Special: The Costa Concordia Disaster, 1 Year Later

On January 13, 2012, Cruise Critic member Michelle Barraclough (Mickey_d_Mouse) and her family were onboard Costa Concordia when it sank off the coast of the small Italian island of Giglio. The family boarded Concordia after a four-week vacation that included another Costa cruise. After Concordia sank, she wrote about her experience. A year later, Michelle reflects about how the experience has affected her family, including her son Ben, daughter Katharine and her partner, John. The following is Michelle's experience in her own words (edited for clarity and brevity):

Sunday is one year since the afternoon we boarded the Costa Concordia for its final voyage. So how have we coped with this year?

After the wave of arriving home to so many reporters, phones ringing constantly from TV, radio and magazines, we were left with trying to get on with our lives. My mum was very close for the first few days; she had been pretty affected as well, receiving a phone call from Costa a few hours after the accident asking if she had heard from us, and being told the boat had gone down and we were unaccounted for. She then had to wait another 12 hours before we called her to tell her we were all okay.

John was admitted to hospital a few days after we arrived home for a hernia operation caused by the falls in the lifeboat. I tried to deal with Costa and our travel insurance and the process of trying to cope with what we had been through. Our first few months of contact were with the Shanghai office of Costa, whose command of English served to upset and anger me, signing off emails telling me Costa would not pay me back most of my expenses, and then signing off the emails with “cheers.” …

I sent emails to Carnival asking if they could organise for us to board a cruise ship in Melbourne to try to see if that would help with the nightmares and stop a fear of cruising; they also never bothered to reply. After 10 emails I gave up.

My travel insurance here in Australia was rude and nasty, telling me I needed receipts for what I had bought in the four weeks in Europe before the cruise and other proof for all the items I had on the boat. They have still not settled the claim. In fact, when I rang them in October, they had actually closed the claim without even any correspondence. Now (that) I have told them I have settled with Costa I am assuming I will get nothing from them.

I was then passed by Costa to an Australian Carnival rep. to deal with me, and then quickly onto a shipping agent in Sydney who was charged with settling my claims with Costa. The stress of the first few months caused some gallstones to block my gallbladder in March, and I spent a week in hospital and a couple of weeks at home recovering.

After a few months, the nightmares stopped, although they still reappear at times when I watch TV specials and read about Capt. Coward. I was invited by a TV show to actually meet the man; unfortunately I couldn't organise time to go to Rome at such short notice. I think I would have slapped him, I was so furious watching the interview.

I spoke to a few of the lawyers handling claims against Costa but decided I couldn't really cope with the stress of waiting years to settle my claim, the credit card bills for all of the things I had to rebuy … There was also the exorbitant fees the lawyers wanted to charge.

We finally, after months of negotiations, agreed on a compensation package with Costa. They paid for John's operation but wouldn't pay for mine, as I couldn't prove it was caused by the accident. They gave us back our cruise fare and the cost of our return airfares from Melbourne to Rome, as well as a fixed amount to each of us significantly more than the original offered 11,000 Euro. It covered the cost of the entire five-week holiday, which had started with a cruise on the Serena on the 26th of December and six days in Italy touring before boarding the Concordia. Traveling to Europe from Australia is not the cheapest. The actual money arrived in November.

… In September, Katharine and I, with my son, Ben, (John was not ready to travel again) spent two weeks in Spain, one week in London, one week in Paris and a few days in Dubai. Katharine refused to go back on a boat -- she even seemed nervous boarding a Thames Ferry. Katharine and I spent some of the time in Spain visiting the same places we had been on the cruise in December and going back to the same shops and buying the same things we had left on the ship when we left everything behind. It made us feel a lot better having some of those things.

On the 12/12/12, I booked another cruise. John and I are going to China in October, and we are going to go on a cruise on the South China Sea with Royal Caribbean, the Mariner of the Seas. Hopefully we will be okay. We have always loved cruising, and I refuse to be put off by Captain Coward and the treatment by Costa since the accident.

We received a letter from Costa asking us NOT to go to Giglio on the 13th of January. … I really don't think I would ever do anything Costa asked of me. In fact, I was almost tempted to go just because they asked me not to. We had a phone call from a reporter who asked if Costa were paying for us to return to Giglio for the anniversary. Obviously he has no idea of how Costa operates.

On Monday morning at 7:30 a.m. (9:30 p.m. 13th January in Italy), John, Katharine and I will be at home. … I am sure something will cross our mind, and I might end up in tears. … I have had a little trouble sleeping the past couple of nights. The posts on the Concordia survivors websites have been much more frequent the past few days as we all start to struggle with the anniversary coming. A couple of passengers have written books about their experience, which I look forward to reading. It's nice to keep in contact with the other survivors, as they are really the only ones who can understand what we have been through.

I still have lots of questions; these are probably the ones that will never get answered.

Why did they lie to us in that hour after the accident?

Why wasn't anyone giving orders during the evacuation?