Update: Passengers of Stricken Costa Allegra to Fly to Rome

February 29, 2012

(Updated 2:50 p.m. EST) -- Airplanes will be waiting on the Seychelles main island of Mahe to fly passengers from the stricken Costa Allegra to Rome, and hotel rooms have been "optioned for possible accommodation needs" according to a statement from Costa Cruises.

Provided current weather conditions persist, the ship is expected to reach Port Victoria on Mahe at 9 a.m. local time Thursday morning (1 a.m. EST), some three days after the ship went adrift without power in the Indian Ocean.

Arrangements have been made for three planes to begin to fly the more than 600 Allegra passengers back to Rome, Gilbert Faure, the chief executive of the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority told the Associated Press on Wednesday. A Costa spokesman told Cruise Critic Wednesday by email that the "emphasis initially is to get the guests safely home." There's no word on whether the crew will stay onboard or also be flown off the island.

In addition, according to the line's latest statement, "376 guests ... have accepted Costa Cruises' proposal to continue their vacation in Seychelles — 241 decided to stay for two weeks while 135 will stay for one week." The line will cover all costs; a two-week stay is about the length of the stricken voyage.

No details have yet been announced on other compensation for Allegra passengers.

Helicopters continue to deliver supplies, having brought fruit, cold cuts and fresh bread along with mineral water "constantly provided for personal hygiene needs," according to the line. On Tuesday, a small generator to power communication systems, satellite phones and 400 flashlights were flown to Allegra, which is being towed to port by a French deep sea tuna fishing boat.

295-foot-long French fishing ship, Trevignon, is pulling the 28,000-ton Allegra toward Mahe despite an initial plan to route the ship to a smaller -- and closer -- island. Though a statement from Costa on Tuesday said that two Seychellois tugboats had arrived to assist the French boat in the towing effort, George Adeline, the commander of the Seychelles' coastguard, told Reuters Wednesday that these efforts "didn't work." On Thursday, Seychelles transport minister Joe Morgan told the Associated Press that, due to financial reasons, the Trevignon refused to give way to tugboats from his country. Morgan said that Allegra likely would have arrived in port Wednesday night local time -- 10 to 12 hours earlier -- if the tugs had been allowed to take over.

Passengers on Allegra will endure a third day at sea, cruising the extra 155 miles to Mahe -- at a speed of approximately 6 knots -- where accomodations are being arranged, according to a statement from the line.

"Immigration is on the ship so [passengers] can be cleared for immediate landing when they get to port. We will be there ourselves ... with the Seychelles Tourism Industry, to welcome them to Seychelles and to shift them to a villa complex where they will be hosted for a day," Seychelles tourism board chief Alain St. Ange told The Daily Telegraph.

--Video appears courtesy Telegraph TV

According to an earlier statement from Costa, crew managed to extinguish a blaze that began in the electric generator room, and the fire did not spread to any other area of the ship. None of the 636 passengers -- including 127 French, 126 Italians, 31 Britons and 8 Americans -- and 413 crew was injured, according to the line. "The general emergency alarm was promptly declared, and passengers and crewmembers not managing the emergency went to the muster stations," Costa said.

Costa's statement said the line is keeping in touch with passengers' families via their emergency-contact numbers. Families of all of the crew have been contacted, most of whom are Italian and eastern European, either directly or through Costa's crew manning agents.

Though the engines are out -- along with air conditioning and lights -- the Coast Guard said emergency generators are keeping the ship's command room illuminated and its radio operating. The line reports that the weather in the area is good, with moderate seas according to the Italian Coast Guard. The temperature in the region is hovering in the upper 80s (around 30 degrees Celsius), though Costa has said that "the speed of the ship, despite the hot and humid climate, creates a slight breeze."

The ships are transiting a region prone to pirate attacks, but Italian Coast Guard Cmdr. Cosimo Nicastro told SkyTG24 TV that the focus is on rescue efforts (via the AP). Nicastro said armed anti-piracy military personnel were aboard if any issues do arise.

Costa Allegra left Madagascar on Saturday and was steaming for the Seychelles, where it was scheduled to arrive Tuesday, February 28.

--by Jamey Bergman, UK Web Content Producer and Dan Askin, News Editor