Monday, January 23, 2012

Life Vests and Costa Compensation

By Rob Alfonso January 23 2012

Twitter sirobin171

Costa Concordia

More than 4000 people were rescued from the Concordia last week, with the help of the crew and Italian Coast Guard. All people involved deserve great credit for this.

However, some people did not make it off the ship and died, some with life vests on, in hallways and restaurants.

This is very saddening and disappointing to me.

These passengers knew there was a problem, did what they thought was proper to prepare and then somehow never made it out.

When one can can swim to land and the ship is only half sunk, EVERYONE should get off alive. There was plenty of time to scour that ship for people, get them in a safe place and get them off the ship.

So what happened to these passengers? Why were they left behind? By beaching the ship, the Captain gave EVERYONE on the ship a chance at survival.

So I am saddened, and upset, as you should be, at the failed execution of the safety plans in their entirety. There are no easy answers, and its going to take months to really know what happened and how to fix it. However with what we already know we can piece together what may have happened now.

It took more than one hour for the Captain and crew to start evacuating the ship. In this first hour people were simply told there was a technical problem and not to worry. People went back to their cabins in many cases and waited. Crew in hallways reiterated that they stay calm and that the situation was not serious.

So it appears that a lack of communication was the real problem. The officers knew they had a real problem minutes after the ship was damaged. This explains why people got stuck in hallways, and some trampled.

Its a sad fact that had an orderly evacuation started earlier, most likely, everyone would have made it out of the interior of the ship and probably would have survived.

The aftermath

Lets not think for a moment though that this can't or won't happen again. Real improvements are needed in safety. This will be up to the cruise lines to figure this out, and I fully expect them to do just that and report to us what they are doing to ensure that only the best safety plan is executed at sea in the future, with or without a competent Captain as the last one on board.

In conclusion

I love cruising. I want to see it around for a long time, however, Concordia is a black eye for the industry. The image of the Concordia laying breathless, half on her side, has been beamed into living rooms and offices all over the world. This image alone will haunt the industry for a long time.

The good news is that repeat cruisers (1 in 4 Americans) will mostly keep cruising, as a set of new polls suggest, and they will help keep the industry alive for a while. However there is a huge contingent of new customers that may now see cruising as a risk and may opt for land based vacations as tried and true, paralyzing growth for the entire industry.

Only time will tell, many cruise lines are booked heavily for the coming year and can rely on this pre-Concordia business for a while, its what happens later that is concerning.

Image change is now the 100 pound Gorilla in the room, a gargantuan task for the cruise lines to overcome. We shall see....

Concordia Compensation

The fact is that air fare is expensive. In many cases it costs more than the cruise itself if flying overseas. So for Costa/Carnival to offer a $200 ship-board credit per person to guests that had travel insurance thru Costa, that can only be spent on the ship-board account is really disappointing. Thats to say nothing to the people that had no insurance, they dont get any airfare compensation unless they can get it from the airlines.

Surely a few hundred North American guests were due to fly to Rome to pickup Concordia, each one paying between $700- $1500 for an airline ticket before March 24. Its also a safe assumption that many, many more European guests were flying to the US to cruise after March 24, each spending a comparable amount to fly.

I realize that if the cruise line covered all the plane changes and ticket changes it would be costly, however, in the end, it is the right thing to do. Considering this situation is entirely Costa's fault.

In conclusion

I learned this last week that only about half of all cruisers buy travel insurance. Now that we see what can happen, maybe a few more of you will get travel insurance. Just remember, most of the survivors had no passports, no cash, and just the cloths on their back. Many had to get their embassy in Rome to help them make ends meet the first few days. Travel insurance helps with allot of these things, not to mention you get back all the money you paid for the failed cruise.

Here is the official Costa compensation release:

Costa Cruises released options for those North American passengers who are scheduled on upcoming sailings onCosta Concordia or any other ships in the fleet. Guestsmust select their options by February 7, 2012.

The Costa Magica and neoRomatica will assume the Western Caribbean itineraries so guests vacations will not be interrupted.

Options for guests scheduled to sail on Costa Concordia until March 23, 2012:

  • Cruise Price Protection is available on any January-March,2012, 5-7 night sailings based on availability.
  • Re-book an 11 nights sailing on Costa Serena or neoRomatica
  • Cancel without penalty ( including Costa’s air, hotel, transfers, vacation protection, and government taxes and fees) and receive a full refund + 30% future cruise credit on a sailing within the next 18-months. If guests purchased their own air, Costa will reimburse up to $200 per person in form of on-board credit.
Guest set to sail on Costa Concordia after March 24, 2012:
  • Guest can book on Costa Magica or neoRomantica
  • Cancel without penalty
If guest purchased independent air, they need to contact their provider for their policies.
Guests booked on any other of Costa ships:
  • Guests booked on any Costa sailings can cancel for any reason without penalty including Costa’s air, hotel, transfers, vacation protection, and government taxes and fees. This must be done by February 7, 2012.