Melanie Macro continues to discuss safety on cruise ships in the second part of her article from an insider’s perspective. If you missed Part 1, click here to read it.
When the Costa Concordia sank, it was reported that people didnâ€™t understand what was going on, that it was â€˜every man for himself.â€™ I wasnâ€™t there so I too can only speculate, but Costa has many nationalities travelling with them, so announcements are given in multiple languages, which would inevitably slow communications. Then there is the fact that some passengers will ignore advice, the general response in an emergency is to go up and out rather than to their designated muster station for instance, making it very difficult to account for everyone.
How many times have you heard a fire alarm go off and no one move – the public largely are a difficult bunch to handle, on one side, you donâ€™t want them to panic, as then you get crush injuries and hysteria, but you want them to actively respond to the warning.
The drills the crew would have partaken in weekly would have been on an upright ship, not one toppling onto its side. Launching lifeboats is usually by pulley and so even on an upright ship it is difficult, on a ship tilting with screaming passengers when you are terrified probably for your own life, well, thatâ€™s another thing altogether. Essentially, the Costa Concordia can carry more than 4200 passengers and crew, and in the disaster 30 people died (two are still missing). That is 30 too many, but out of so many, in such conditions, you also have to think that it could have been a lot worse, and the crew should be commended in that sense.
There are those at fault, the Captain for instance, who unfortunately shared the Titanic Captain’s vanity- he wanted to salute friends as they sailed past, so he took a risky route, just as the Titanicâ€™s Captain went full steam ahead to â€˜show offâ€™ the shipâ€™s speed and get to New York early, even though conditions made icebergs hard to spot. The captain on the Concordia left the crew to deal with it, and they carried on and did their best. So we need to remember the heroes as well.
Cruise ships do not sink regularly, planes do not crash all the time, but they are machines and they are operated by humans and things can go wrong. You arenâ€™t entirely safe at home, there is always some risk, and you need to rationalise it in the face of all the drama. Since Titanic, maritime safety has improved immensely. You can go to such amazing places, experience some top entertainment and food, and not at a high premium.
I have been in force 12 storms, I have experienced power outages, I have been on a ship that has been on fire and one that tilted so much the gangway had to be taken down. I have witnessed airlifting of the ill by helicopter. All of these incidents were dealt with quickly and without most passengers having to worry. I have been round the world, sailed into Sydney at dawn and around the set of â€˜Pirates of the Caribbean.â€™ Iâ€™ve seen dolphins race the ship, witnessed spectacular sunsets and shooting stars in a sky so clear and unaffected by the bright lights of land. I have sailed the Milford Sound and seen glaciers and the Statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro. So all in all, I wouldnâ€™t change any of it, and I have always had great faith in the crews that I have worked with and have looked after me when I have been a passenger.
Take on board (excuse the pun) safety concerns, but please rationalise them. There are so many cruise ships and wonderful holidays to be had, so please donâ€™t let the media scare you into avoiding the cruise industry, but go to the drills and take note of escape routes, just as you would on a plane or when you moved into a new home. After that, relax and enjoy your holiday!