Tuesday, 31 January 2012

CAA confirms April 'too soon' for Atol reform

CAA confirms April 'too soon' for Atol reform

The government's planned Atol reform will not be implemented in full from April, the Civil Aviation Authority has admitted.

CAA consumer protection group director Richard Jackson said the reforms would come in in April, but businesses will not be expected to fully comply until October.

He told the parliamentary transport select committee today: "It will be difficult for the industry to be ready by April because it can't move finally until the Department for Transport announces its decision.

"I will be surprised if all the changes will come in in April. There will be a sensible implementation phase. We will wait until probably October 1 for all the changes required to be made to systems."

Disney Wonder to sail out of Miami

Disney Wonder to sail out of Miami

By Donna Tunney
Disney Cruise Line for the first time will homeport a ship in Miami, starting in December.

The 2,700-passenger Disney Wonder will operate mostly four- and five-night sailings through May 2, 2013.

The Disney Fantasy, which will enter service in March, and the Disney Dream will continue to sail a variety of Caribbean and Bahamas itineraries from Port Canaveral, Fla.

The Disney Fantasy will operate eastern and western Caribbean sailings, while the Disney Dream will sail three-, four- and five-night cruises to the Bahamas and Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay.

The cruise line, which unveiled its 2013 schedule on Jan. 24, has added more destinations to its European lineup, including Venice and the Greek islands.

Beginning June 1, 2013, the 2,700-passenger Disney Magic will return to the Mediterranean with new itineraries, including a four-night option and 12-night sailings in addition to seven-night itineraries.

The new 12-night sailings visit destinations such as Venice and Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast on one itinerary and Ephesus, Turkey, and the Greek isles on another. All cruises depart from Barcelona.

Additionally, Disney Cruise Line and Adventures by Disney will offer passengers land-sea vacations in the Mediterranean. Available on select departures, three- or four-night land packages will be offered in Barcelona and Madrid prior to the cruise.

The 2,700-passenger Disney Magic, which will begin sailing from Galveston, Texas, in 2012, will continue to sail from that port through May 2013 before redeploying to Europe.

In Alaska next year, the Disney Wonder will operate a series of seven-night cruises from Vancouver to Tracy Arm, Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan, starting May 27.

Beginning May 27, 2013, the Disney Wonder will sail seven-night cruises from Vancouver to Tracy Arm, Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

MSC: OUT with Worrall Thompson, IN with Paul Rankin

  1. MSC: OUT with Worrall Thompson, IN with Paul Rankin

    Official Press Release


    It is with regret that MSC Cruises announces that Antony Worrall Thompson will no longer be performing a series of culinary demonstrations on board MSC Splendida next month.

    The company is however delighted to inform its guests that Michelin award winning chef Paul Rankin will be joining MSC Splendida in Barcelona on Sunday 5th February 2012. A series of appearances at sea on Monday 6th February will then see him showcase some of his best loved dishes – and a selection unique to MSC.

    One of the UK’s most popular chefs, Paul Rankin won Northern Ireland’s first Michelin Star, whilst his trailblazing Cayenne in Belfast is among the country’s top restaurants. A regular on TV shows such as Ready Steady Cook and Ten Mile Menu and the writer of numerous best-selling books, Paul is also a passionate supporter of local produce, so much so that in 2002 he launched The Rankin Selection, a range of traditional foods now stocked in supermarkets throughout the UK.

    Paul will be joining MSC Splendida on her 8 day, 7 night cruise departing 4th February 2012 (Genoa, Barcelona, Valletta, La Goulette (Tunisia), Civitavecchia (Rome), Marseille, Genoa).

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Delivery of Oceania's new ship delayed three weeks

Delivery of Oceania's new ship delayed three weeks

By Donna Tunney
Oceania Cruises pushed back the launch of the Riviera to May 16, due to delays at the Fincantieri shipyard near Genoa, where the 1,250-passenger ship is under construction. The inaugural cruise had been scheduled for April 24.

Oceania said that affected guests would be contacted through their travel agent, or directly if they didn’t book through an agent, to discuss alternative cruise dates. The line is protecting agency commissions on the missed sailings.

“We sincerely regret any inconvenience that this may cause our guests,” stated Kunal Kamlani, president of Oceania. “We are working very closely with the shipyard to ensure Riviera is completed to meet Oceania's high standards of quality and service.”

According to Fincantieri CEO Giuseppe Bono, labor strikes at the shipyard are responsible for the delay.

“All of us at Fincantieri are committed to producing a superior quality ship, and we will deliver a truly magnificent vessel to Oceania Cruises without further delays.”

The new maiden voyage is a 10-day cruise that includes an overnight aboard ship in Venice before visiting Dubrovnik, Croatia; Kotor, Montenegro; the Greek islands of Corfu, Crete, Santorini, Delos and Mykonos; Athens and Monemvasia, Greece; and Kusadasi, Turkey.

Guests booked on canceled sailings will have the option of rebooking another cruise and receiving a future cruise credit, which ranges from $250 to $1,000 per guest depending on category of accommodation. In the event guests do not wish to rebook, they will receive a full refund.

Medical emergency delays Royal Caribbean cruise

Medical emergency delays Royal Caribbean cruise

By Donna Tunney

Royal Caribbean International’s Explorer of the Seas will arrive a day late to Cape Liberty, its homeport in Bayonne, N.J., on Jan. 28 due to a medical emergency onboard the 1,185-passenger ship.

According to the cruise line, an ill passenger required urgent medical treatment in a hospital, so the ship altered course to its closest port of call, San Juan.

The U.S. Coast Guard evacuated the sick passenger Jan. 25, and the ship is now headed back to New Jersey.

The delayed arrival will impact the itinerary of the cruise departing Jan. 28. The ship will spend Jan. 29 and 30 at sea, and a planned call at Labadee, Royal Caribbean's private destination on Haiti, has been canceled.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Costa clarifies compensation policy for Concordia passengers

By Donna Tunney
Costa Cruises clarified its compensation policy for passengers who were aboard the crippled Costa Concordia, which hit a rocky reef and capsized off the Italian coast Jan. 13.

The line said it would refund the full cost of the cruise, either directly or through the passengers’ travel agencies.

It also will reimburse all travel expenses incurred both reaching the port of embarkation and on the homeward journey, including any independent arrangements made for transfers.

Additionally, onboard expenses will be refunded, any credit card charges will be credited to the account and any cash deposits will be refunded, Costa said.

Costa also will reimburse any medical expenses incurred as a result of the accident.

It said that “every effort will be made to return the valuables left in the cabin safe,” and that information on the return of personal belongings and other forms of compensation will be communicated.

The embattled cruise line came under fire in recent days after a media outlet in the U.K. mistakenly reported that Concordia passengers, who evacuated the vessel in what’s been described as a chaotic and unorganized way, were being offered only a refund and 30% off a future Costa cruise. Other media have picked up the erroneous report.

“The 30% future cruise discount, in addition to a full refund, is intended for guests [who were] scheduled to sail on Costa Concordia from Jan. 14 onward,” the line stated.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Thomson Cruises director admits need to modernise fleet

  1. Thomson Cruises director admits need to modernise fleet

    Cruise holiday firm Thomson Cruises is set to modernise its current fleet with upgrades to its vessels along with the potential addition of new liners.

    The plans come after the firm  undertook a strategic review around nine months ago.

    Managing director Fraser Ellacott revealed that the move was afoot during a recent interview with Travel Weekly in which he admitted "exciting plans" were in the offing.

    Though Mr Ellacott remained cryptic in his responses, he did suggest that "for the longer term, clearly we [Thomson Cruises] have a need to modernise."

    He went on to suggest that an overhaul of the current fleet was in the works, while Thomson Cruises was also considering the Middle East and North Africa for summer cruises in 2013.

    The cruise chief explained that the firm felt trips to Lebanon, Libya, Algeria and the Dead Sea could prove particularly appealing to UK passengers following the Arab Spring.

    Thomson Cruises is the third largest cruise holiday company in the UK, with tours operating across its four ships the Thomson Dream, Thomson Destiny, Thomson Spirit and Thomson Celebration.

    The company made headlines recently with the unveiling of a new taster trip offering holidaymakers a 16-hour trip along the British coast.

    Do you agree with this assessment of Thomson Cruises? What improvements do you think they should make?

Captain not solely to blame, says prosecutor

  1. Captain not solely to blame, says prosecutor

    According to today's Telegraph, the chief prosecutor in charge of the inquiry has implored investigators to look beyond the behaviour of the captain to the role played by the liner's owners, Costa Cruises.

    His comments were published as salvage experts began the difficult task of removing around 2,400 tonnes of fuel from the vessel.

    Beniamino Deidda, the prosecutor, said in an interview carried by several Italian newspapers today: "For the moment, attention is generally concentrated on the responsibility of the captain, who showed himself to be tragically inadequate. But who chooses the captain?"

    He said investigators needed to avert their gaze to the decisions taken by "the employer; that is to say, the ship's owner".

    Deidda, who has spent a large part of his career dealing with health and safety cases, said numerous other issues needed to be addressed.

    He specifically mentioned "lifeboats that did not come down, crew who did not know what to do [and] scant preparation in crisis management".

    He added that it was "absurd" that in at least one instance, recorded on video after the Costa Concordia was holed, a member of the crew should have told passengers to return to their cabins.

    Schettino has also maintained that his employers have a shared responsibility for what happened. Among the questions the inquiry is seeking to answer is why more than an hour elapsed between impact and the order to abandon ship.

    Questioned by prosecutors last week, the captain said that he was in frequent contact with a representative of the company during that period.

    Schettino and his first officer are the sole formal suspects in the inquiry, which is looking at whether to bring charges of manslaughter and the illegal abandoning of a ship.

    On Monday, islanders reported seeing a large fuel slick in the waters off Giglio, which are protected as a marine nature reserve. The fuel, however, is thought by the authorities to have come from the initial impact with a cluster of rocks just south of the port of Giglio.

    The official co-ordinating operations on the island said on Monday there was still no evidence that fuel had leaked from the Costa Concordia's tanks.

The Costa Concordia and disaster management

The Costa Concordia and disaster management

By Donna Tunney
It’s hard to imagine how Carnival Corp. and its Costa Cruises brand could have put a positive spin on the Concordia accident, but that’s what one academic expert on tourism and economic development said they should have tried to do – and very quickly.
Insight“They needed to immediately reassure people that [cruise passengers] are in good hands, that it’s business as usual, that the lines operate under strict regulations,” said Simon Hudson, who holds an endowed chair at the South Carolina Center of Economic Excellence in Tourism and Economic Development at the University of South Carolina.
Hudson spent several years working in the tourism industry in Europe and is the author of several books on the travel business, including “Marketing for Tourism and Hospitality: A Canadian Perspective.”
Human error involved in the Concordia disaster will dent consumer confidence in both Carnival and Costa, he said, but likely only in the short term.
“It’s like when we get a plane crash and everyone’s up in arms," he said. "The cruise industry is one of the safest ways to travel and has been very responsible over the years."
But he’s not sure that the move by Carnival and Costa to “deflect blame” onto the Concordia’s captain, Francesco Schettino, instills the level of confidence the companies should be striving for.
“To me it’s interesting,” Hudson said. “It’s almost as if they’re saying, ‘It’s not directly our fault; it’s a captain error.’ But that doesn’t give much confidence to the cruise line.
Schettino faces multiple charges after he allegedly allowed the ship to hit rocks near the Italian island of Giglio and then abandoned the vessel while passengers and crew were still onboard. He is under house arrest in Italy.
“I would imagine that Carnival and Costa will have a strategy in place, but they don’t seem to have reacted that quickly from a public relations point of view,” Hudson said.
Carnival Corp. brands last week all posted messages on their Facebook pages that addressed the lines' safety procedures. Carnival Cruise Lines went the furthest, linking to its lifeboat-drill video on YouTube and leading Facebook discussions about its safety procedures and navigational technologies.
Carnival Corp. chairman and CEO Micky Arison, meanwhile, has regularly issued statements and used Twitter posts to express the company’s concern for the families of passengers and crew who were confirmed dead or are missing.
And late last week, the company announced it would begin a “comprehensive audit and review of all safety and emergency response procedures across all of the company’s cruise lines.”
But some agents are questioning Carnival’s behavior, even while acknowledging that the captain appears to be culpable.
“I wish that Carnival Corp. would stop complaining about their financial losses [and] try to help the families who sustained such terrible losses unnecessarily,” one retailer wrote in the comment section of Travel Weekly’s Jan. 18 agent survey about the Concordia accident.
In fact, Carnival Corp. was not complaining about losses. By immediately estimating the extent of financial damage it would incur from the accident, it was simply complying with Security and Exchange Commission rules requiring that public corporations reveal such losses to investors and potential investors. But against a backdrop of human suffering, even the most mundane communication can seem insensitive in the public arena.
Another agent suggested that other industry brands should be talking about the Concordia accident, too, in a bid to reassure clients.
“Cruise lines need to address the issue of safety at sea," the agent suggested. "They need to address why the Costa Concordia incident cannot happen on their line."
On Thursday, CLIA, which represents all the major cruise lines, took a broader approach, making the case that cruising, regardless of line, is safe, during a panel at the Passenger Ship Safety Conference in London.
Other retailers who responded to the survey were clearly angry, including one who wrote this: “I think it is horrendous how Carnival Corp has handled this matter. Forget Costa… this is a Carnival company [and] they need to take responsibility! … I [will] gladly steer away my clients from the Carnival portfolio of products unless I see some quick and immediate amends made to the passengers.”
But there were also several positive observations from retailers, such as this one: “Clients are asking about any deals that may come up in the aftermath of what happened. They are more worried about [the safety of] driving their car than they are to take a cruise.”

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Costa Concordia disaster: Cruise firm faces US lawsuit

Costa Concordia disaster: Cruise firm faces US lawsuit

The company operating a cruise ship that sank off Italy last week is facing a class-action lawsuit in the US.
The capsized Costa Concordia lies off the coast of the island of GiglioItaly's consumer association Codacons and two US law firms told the BBC they would file the suit against Costa Cruises on behalf of the passengers.
Costa Cruises has blamed the ship's captain, who denies responsibility, for the incident
They want at least $160,000 (£105,000) for each passenger on the ship.
Costa Cruises, owned by US-based Carnival Group, has suspended the ship's captain. At least 11 people were killed in the accident.
The Costa Concordia ship, which had more than 4,200 passengers aboard, collided with rocks off the coast of the Tuscan island of Giglio a week ago. Hundreds were injured and 21 remain missing.
Mitchell Proner, a lawyer with Proner & Proner, said: "Along with Codacons, we have formed an association and our firms are collectively going to be filing a suit in Miami, by Wednesday next week, on behalf of all the victims of the Costa Concordia disaster."
'Rogue captain'
Mr Proner said claimants would be seeking compensation for continued medical care, loss of earnings as well as the psychological impact they had suffered while trying to get off the ship.

Start Quote

Not only is Costa owned by an American company but they have brought themselves into our stream of commerce”

He said that some of the claimants - currently 110 - would seek two or three times the minimum claim, while the worse cases could seek as much as 1m euros.
Costa Cruises have blamed Capt Francesco Schettino, currently under house arrest, for committing "grave errors of judgement" including making an "unauthorised manoeuvre" in the Costa Concordia.
The firm has withdrawn its offer to pay legal fees for the captain - who denies all responsibility - and has begun the process of launching a civil claim against him in Italy.
But Mr Proner said that the firm could not pin all responsibility for the disaster on a "rogue captain".
"It's easy to say this captain acted alone," he said.
"There are indications that there have been regular route deviations in the past. There should have been safeguards on board, where were the alarms? If there was a dereliction of duty, what was going on on their computer systems?
"At the time of the Titanic it might have been easy to say that radars didn't exist. Nowadays, with all the technology, it isn't. There had to be a failure in the system that allowed this to happen."
'Protecting rights'
A spokesman for Costa Cruises said the firm's legal department would, in due course, be responding to allegations against it but was focusing now on the situation on the island of Giglio.
He said that, as an initial gesture, a full refund and discount on future cruises had been offered to all passengers.
The president of Codacons, Marco Ramadori, said the offer was insufficient.
"They are offering to refund the cost of the ticket as if you had missed a plane and lost your luggage. You cannot compare the two," he said.
Costa passengers are reported to have signed a contract when buying their cruise that any litigation will take place under Italian law, in Italy.
But Mr Proner said that he thought it likely that the US courts would accept the case.
"The US has a long tradition of protecting rights and not only is Costa owned by an American company but they have brought themselves into our stream of commerce," he said.
"There were 120 Americans on board and they will demand access to their rights."

Graphic: Saving the Costa Concordia

Graphic: Saving the Costa Concordia

Click on the image for a larger view.One of the tasks Costa Cruises has before it is to try to extract the fuel from the stranded Costa Concordia and to attempt to raise the vessel.

Costa has said in a statement that it "recognized the need to promptly address issues concerning the protection of the marine environment following the Costa Concordia accident."

The line has commissioned Smit Salvage of Rotterdam, Netherlands, to draw up a plan to recover the fuel reserves from the Concordia.

Toronto newspaper the National Post this week constructed a graphic of some of the possible techniques and outcomes of extracting the fuel and maneuvering the ship. The article is here. Click on the graphic to see a larger version.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Cruise safety revisited after Costa Concordia disaster

By Donna Tunney and Arnie Weissmann
In the aftermath of the Costa Concordia tragedy, CLIA, Congress and two former Costa Cruises executives last week were revisiting assumptions about cruise safety, taking into account the perfect storm of events that led to the loss of life and the harrowing experiences of survivors in the waters off the Tuscany coast.

Meantime, cruise lines took action independently. Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. tightened passenger muster rules for all its brands.

And on Thursday, Carnival Corp., the parent of Costa Cruises and nine other cruise brands, announced a “comprehensive audit and review of all safety and emergency response procedures across all of the company’s cruise lines.”

CLIA called upon the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which sets global standards for ship safety, to undertake a “comprehensive evaluation from the findings” of the accident investigation currently being conducted by Italian authorities.

And in Washington, lawmakers are poised to review safety measures in light of the Concordia accident. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said his committee would conduct a hearing on the subject.

“The Costa Concordia tragedy is a wakeup call for the United States and international maritime organizations to carefully review and make certain we have in place all appropriate standards to ensure passengers’ safety on cruise ships,” Mica said.

The CLJohn MicaIA announcement was made by the organization’s CEO, Christine Duffy, before introducing a panel at the Passenger Ship Safety Conference currently under way in London.

Tom Allan, a member of the panel and chairman of the Cruise Ship Safety Forum, who has held a number of senior positions in the IMO, said that after the Italian authorities conclude their work, other member states may want to propose international guidelines.

The process may take years, but he said that the industry will likely be proactive and go forward with its own initiatives in a shorter timeframe.

After the panel, which was simulcast to journalists in New York, J. Michael Crye, executive vice president of CLIA who liaises for the organization on regulatory matters, said “The Italians will be the ones who make determinations about what went wrong and what needs to be improved, if anything. The results will be taken to the IMO, where it will be debated and discussed by international experts among the 170 member nations. They will look to see if the treaty needs to be modified, and will take into account any recommendations made.”

CLIA has two seats on the IMO board.

Crye agreed that the lines may move forward on their own. “Each (line) has an affirmative obligation to seek out means to identify and improve [safety],” he said. “No one in the industry wants to have this type of blot on the cruise industry. We will identify best practices and apply them. It has already begun within each individual cruise line.”

Bruce Nierenberg, who served as president and CEO of Costa Cruises before Carnival Corp. bought a controlling share of the line in 1997, said, “There is a dynamic that is in play here that several senior execs in the business used to discuss 10 to 20 years ago when the ships were really starting to get big. Even the technical and maritime engineering experts at the companies where I worked were concerned that regardless of the safety equipment onboard and the modern technology of the ship, the industry was beginning to build ships that were too big to be really safe in emergencies.”

“The industry, in its drive for profits has not been considering enough of the problems that can be created by enclosing thousands of people in a confined space, by expecting to evacuate upwards of 6,000 to 8,000 passengers in the largest ships, and by ignoring the basic human instinct to panic in such a situation,” he said.

The Concordia was carrying 3,200 passengers and about 1,000 crew. There were 26 nationalities represented on the ship.

Panelists in London felt that a ship’s size did not make it inherently less safe. Both Allan and Captain William Wright, senior vice president of marine operations for Royal Caribbean International, suggested that larger ships might actually have their own benefits in an emergency situation.

Bigger ships, Allan said, were designed to include more flexibility in the subdivision of safety options and in some ways provide a “bigger” and “better” platform to survive.

“The safety standards are no different,” he said. “Smaller ships have certain advantages over larger, and vice versa.”

Wright added that as ships grow larger, the evacuation routes and lifeboats are scaled accordingly.

Also on the topic of large ships, panelist Vice Admiral Alan Massey, CEO of the U.K.’s Maritime and Coast Guard Agency, said “we are satisfied ... that we’re in touch with what the industry is doing and the risks associated with it. Safety standards have kept pace.”

Bruce NierenbergNierenberg said, “There will be regulation changes, I’m sure, because of this accident, in terms of crew language requirements and training. And I’m sure it will become law that lifeboat drills have to take place before the ship leaves the harbor.”

In London, Wright said that “the vast majority” of muster drills occur before sailing. He noted that while the Concordia’s actions were “in keeping with regulations,” the practice will come under scrutiny.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard’s Cruise Ship National Center of Expertise, the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) requires an evacuation drill within 24 hours of port departure.

“Each cruise line has its own business practice, and in most cases the drill is held soon after departure,” a spokesman for the center said. “That’s the spirit of the regulation, but we can’t require ships to do that.”

In the case of the Concordia, two embarkation ports were offered to passengers: Barcelona and Cititavecchia, the Italian port about 50 miles from Rome. The nearly 700 people who boarded the ship in Civitavecchia on the day of the accident had not yet participated in a safety drill. Their drill was to have been held the next day.

Nierenberg said it takes time for passengers to become acclimated to a large ship. Expecting them to find their way around almost immediately after boarding — without a muster drill, in the dark and with language barriers between passengers and crew — is a stretch.

Following the Concordia accident, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCCL) directed its fleet — including all ships operated by Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises — to hold passenger muster drills on the day of departure.

Until now, all RCCL vessels have held muster drills 30 to 60 minutes prior to departure on the day of embarkation or turnaround, the company said. But on “rare occasions,” primarily due to very late departure times, the drill could be held to the following morning.

Not anymore.

The Concordia crew had intended to meet the 24-hour rule, with its drill planned for the following day.

Mitch Schlesinger, vice president of sales and marketing at Voyages to Antiquity, agreed that the timing of lifeboat drills in the wake of the Concordia disaster will become an industry issue.

“And,” he added, “there will be other issues tied to that. For example, on some ships it’s now optional to bring a life jacket to a boat drill. People were tripping over the straps, and cruise lines were trying to do this with 3,000 or 4,000 or 5,000 people. Was that new regulation the right thing to do?”

The bottom line, said Schlesinger, an industry veteran who formerly was a marketing vice president at Costa, is that “you need to understand how to put on your life jacket.”

On some large ships, including Royal Caribbean's Oasis-class vessels, passengers report to a designated public area, such as a lounge or a theater, to watch a safety video while a crew member demonstrates how to don a life jacket. On others, passengers still are required to report to their assigned lifeboat station, sometimes wearing their life jacket and sometimes not.

“It will be like the airports after 9/11,” Schlesinger said. “And I think it will happen for the right reasons. It might seen inconvenient, and you might only need them in the rarest of circumstances, but you need to know where to go and what to do.”

Schlesinger also asserted that in the Concordia case, the captain “invited a problem” by taking the ship too close to Giglio.

At the CLIA panel, the captain’s decision to attempt to bring the Concordia closer to shore after a rock tore through the ship’s hull raised the question of whether current thinking that “safe return to port” standards would be reviewed.

(According to Crye, “safe return to port” standards apply to ships built since June 2010. He said that improvements in stability and redundancies of systems has increased the likelihood that it may be safer for a damaged ship to attempt to get to a port rather than deploy lifeboats. He said what procedure to initiate — return to port, deploy lifeboats or go to deep water and initiate counter-flooding — is up to the captain’s discretion.)

The decisions and behavior of the Concordia’s captain, Francesco Schettino, contributed to what Nierenberg referred to as a “perfect storm.”

“It used to be that it took 25 years to get promoted to captain,” he said. “But today, the lines probably are under pressure to accelerate training because there are so many slots to fill.”

Nierenberg added that the Concordia accident also argued for psychological evaluations of ship captains.

Schettino faces multiple charges and is under house arrest in Italy after steering the ship into the rocks and allegedly abandoning the vessel while passengers and crew remained onboard.

“How does a guy like that get to be captain?” Nierenberg wondered.

Perhaps, he suggested, large ships should have more than one captain.

“Now that the big-ship animal has been created, we have to figure out how to deal with it,” he said.

Journalists at the London panel also questioned crew readiness for an emergency, from the captain down to cabin stewards.

Richard Evenhand, managing direct of V.Ships Leisure UK, the world’s largest third-party ship-management firm, said on the panel that the IMO sets standards for seafarers and that competencies are required before they can join a ship. He said there were further “comprehensive packages of training.”

He added that the ability to speak relevant languages was part of the selection process, in reference to some criticism that language played a role in confusion aboard the Concordia.

Wright said that all ships have emergency plans that are reviewed every week, and every member of the crew has a specific duty. For example, there are crew members who have instructions to bring life jackets to muster stations, he said.

Crye noted that “a bartender who is taking muster would not necessarily have the expertise to lower and operate a lifeboat,” but is trained in some aspect of emergency procedure.

In New York, Bud Darr, CLIA’s director of environmental and health programs, observed that “there are specific training standards and requirements applied universally across the maritime world.”

The CLIA panel was questioned about whether there were regulations regarding voyage plans and the discretion that a captain has in straying from the preplanned route.

Wright said that there are standards for “bridge resource management,” and that those require that if one varies from a voyage plan, the change must go through a two-person check to verify its appropriateness. “Not just the captain, but the entire bridge team,” he said.

In London, a journalist asked if the notion of a captain going down with the ship was outdated. Massey said there is no basis in international law for the concept. “Individual companies may have policies, but in the context of law, it’s more myth than reality.”

And women and children first?

“There is a requirement to take specific note of accessibility issues of passengers and accommodate them on a personal basis,” Crye said.

Carnival chief Arison orders 'comprehensive review'

Carnival chief Arison orders 'comprehensive review'

Carnival chief Arison orders 'comprehensive review'Costa Cruises’ parent Carnival Corporation is to undertake a “comprehensive review” of all safety and emergency response procedures across its nine cruise lines which run 101 ships worldwide.
Carnival also gave its backing to a call for thorough evaluation of safety regulations by the International Maritime Organisation, requested yesterday by the Cruise Lines International Association.
The moves came as Costa confirmed that survivors of the Costa Concordia will receive a refund for the abandoned cruise after the ship run onto rocks off the west of Italy and “all material expenses relating to it”.
The Italian company added that it was in contact with passengers and consumer protection associations “to determine indemnity for the hardship endured, with the support of the tour operator association of each country”.
This came as a video emerged showing the crew of Costa Concordia reassuring passengers nothing was wrong, after the ship had begun taking in water.
In the amateur footage, a crew member says “everything is under control” and a generator problem will be fixed. She asks passengers to go to their cabins.
The vessel ran aground off Italy's coast with 4,200 people on board and listed on its side. At least 11 people died and 21 are still missing.
Italian media broadcast what is claimed to be the first phone conversation between port officials and crew of the vessel about 30 minutes after the ship hit rocks. In the exchange, a crew member is heard saying it is experiencing only a blackout, the BBC reported.
Carnival chairman and CEO Micky Arison admitted the Costa Concordia tragedy “has called into question our company’s safety and emergency response procedures and practices”.
He added: “While I have every confidence in the safety of our vessels and the professionalism of our crews, this review will evaluate all practices and procedures to make sure that this kind of accident doesn’t happen again.”
The action by the company, which includes UK-based P&O Cruises and Cunard Line together with the likes of Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Line and Seabourn, will be led by retired US navy captain James Hunn, the organisation’s senior vice president of maritime policy and compliance.
Hunn and senior health and safety executives from each of the lines will review all safety and emergency response policies and procedures, officer and crew training and evaluation, bridge management and company-wide response and support efforts. He will report to the Carnival’s health, environment, safety & security committee and to chief operations officer Howard Frank.
Carnival also announced that the committee is engaging outside “industry-leading experts” in the fields of emergency response organisation, training and implementation to conduct an audit of all of the company’s emergency response and safety procedures and to conduct a thorough review of the Costa Concordia accident.
Frank said: “This company-wide initiative will identify lessons learned and best practices to further ensure the security and safety of all of our passengers and crew.”

Friday, 20 January 2012

Costa Concordia disaster: Evacuating a cruise ship

Costa Concordia disaster: Evacuating a cruise ship

The Costa Serena cruise ship (background) passes the wreck of its sister ship, the Costa Concordia, off Giglio, Italy, 18 January The Costa Serena cruise ship (background) passed the wreck of its sister ship, the Costa Concordia, on Wednesday
We had been in our cabin a matter of minutes when the announcement sounded. First in Italian, then in seven other languages. The last two were Russian and Japanese.
In short, we were told that the emergency drill on board the ship would start soon.
And no sooner had the voice in Japanese gone quiet than we heard several short beeps, signalling that the emergency exercise had begun. The ship had not even left port.
Life jackets
The BBC had made a formal request to Costa Cruises for us to travel, as journalists, to film the ship's safety procedures on board.
That request was denied, so my colleague Daniela and I were posing as tourists instead.
Tom Burridge arrives on the Costa Serena and attends a safety drill
We had to take the two credit card-sized emergency red drill cards on our bed, grab a life jacket each from the wardrobe in the cabin and head out into the long, seemingly never-ending corridor.
Other passengers had already emerged from their cabins. An elderly Italian couple struggled slowly down the stair well.
Members of the Costa Serena's crew guided Daniela and me down the stairs behind our fellow Italian passengers.
Metres later we were at a meeting point with hundreds of other passengers, all wearing their bright orange life jackets.
Soon we were ushered into lines of four. Men were placed at the back, with women at the front of each row.
'No difference'
An elderly man from Corsica stood beside me. I asked him how many times he had been on a cruise.
"Eight," he responded. "Twice on the Costa Concordia."
I did not have to prompt him for the conversation to move on to the Serena's sister ship, that lay capsized a short distance away down the Italian coast.
"Was there a drill both times you were on board the Concordia?" I asked.
"Yes," he replied. "But this doesn't make a difference.
"Look at the number of people. If there was an emergency, everyone would panic and getting down to the life rafts would take a long time."
Our fellow, more experienced, cruise passenger was not worried, nor was anyone that we spoke to while on board.
The general feeling was that the tragedy of the Costa Concordia was a one-off. Most people believed it was easily explained by "human error".
Boxed in
We had boarded the Costa Serena in Savona but some people had started the cruise on the previous day at Civitavecchia, the same starting-point as the Costa Concordia.
During the emergency drill, Daniela had spoken to an Italian lady.
She said that, as on the Concordia, there had been no drill on the first day of this cruise.
However the ship was still conforming to the regulations of the International Maritime Organisation, that there must be an emergency drill within the first 24 hours of a cruise.
After we heard some safety instructions, again in several different languages, we started to file out of the corridor and back into the carpeted corridors, back into the heart of the ship.
It was at this point that you got a sense of the sheer number of people on board. And when so many people need to move in the same direction, they dawdle slowly as a crowd, boxed in by the insufficient space.
Of course the drill was over and everyone was joking and looking forward to a two-week cruise that lay ahead.
But in a real emergency, like the nightmare that unfolded on the Costa Concordia, there would have been panic and it is easy to see how chaos would naturally ensue.
Sheer size
We only spent a day aboard the Costa Serena. We left the cruise early, in Barcelona, before it headed on to Casablanca, in Morocco.
Everyone said it was identical to the Costa Concordia and in Italy they call them gemelas, or twins.
When it sits in port, you cannot fail to notice it.
But when you are walking the long corridors, or standing on the top deck, way above the sea, its size feels more real.
What I mean is that it takes a while to learn your way around this floating entertainment zone of restaurants, bars, swimming pools and lifts.
And when I wandered up to the deck at night, it was easy to imagine how frightened the passengers on board the Costa Concordia would have been when the boat first hit ground and then started to tip over in the dark.
Inside, passengers must have been tossed around as water poured in.
Before we joined the cruise, the Costa Serena had sailed past its sunken sister.
A member of the Serena's crew told us of his sadness at seeing their sister ship lying on its side in the water.
The cruise industry has many very loyal customers that we met on board.
They are people who keep coming back for the same experience on these supersized boats.
But it is impossible to think that the sinking of the Costa Concordia will not lead to some changes to the culture of safety on board.

At Disney World, Obama reveals plan to increase U.S. tourism

At Disney World, Obama reveals plan to increase U.S. tourism

Praise for the executive order President Barack Obama issued Thursday to ease visa-processing in an effort to boost tourism came swiftly from around the travel industry. Read More

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — With Cinderella Castle as a backdrop and under a cloudless blue sky, President Barack Obama on Thursday issued a message to the world: “America is open for business.”

Obama earlier in the day issued an executive order to ease U.S. visa policies and expand the number of countries in the Visa Waiver Program, with the goal of increasing inbound U.S. tourism.

“I want America to be the number one tourist destination in the world,” Obama told the crowd at Disney’s Magic Kingdom.

To do that, Obama said he has directed his administration to increase by 40% the visa-processing capacity in China and Brazil, where securing a visa to visit the U.S. can take up to a year.

He noted that Brazil and China have emerging middle classes and citizens with growing disposable income, but that onerous U.S. visa policies mean their citizens have difficulty getting to the U.S.

“People want to come here, and Brazil and China are two of the countries with the biggest backlogs,” Obama said. 
“That’s what today is all about: telling the world that America is open for business.”

Obama said the new tourism strategy is part of his job-creation plan.

“The more folks who visit America, the more Americans we get back to work,” he said. “It’s that simple.”

Touching on the difficult balance between maintaining safe borders and the interests of the tourism sector, Obama said, “There’s no reason we can’t do both.”

Obama also said he is instructing his administration to expand the Visa Waiver Program to more nations, including Taiwan. (Although Taiwan is ruled by China, Taiwan has its own visa policies.)

In addition, the Obama administration aims to expand Global Entry, a program that allows expedited clearance at the airport for pre-screened international travelers.

While it has been suggested that Obama’s speech was as much about his reelection campaign (Florida is projected to be a key swing state) as it was about tourism, U.S. Travel Association CEO Roger Dow commended Obama for being “the first sitting president to say that increasing travel and tourism is important.” 

At Disney World, Obama reveals plan to increase U.S. tourism

By Johanna Jainchill

Despite Costa crash, two retailers say business continues to thrive

By Donna Tunney
Industry analysts this week predicted a short-term dip in cruise bookings following the Costa Concordia disaster, but some travel agents reported that — so far — their cruise business is holding steady.

“We have had no cancelations to date,” said Dwain Wall, senior vice president and general manager of CruiseOne and Cruises Inc.

“We had a couple people booked on future Concordia cruises and they called and asked us what would be done for them. We’re working with Costa to reaccommodate them — even they haven’t canceled,” said Wall.

A comparison of the first three days after the Jan. 13 accident with the same three days in 2011 showed that sales actually are up year-over-year, Wall said.

“I would expect a bigger impact,” he said, “but we’re not seeing it.”

Agent Mark Comfort, who owns Cruise Holidays Kansas City, said he’s been checking with his staff every day on booking levels.

“It’s been fascinating to me that while this has been horribly tragic, it has not seemed to create any scare in the minds of [cruisers], at least none that has come to our notice. People who already are booked or considering a cruise are not changing their minds,” said Comfort.

“What you don’t know,” he noted, “is how many people won’t call now if they were thinking about a cruise.”

Concordia captain navigated ship off course, says Costa CEO

Concordia captain navigated ship off course, says Costa CEO

By Donna Tunney
Francesco Schettino, captain of the partially sunken Costa Concordia, diverted from the cruise line’s normal route from Civitavecchia to Savona, Italy, Costa Cruises CEO Pier Luigi Foschi said in a media briefing Monday.

Foschi explained that Costa ships sail the Concordia’s northern route out of Civitavecchia 100 times a year, using detailed charts.

Schettino, who has been detained by Italian police, diverted from the route so that passengers could view the Tuscan island of Giglio up close, Foschi said.

The cruise ship struck rocks near Giglio on Friday, and the ship tilted into the sea.

Since the Italian authorities have seized the ship and all navigational records, Foschi said it is unclear which charts Schettino was using.

“We are working with investigators who will understand what happened. We have to inform all of you that the prosecutor has the ‘black box,’ which has all the information to enable us to understand what happened,” Foschi said.

Emergency search-and-rescue teams have been combing through the wrecked ship since the weekend and found three survivors and the bodies of two passengers who died inside the vessel.

The death toll from the accident is six, according to reports. Twenty-nine people are still unaccounted for, the Italian Coast Guard said on Monday evening. Authorities earlier said that 16 people were missing.

Four crew members and 25 passengers are still missing. According to Fox News, a U.S. couple from Minnesota is among the missing.

There were more than 4,200 passengers and crew aboard the Concordia.

Costa hired a salvage company on Sunday to determine how to remove the ship from its location in about 98 feet of water.

Foschi said the company is “very, very concerned” about environmental impact, since the Concordia was loaded with 2,300 tons of fuel. The ship had departed Civitavecchia on a seven-day Western Mediterranean cruise a few hours before the collision.

Initial reports that the ship had grounded may have been mistaken, given the confirmed depth of the water.

Foschi said that arrangements would be made for passengers booked on future Concordia sailings. “This has not been our priority right now,” he said.

Foschi added that it’s too soon to determine whether there will be an inordinate number of cancellations in the wake of the disaster.

“We will be looking into that,” he said.

He said that Costa’s loyal customers and its “quality track record over 60 years” would help ensure its future operations.

Costa’s reputation eventually will emerge as strong as it was before the Concordia disaster, said Foschi.
This report was updated Monday evening to add that 29 people on the Costa Concordia were unaccounted for.