This July day, which eerily enough is also Friday the 13th, marks six months — we hesitate to use the word anniversary, which typically is a more joyful occasion — since Costa Concordia capsized off Italy’s island of Giglio. If anyone really thought that the tragedy would have receded in our minds after a half a year had passed, a Cruise Critic Facebook debate earlier this week puts that firmly to rest. The capsizing, in which 32 people died and a $500 million ship was essentially destroyed, has been anything but forgotten.
Over on Cruise Critic’s Facebook page, Laurie Whitney Willits writes, “I am a survivor of the Concordia disaster and am not sure if I will cruise again. It will take some serious thought before I can make that step onto a cruise ship. It was to be our 5th cruise and hopefully we will cruise again as four hours on this ship did not let me see much of the Mediterranean.”
Still alive: Costa, the cruise line with a heritage spanning some 60 years, still exists despite a lot of online chat about whether or not parent company Carnival Corporation would shut it down and transfer its ships to other lines.
Business as usual: Costa itself continued on, business as usual, by introducing the “new” Costa NeoRomantica, a $120 million refurbishment that was so massive it took a whopping five months to complete and resulted in the addition of new balcony cabins, a vast spa and fitness expansion, and many new places to eat and drink.
In an unusual-for-Costa low-key christening, it also welcomed brand new 114,500-ton, 3,000-passenger Costa Fascinosa.
Deals? In a Google ad from Cruise.com, the headline “Get up to 81 percent off!” raised my eyebrows, plus I saw a handful of seriously cheap deals like a seven-night Mediterranean voyage on CostaClassica for $299. Still, it should be noted that pricing on other Costa cruises does seem more “normal,” with a weeklong trip on the same ship starting at $1,289. However, some of the Concordia-effect deals aren’t actually being advertised. On a cruise on Costa’s NeoRomantica, a ship that was not even close to full at sailing, my husband ran into numerous European couples who’d booked their cruises, last minute, for fares in the $199 range.
New policies: The cruise industry, in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, eagerly announced new policies regarding muster drills and the standardization of bridge policies. CLIA, North America’s cruise marketing and lobbying organization, positioned itself front and center in terms of renewed emphasis on health and safety.
Financial impact: Carnival Corporation finally admitted to analysts that the financial impact of the Concordia capsizing had implications on the company’s bottom line (not to mention the bottom line of sister cruise lines underneath the Carnival umbrella and major cruise lines not even owned by the company).
Legal impact: And Costa, predictably, is facing a barrage of lawsuits. These range in scope from passengers on the ill-fated cruise wanting more compensation to a group that feels that ship itself was designed poorly.
It’s inevitable that Costa Concordia will continue to disturb us as long as it lies half-submerged in the waters off Giglio, as long as networks from CNN to ABC air overwrought programs meant to scare rather than inform, and as long as the captain, now released from house arrest and no longer muzzled, goes on about how a divine hand helped him save more people than the accident killed.
Take heart, though. In spite of the continued attention to Costa Concordia, cruising is surviving if our readers have anything to say about it. In a poll earlier this week we asked: Six months after Concordia, how have you been affected? 86 percent said not at all, with just 11 percent admitting to nerves (but not willing to forego cruising). Only 2.5 percent said “no cruises for me.”
Back over on Facebook, Jennifer Hoehne pretty much captured what our readers were trying to say about this sad six-month anniversary. “After watching the CNN special last night, I’ve been thinking about [Concordia] a lot today. … Cruising is, as far as I’m concerned, an incredibly safe way to travel. Car accidents and plane crashes don’t keep people from using those forms of transportation and this should be no different. The majority of officers, staff and crew are very, very well-trained. Unfortunately, I don’t know that the best trained ship could have done much better with the circumstances after the actions of a hot shot captain.”
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