Special: The Costa Concordia Disaster, 1 Year Later

(Update 4:30 p.m. EDT) -- Nothing puts the Costa Concordia tragedy into better context than the words from those who've survived it. Enter Michelle, aka Cruise Critic member mickey_d_mouse, an Australian who was with her family on the ill-fated ship. On Saturday morning, we e-mailed a number of members who we knew were on the ship thanks to the Cruise Critic Roll Call for the voyage. Then, unexpectedly, we received this note from Michelle at 2:02 p.m. Saturday afternoon: we are all okay shaken and bruised with no money cards or anything else, very frustrated that Costa are doing very little for us. Any help appreciated.

About 30 minutes later, another missive arrived in our in-box: the lifeboat was awful overflowing and people just kept coming in and getting it to the water was horrifying, people falling everywhere. The crew had no idea what to do and the order to evacuate took wayyyyyy too long

We told Michelle that our thoughts were with her and asked her to get back in touch with us when she returned to Australia and things had settled down. But at 11:30 p.m. Saturday, Michelle gave us an update: Cant sleep still waitiing on emergency passports which hopefully will be issued today Oz embassy and Italian government have been incredible. We were very lucky we were in one of the first lifeboats but because no one gave the order to drop the lifeboat and all the staff were waiting for him to give the order people sat and we stood in the lifeboat for ages, people were screaming and after the boat was full they shut the doors, but people were trapped on board as the other boats didn't work so they broke the doors to get onto the lifeboat I think by the time we left there would have been 200 in a lifeboat made for 115, when they waiters and one engineer decided to give up and just go the ship had already listed significantly, as we tried to drop the boat kept getting stuck on the side of the boat with desperate staff and passengers trying to lever it off the boat lurched forward and back twisiting as we got to the boat every time people fell on top of each other, if I had my phone I could send you a picture of my heel print in my leg, my partner had a small hernia in his belly button this has now expanded by people falling on him. I have just heard reports that the captain and officers left the ship before passengers, we never saw one of them all we were left with was poor scared cabin staff and waiters. Our life boat was steered by an engineer with a waiter on his shoulders, life boats were hitting each other they had terrible trouble in docking the ship. But they saved our luives and we owe them everything Costa had five staff here all day yesterday until mid afternoon apparently there are people at 2 hotels at the airport. The staff were trying as hard as they could but they had nothing to give us, we still have no clothes, money has been provided by our embassy, our embassy is taking us shopping. Lots of people have already arranged their flights home, some are still here I am in the internet room with some Asians who have a further itinerary here and no travel insurance, we have a wonderful Begium couple here who speak multiple languages when no one speaks yours this is incredible.

Michelle wasn't ready to hit they hay after emailing us. She then took her story to the boards, where she posted a riveting account of her Concordia experience, including the following: We got off the ship dazed and confused trying to find a toilet for my 12 year old, a shopkeeper let people use his a long line for one toilet. The locals on the island gave us everything they had souvenier tshirts tops blankets. We were herded to the school, some to the church, here we sat on cold floors on our life vests this was about midnight when we got there. No one spoke English everyone was talking and we had no idea where we were or what was happening the staff were the waiters etc and no time did we see an officer. I saw the International english speaking host and asked him what was happening he said he had no idea and was as dazed and confused as me, I told him where we were and to come back and tell us, he never came back, from time to time we ventured out of the school to look and see what was happening as the ship submerged on its side where our cabin was. Eventually a lady in a shop or meeting place of some kind spoke english, she told me there was a queue for the ferry to the mainland. We joined the queue, and gave our names (the first time) and got on the next ferry.

1 hour later we arrived on the mainland, we were given warmer blankets and pushed towards a tent we went through and had our names taken again we were then pushed through to a bus and taken to a school and told to stand in a corner for the port where we embarked, there were not enough chairs. We sat there for three or four hours we were then called to a bus, but when we got there we were told this bus was only for people who had cars at Civitivecchia, we had to wait for the airport bus.

We were then bussed to the Hilton Garden Inn and given a room, we were still told nothing given nothing by Costa, constantly I asked them and was always told to wait while they spoke to people in more common languages, Costa have done nothing but give us the room.

Finally, some good news. On Monday at 4:25 p.m., nearly three days after Concordia first struck the rock, Michelle emailed us again. we are home.

Many thanks to Michelle for sharing her story. Read her entire account here and join in the conversation.

--by John Deiner, Managing Editor