Q – We are still, almost two years later, so upset about the tragedy in Italy and the way the Captain of a luxury cruise ship would just walk away. My husband and I are taking our two daughters on a cruise out of Ft. Lauderdale to the Caribbean on Norwegian Cruise Line and we are seriously thinking of cancelling. Our travel agent says we are being silly, but I just can’t look forward to a cruise four months away without thinking of what could go wrong. These poor people were just having dinner the first night out and look what happened. I guess my question has to do with all we are hearing on the news about big ships. Are they too big? If you were us, what would you do? We have not made final payment yet.

A – We have received a number of similar questions and we will try to be as specific as possible in our response.  There is little doubt that something went terribly wrong aboard the bridge on the Costa Concordia. We suspect that the conclusion of the inquiries will be that the Captain did not follow his computerized routing and decided to do a “pass by” to please someone on shore. We know that this has happened on other lines. In one incident, several years ago, a well known British Captain had his wife on board. He got a little too close to the rocks during the departure from Acapulco because he wanted to show his wife the Cliff Divers. He ran the ship aground.

But this is different. It is different because the evacuation procedures failed so miserably. This does raise some serious questions about the about of mega-ships to properly handle a real emergency at sea. The loss of life is tragic and we grieve for the victims and their families. There will be several major investigations that grow out of this event and we hope that crew training and preparation is at the forefront of those investigations. Yes, the Captain exercised poor, even criminal judgement. But that will likely not happen again. It is the crew’s lack of preparation that should be the primary focus of the investigation. We already know that some Captains like to do close-in “cruise bys” to show off to friends ashore or crew with ties to the port. But there are legitimate concerns about the sourcing and training of low-cost mega-ship lines. And make no mistake about it, Costa is a budget line. They have beautiful ships but consumers, such as yourself, have to ask how it is that some cruise lines are able to come in at prices that are 200%-400% lower then the lines in our “Top Ten Cruise Lines” Ratings.

The public will not believe that a low-priced bargain cruise may have implications regarding the quality of the crew, their background, and their training. Consumers believe that, when it comes to cruise vacations, the adage that “you get what you pay for” somehow does not apply. But ships have to make cuts somewhere to come in under $300 per person per day. Food is an obvious area of cuts. But attention to detail and safety may also be important components of price.

You are afraid to take one of the safest vacations on earth. We think you should cancel your cruise until you are of a mindset that is more positive toward the experience. The Concordia was a terrible tragedy but cruising is back, stronger than ever. If you don’t share the sentiments of the majority, we think you should follow your instincts.


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