Days after Louis Cruise Lines' Sea Diamond sank in the Aegean Sea, tough-to-answer questions are surfacing on Cruise Critic's message boards, such as these from Checkmate 1955: "Can someone tell me how a modern cruise ship with all of the safety features that I am sure are built into these vessels can sink so easily? Are modern cruise ships that easy to sink? What happened to watertight compartments?"
"No matter what," Lotteryfan writes, "this entire situation makes me nervous. What if this would have happened further out at sea and there wasn't another ship within hundreds of miles. Would as many people have survived? I'm cruising in a few weeks and will pay more attention to the evacuation drill."
Ah, there's the rub -- or at least the topic that incenses Cruise Critic readers the most when it comes to safety at sea.
Joeinsb writes, "We attended lifeboat drills on each of our three cruises on Century ... and at the first two at least a couple of passengers did not bother to come to muster, but stayed on their verandahs. We knew, because the Miami cruise terminal, which we were facing, has glass walls and we could clearly see their reflections in the windows (one guy, who was sitting in a deck chair, looked like he might possibly be mooning us). I mentioned this to a crewman and he just shrugged."
"I always see people talking and carrying on during the drill," adds Beemerrider, "and when it comes time to put on their lifejacket, they don't know what to do. Although cruising is one of the safest ways to travel, emergencies can still arise, so pay attention! You may need that knowledge whether the ship is listing, catches on fire or sinks."
5:00 Somewhere knows that drill firsthand: "We were on the Star Princess last March when it caught on fire in the middle of the night. The alarm sounded about a little after 3 a.m. and I genuinely believe that part of the reason we were so well equipped for the emergency was that we'd done the drills on all four of our cruises so that it was just sort of automatic to remember warm clothing and a hat and our medications, etc."
What about passenger claims that lifejackets and help from crewmembers were scarce? One reader writes in via e-mail, "Most passengers pay very little, if any, attention during the safety muster at the beginning of the voyage. Also, many passengers expect that events will be as calm, cool and collected as they were during the safety drill. Considering that many of the same people who complained also stated that the ship listed 45 degrees and sent people flying across the decks, take what they say with a grain of salt."
Admiral Horatio Nelson writes, "It is a requirement that enough life jackets for all souls onboard be kept at lifeboat stations ... It is possible that the people who reported they couldn't find them did not hear this info at the boat drill ... I always walk around my new ship and check that I know these things and also (at least) two ways from my cabin to a lifeboat station obviously in case one is blocked due to fire, etc."
Member chienfou writes: "I was on [Sea Diamond] less than two weeks ago ... The ship was in good shape when we were on her. Complaints have been logged about the use of 'steep rope ladders' during the evacuation. DUH! In an emergency evacuation you cannot expect the availability of level gangplanks etc. As evidenced by the pictures available online, there were plenty of staff assisting in the process and it appears to have been done pretty efficiently and professionally."
Reader Mike Falciani says goodbye to Sea Diamond via e-mail: "We were on the Sea Diamond in the second week of July in 2006 on a four-day cruise. The ship was in pretty good shape and the crew seemed very professional. It was the biggest ship of the four or five that we raced from island to island everyday. I still can't believe it sank."
Two-thirds of the passengers onboard were American, many high school and college students on break for the Easter holiday. Watch these homecoming videos:
Students Back to School after Cruise Ship Sinking, courtesy of CBS4 Miami
Minneapolis Couple Discusses Rescue, courtesy of KARE 11 TV, Minneapolis
--by Melissa Baldwin, Senior Editor
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Cruise Critic Members Respond to Sea Diamond Incident
April 9, 2007