers were being compensated with a full refund of the cost paid for the cruise and associated travel expenses, a full refund of onboard expenses incurred during the cruise, and a week or two weeks vacation in the Seychelles (the ship was towed to the island of Mahe in the Seychelles) with all expenses covered. Passengers who did not want to continue their vacation (if you can call it that after what they went through) can accept vouchers for free travel on any Costa ship in the next two years.
The question everyone is asking now is can Costa Cruises stay afloat from an operational standpoint? Besides their repuation being horribly marred now and for the forseeable future, will they have the money to stay in business? Before the Allegra disaster, Costa was already facing billions of dollars in lawsuits from Concordia survivors, their relatives and the estates of the dead. Although the White Star Line was a highly prominent British shipping company, it’s best remembered today for the RMS Titanic, the ship that was supposed to be the envy of all other passenger liners in terms of its build, design, and features, and yet sank on its maiden voyage. Prior to the Concordia disaster in January, Costa Cruises was an extremely popular cruise line, but today it will only be remembered for the almost back to back disasters that took place on its ships in 2012.
When it comes to traveling I am all for bargains and scoring the best deal. I research things meticulously so that I know I am not being overcharged and am getting the most bang for my buck. However, never would I scrimp in the areas of reputation and possibly safety and management to save some money. In the past when researching cruises in the Mediterranean, Costa cruises have often been among the lowest fares. However, in the wake of these two disasters, one completely tragic, the other unfathomable, I would most likely avoid sailing with Costa. Disasters can always happen when traveling, even if they are far and few. However, a ship whose staff remains calm in the wake of anything is the ship I would want to sail on, not a ship where I had more money to spend on alcohol. Although lifeboard drills always seem like such drudgery, it is events like the Concordia and Allegra incidents to remind us all of their vital necessity, for both passengers and staff. Being prepared for any and everything should always ring true, especially when traveling, as it only takes a moment for a disaster to ensue.