Costa Concordia disaster that left 17 dead, plus recent outbreaks of illnesses on cruise ships may put a kink in some travelers’ plans; yachting industry veteran William S. Smith III says private yacht business may pick up
As cleanup of the Costa Concordia continues after the cruise ship capsized Jan. 13 off the coast of Italy, the ship’s captain is still coming under fire for literally abandoning ship.
A group representing survivors of the Costa Concordia say traces of cocaine were found on a sample of Captain Francesco Schettino’s hair but there is not enough evidence to prove he actually used the drug. Italian consumer groups are asking prosecutors to force Schettino to undergo another drug test as prosecutors build a case for alleged manslaughter against Schettino after at least 17 died in the tragedy.
Since the Concordia, several American cruise ships have been ravaged with illness; more than 200 passengers on two Princess Cruise Lines ships bound for South Florida in early February reported gastrointestinal illnesses – most likely a norovirus. Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Sea left New Orleans a couple of hours late earlier this month because of the same illness.
So are incidents such as these giving potential cruise ship passengers pause before they book their next vacation on the high seas?
“The sort of incident that happened to Costa Concordia is ‘thankfully’ rare and the trade has not been affected. People/passengers will feel safer as the crew on liners become extra vigilant and the service gets even better,” said Anna Fill, editor and promoter of the online magazine The Riviera Woman.
“Of course we were saddened to see the tragedy unfolding concerning the Costa Concordia. As with the BP oil spill two years ago in the Gulf of Mexico, I believe that it will become evident that this event is clearly the result of human error,” Smith said. ”The cruise industry has a very good safety record but anything (airplane, train, bus, car, etc…) that is in the control of humans can also have an accident due to that same human control and/or lack of judgement. The industry needs to focus on its positive record and educate the public as to just how safe it really is to take a cruise.”
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Although attendance on cruises may suffer more from repeated illness aboard cruise ships, Smith said, such incidents may prove to be a boon to the private yachting industry.
“Unfortunately, I believe the virus outbreak on some of the cruise ships will have a longer term negative effect on the industry due to the fact that this has happened before and with repeat incidents, people are starting to believe the industry does not have a handle on this problem,” he said. “Anything negative to cruising will have some effect on the yacht industry, but the yachts have an unbelievable safety record. On the positive side, this may drive the some of the very high-end cruise clients to consider private yacht charters over cruise ships due the proven safety record of private yacht charters and higher level of crew service and training.
“The pedigree yacht builders today are building more sophisticated vessels than the cruise industry and the crews are more highly trained the cruise ship employees. Concerning the virus outbreak, our new yachts are being built with air purifiers and have a much better quality of cleanliness than most cruise ships.”
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