Q – We had dinner with friends last night from St. Louis who have joined us on a number of cruises. The entire evening was spent discussing the Costa Concordia situation. We were somewhat surprised by the advice you have offered to some folks who expressed concern about sailing a mega-ship in the future. We appreciate the honesty but we were curious if you are seriously advising people not to go on ships that carry several thousand guests and crew? Do you really think they are dangerous.
A – If we thought that, we’d probably work in plastics at the Island Plastics. No, the mega-ships are certainly not dangerous. But we would like to be as clear as possible in responding to your question:
We advise those who have serious anxiety about boarding a large ship to delay their vacation. We feel that a a vacation ought to involve several important stages and anticipation is one of them. We do not think you ought to travel on a ship that scares you.
Of course there is the question of whether or not a mega-ship is safe. We know the massive PR cruise machine will try to convince cruisers that there is no danger. And they are probably right but we do feel there are questions to which the industry has never provided satisfactory responses.
What kind of experiences dealing with large-scale emergencies at sea makes us feel that a low budget, international crew speaking a wide variety of languages, with little sophisticated safety training, can be relied upon to remain on ship to professionally assist passengers in dire straits?
We would hope that the owners of the mega-ships, the world’s largest cruise lines, would admit that they have been less than clear about their overall plans to successfully evacuate several thousand passengers and crew from a ship that is taking on water and starting to list. This is information that consumers will now be demanding. It was never talked about much because it is such a “negative”.
There are, we believe, construction issues as ships are growing top heavy to accommodate more revenue-producing venues. Ships are being built with lower drafts so they do not have to use tenders as much.
The end story will be “human error” . But we think it may go way beyond that. It is clear, very clear, that there can be another Titanic. The Costa Concordia was at sea with no weather issues, close to land. All systems were operating efficiently. It should have been a calm evening.