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Deep Impact of Costa Concordia


The word "terrorism" would never be associated with the Costa Concordia, yet the impact of that disaster on cruising is somewhat similar to what 9/11 did to flying.

Security has been continually accelerated at airports over the last decade, often to the point of annoyance. In cruising, it's just the beginning.

Tomorrow at 8 p.m. (EDT), CNN will broadcast Cruise To Disaster, an investigation of "safety issues in the cruise line industry with a focus on the Concordia." It comes almost seven months after the Concordia joined everyone's vocabulary — had the special been delayed nine days it could have aired on a Friday the 13th, the same day as the accident.

Meanwhile, and presumably this will be part of the show, the cruise industry has continued stepping to attention.
In April, two major cruise line organizations made it policy for all muster drills to be held before departure (600 of Concordia's 3,200 passengers did not attend a drill). Last week, more policy changes. The one that will have the greatest impact on all cruisers is muster drills that will surely be longer and more detailed.

Those of us who cruised before January 13, 2012 have likely all rolled our eyes at yet another muster drill…like the flight attendant's instructions about how to fasten our seat belts. The 15 minutes we are accustomed to spending at a muster station is likely to be extended, perhaps doubled, because of the procedures crew members are now bound to complete.

And, according to CNN, "more changes to safety procedures are expected in the coming months."

Meanwhile, the wrecked ship still lies on its side in Mediterranean waters near Italy. Its 17 fuel tanks have been emptied and it will be floated and towed to Civitavecchia, near Rome, probably about nine months from now. Her ultimate fate is uncertain.

It wasn't terrorism that did this, but it was a night for terror for the people on the Concordia.

Royal Caribbean Vision of the Seas
14 nights
September 21, 2012
Southampton, Gijon, Vigo, Lisbon, Ponta Delgada, Fort Lauderdale
Inside: $885
Cost per day: $63

Cruise Ships and Muster Stations

We’ve almost come to the conclusion that the mandatory muster station drills are in the same boat as the seat-belt drills on airplanes. Nobody’s listening, in part because most of the people have heard it all before, and know — or at least think they know — what to do in an emergency.

The cruise lines say they’re compelled to to this by international law, but nobody’s quite sure what “this” is any more. On our first cruise, some years ago, we all had to take the life jackets from the cabin to the appropriate muster station. Our arrival was noted on a clipboard. How we fastened the jacket was inspected. We took it all seriously.

On Celebrity’s Millennium, no life jackets were necessary. There was just a demonstration, not unlike what flight attendants do.

On Carnival’s Ecstasy, the “muster station” was the theater, the demonstration was held there, then everybody was moved (row by row) outside onto the deck, where we stood for a period of time before being dispersed, without another word being spoken. Meanwhile, we missed the sail-away.

On Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas, crew members started rounding up passengers 15 minutes before the drill, herding everyone to the appropriate muster station. The drill was late, crew members briefly demonstrated how to put on and secure the life jacket, while instructions were read over the intercom that few passengers were paying attention to, and those who were couldn’t hear because of the decibel level of the others. Then, class dismissed.

On Norwegian’s Epic, it was your basic demonstration by a couple of crew members. Ours was held in the casino, just about the last place you should take us to see something that’s supposed to be serious!

On NCL’s Sky, passengers were admonished (yes, us) for clicking cameras while standing near the lifeboats for our muster station drill, which wasn’t really any different from the others. When it was over, we asked why photos weren’t allow. “If photos were allowed, 90 per cent of the people would be taking pictures instead of listening,” he said.

So there would only be 10 per cent of the passengers listening…instead of 20.

While not wanting to take emergency procedures lightly, the conclusion to be drawn here is that the muster-station drills are simply done to make sure the cruise lines are covered. Yes, it’s the law, just like it’s the law for flight attendants.

But if there’s an emergency at sea and somebody doesn’t know what to do, the cruise line is not going to be liable because…

“We did the compulsory muster-station drill.”

Does anybody think we’re wrong?

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