The Costa Concordia catastrophe of course raises a whole host of questions. Did the captain purposely go too close to shore? Why did the ship list so quickly? Was the crew not properly trained to deal with an accident? The chaos described by passengers trying to evacuate in lifeboats—and the unpreparedness of crew cited by some—is troublesome and will likely lead all cruise lines to take a hard look at their ship safety plans and crew training as well as overall ship design and operation, much like what happens with the airline industry when there is an airplane crash.
"You can't just throw (the captain) in the slammer and say it's over," industry consultant Rod McLeod told me.
I'm not surprised that people are asking me, as a cruise expert and someone who has done more than 100 cruises, would I feel safe getting on a cruise ship today? The answer is yes, but with my eyes perhaps a little wider open.
Passengers need to be mindful of their own safety. I've seen people blow off mandatory lifeboat drills as an annoyance. I've seen people drunk and/or posing for photos laughing in their life jackets. The reality is you are on water and stuff happens.
That said, this appears to be a one-off incident not very likely to be repeated. Some 16 million people cruised last year, according to the Cruise Lines International Association, the North American cruise lines' main marketing group. Accidents are extremely rare. Deaths and injuries even more rare. Statistically speaking, the chances of being killed at sea on a cruise ship are slim to none.
I still feel safe boarding a ship, and trust that cruise lines make passenger safety a priority. But what about you? Are you planning on canceling your cruise, or are your plans full steam ahead?
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