In the aftermath of the Costa Concordia crash over the weekend in the waters off the coast of the Italian island of Giglio, details of exactly what went wrong are still rolling in as search-and-rescue operations wind down and the ship's "black box" is reviewed. Of the more than 4,200 people onboard, six perished in the accident and some 14 passengers remain unaccounted for – though rescue operations are currently halted due to safety and environmental concerns. Initial indications are pointing to grave human error on the part of Captain Francesco Schettino, who took an unauthorized route that brought the vessel too close to shore where it hit a reef (which caused it to take on water and ultimately topple over), and then failed to put standard Costa emergency procedures into place once the accident had occurred (he is currently under arrest, facing possible charges of manslaughter, as well as accusations of abandoning the ship prior to the completion of its evacuation).
Regardless of the cause of the Concordia's demise, current Costa Cruises ticket holders (the cruise line is owned by the Carnival Corporation) may find themselves understandably jostled by the whole event, especially given the widely published disturbing images of the partially submerged vessel and tales of a chaotic evacuation scene (parallels to the Titanic – which is commemorating the centennial of its sinking in April – have been widely drawn). We’ve been in touch with the folks at Costa and sifted through their policies and press releases to bring you the lowdown on what prospective Costa cruisers can expect in the months ahead.
Is the cruise line still operating normally and will there be changes to Costa’s cruise schedule?
Short of cancellations on Costa Concordia’s scheduled routes (policies on that front are outlined below), there are currently no itinerary changes or cancellations planned for other Costa Cruises’ ships.
What if I am currently booked on a future Costa Concordia sailing?
Costa Cruises' customer service team is reaching out to guests who are scheduled to sail with the Costa Concordia and are expected to contact customers in the order of their anticipated date of travel. For sailings that were scheduled on the Concordia through January 20, Costa is offering a full refund and a 30 percent future cruise credit (based on the fare amount paid); passengers who choose to rebook on Costa sailings through March will be assisted by the cruise line for placements on a new cruise itinerary and to work with their airline on any applicable change fees. For guests booked on Concordia from January 21 through February 25, Costa will offer the same alternatives, though passengers that choose to rebook can do so on any of Costa's sailings offered through June. Customers looking for further assistance and more information can call Costa at 800-462-6782.
I am currently booked on an upcoming Costa sailing on another one of their ships and would like a refund or to rebook for a future date – what are the current policies in place?
Costa is not currently offering refunds or rebookings to Costa ticket holders for future sailing on Concordia's sister ships – skittish customers who cancel at this point may lose some or all of their fare for sailings set to embark in less than three months, or be faced with cancellation fees for cruises further out (unless they have insurance in place which makes such exceptions).
What steps are being taken by Costa to ensure such a tragedy doesn’t unfold on future sailings?
Costa released a statement on their site stating, “Costa is committed to ensuring that no such incident ever occurs again. Our number-one priority is always the safety and security of our guests and crew, and we comply with all safety regulations.” The cruise line has stated that they would review procedures for the timing of lifeboat drills – passengers are currently required by law to attend a safety briefing within 24 hours of embarkation (guests who had boarded the Concordia at Civitavecchia, near Rome, did not yet have their lifeboat drill prior to the accident.)
The cruise line requires that all crew members hold a BST (Basic Safety Training) certificate that provides them emergency management preparation and evacuation leadership skills (which are periodically tested by Coast Guard authorities), while regular evacuation drills are additionally held for staff. Plus, lifeboats and life jackets are found onboard in excess of the number of passengers and crew onboard and are often tested, among numerous other standard safety procedures regularly implemented on all Costa ships.
Check www.costacruise.com for regular updates on the Concordia and current Costa policies.