Costa Concordia: Celebrity Speaks, Costa Clarifies, Pricing Up

Despite the Costa Concordia accident, it appears consumers are not that fearful of booking future cruises.

“Although we expected that a strong start to Wave Season would likely be derailed by the accident in Italy last week, ticket prices increased,” Robin Farley, a UBS Warburg financial analyst, said in an update note to her company’s investors this morning.

While prices were up less than a half a percent last week from the previous week, at least they didn’t drop. Farley said pricing could be up as much as 1 percent from the start of the year.

“What is even more surprising is that average ticket prices increased since the start of the year for almost every brand that we survey, including Costa," she said.

Farley went on to say that while it’s still early in the post-accident period, “impact so far on bookings may not be as negative as one might have expected."

USB’s pricing checks indicated that for the 2012 cruise season, “cruise prices across the Caribbean have been up moderately in the last few weeks, including another slight uptick so far in Wave.” In fact, the Caribbean has shown strength since the second to last week of December.

“Alaska is moderately up since start of year, including an uptick in the last week,” Farley said, noting that Mediterranean cruise pricing has been stable since a downward pricing adjustment in early November.

Costa Clarifies Policy

After some confusion about exactly what it was doing for customers onboard the Costa Concordia’s accident cruise, as well as those on future cruises, Costa Cruises put out a statement last evening to reiterate its position on Costa Concordia passenger refunds.

For all guests who sailed on Costa Concordia’s Jan. 13 voyage, Costa Cruises will refund the full cost of the cruise, either directly or through their travel agency.

The company 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.

Any onboard expenses also will be refunded, and any credit card charges will be credited to the account and any cash deposits will be refunded. Costa Cruises also will reimburse any medical expenses incurred as a result of the accident.

Every effort will be made to return the valuables left in the cabin safe. Information on the return of personal belongings and other forms of compensation will be communicated.

A 30 percent future cruise discount is, essentially, not for guests on the ill-fated Jan. 13 cruise, as some media reports suggested.

Instead, Costa said that 30 percent discount and a full refund is only “for guests scheduled to sail on Costa Concordia from Jan. 14 onward.”

Fuel Pumping to Begin

Dutch company SMIT, hired by Carnival Corp. to pump out thousands of gallons of diesel fuel from Costa Concordia, worked Tuesday to set up its on-site pumping operation.

Divers are installing external tanks that will hold the fuel, once pumping efforts begins. That's expected to start by Saturday and the entire pumping process is expected to take a month.

Officials on site said pumping operations and search efforts to recovery additional bodies on site will operate simultaneously, if need be.

While thousands of passengers and crew evacuated the ship safely, sadly 15 deaths are confirmed and 17 people are still listed as missing.

Celebrity’s President Speaks

Last evening, this reporter received an e-mail – presumably sent to past guests or those who signed up for news at Celebrity’s Web site -- from Dan Hanrahan, president and CEO, Celebrity Cruises.

Here’s what Hanrahan said, focusing on the line’s safety record.

“Like you, all of us at Celebrity Cruises, both shipboard and shoreside, are deeply saddened by the events surrounding the tragic Costa Concordia accident. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by the incident.

“I debated about writing to you, as I wanted to be respectful of the investigation process and avoid adding to the speculation as to the cause or related failures.

"However, the concerns that have been raised about the safety of cruise ships compelled me to take the opportunity to share what an intense focus we have always placed on safety, and how rigorously we put that focus into practice every day.

“Since Celebrity Cruises’ founding more than 20 years ago, the safety of our guests and crew has always been our highest priority. The measures we take in the interest of safety are many, often exceeding regulatory requirements.

"It’s a critical part of our ongoing commitment to innovation and continuous improvement in every aspect of our business.

“Our guests see just a portion of our safety practices through the mandatory muster drills we conduct at the outset of every sailing. But our safety practices encompass so much more.

"In light of the Costa Concordia accident, we chose to post a summary of our safety practices on our web site. Simply go to and click on the tab labeled 'Safety and Security.' I encourage you to take a look, and to share the information with your family and friends.

“Above and beyond what we’ve communicated there, you also may be interested to know that the leader of Celebrity Cruises’ captains is a highly experienced former officer in the U.S. Coast Guard, Greg Purdy. As the head of our marine operations department, Greg’s highest priority is to guide and monitor the safety of our fleet.

"His own experience at sea, including serving as captain of a Coast Guard vessel, combined with his depth of knowledge of cruise ship safety, ensures that he and the entire Celebrity marine team continue to build on our strong safety culture.

“Our captains across the Celebrity fleet hold degrees from some of the world’s finest maritime institutions. You also may be surprised to know that, along with the captain, every one of our ships has at least two other officers who hold the level of license required to serve as captain of a cruise ship.

"Essentially, we have three people onboard every Celebrity ship who qualify as a captain.

“On average, each of Celebrity Cruises’ captains has 25 years of seagoing experience. Besides the training and drills we conduct onboard, our captains and their bridge teams also participate in navigation simulator courses and other training.

"One of the cornerstones of our training is that everyone is expected to speak up if they detect something wrong, regardless of their rank. Our shipboard officers and our shoreside team spend a considerable amount of time focused on how we can continually improve our safety procedures.

“Along with our vast in-house expertise, we also rely on a group of experts known as our Maritime Safety Advisory Board. The group was established in 2006 to help guide our safety program and provide critical thinking from the world’s leading marine safety experts.

"The group includes former senior officials from the US and UK Coast Guards, as well as leadership from the academic world.

“Our Chairman Richard Fain has said there’s no such thing as perfect safety, but there is such a thing as perfect dedication to safety. And that’s what we strive for daily.

“Whether you’re a longtime cruiser, or have yet to sail with Celebrity, I hope you’ll help us reinforce the fact that cruising continues to maintain the best safety record of any industry in the travel business.

“Our highly skilled and dedicated crew members look forward to welcoming you onboard soon to provide you with an outstanding vacation experience. Meanwhile, I thank you for your continued support of our brand and our business

UNESCO Asks Italy to Curb Routes

According to an article in Business Week (, Italy is coming under international pressure to ban cruise line routes close to sensitive UNESCO World Heritage sites of ecological and cultural importance.

Francesco Bandarin, UNESCO's assistant-general for culture, reportedly has sent a letter to the Italian government asking for ships to be restricted.

The Business Week article says the Italian government is already developing new rules for cruise line routes along coastal areas and that a meeting with cruise lines is planned for this week.

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