An Italian court has placed Francesco Schettino, Costa Concordia’s captain and an 11-year Costa Cruises officer, under house arrest. He is now confined to his home in Naples, Italy.
Schettino is officially charged with manslaughter, abandoning ship and causing the wreck of the 120,000-ton ship. The ship was carrying 4,200 passengers and crew at the time it hit a submerged object or reef on Friday night near the Tuscan island of Giglio.
An extensive audio tape and transcript released yesterday reveals the increasing frustration and anger of the Italian Coast Guard officer on the scene the night of the accident. As the officer views passengers on the ship still desperately trying to evacuate, he orders Captain Schettino, who fled the ship with his officers, back to the ship to handle things onboard.
The coast guard officer finally tells Schettino: "It is an order. Don't make any more excuses.” Agents can read the full English translation of that dramatic verbal exchange at Huffington Post, via Associated Press at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/17/costa-concordia-captain-coast-guard-transcript_n_1211009.html?1326827565.
Search Efforts Halted
Meanwhile, search efforts were temporarily halted early Wednesday as sensors attached to Costa Concordia indicated possible movement of the ship. Authorities want to be sure the ship won't slip off its rocky perch and drop 100 feet to the ocean floor, endangering the lives of search teams.
Twenty-four passengers and crew are still missing; those include two Americans as well as people from Hungary, India, Peru, France, Italy and Germany. Eleven people are confirmed dead in the accident.
Given environmental concerns, a Dutch company has been hired to pump fuel from the stricken ship. Luca Cari, an Italian fire department spokesman, told the Associated Press that once it’s safe to enter the ship once again, a tandem effort will begin – divers will continue the search for the missing people, and fuel pumping will begin.
Carnival Corp. and Costa Statements
Last yesterday afternoon, Micky Arison, chairman and CEO of Carnival Corporation, parent company of Costa Cruises, issued a statement, which said:
“We are deeply saddened by the reports of additional deaths following the grounding of the Costa Concordia. On behalf of the entire Carnival Corporation & plc team, I offer our heartfelt condolences to all of those families affected by this tragedy. Our immediate priority continues to be supporting rescue and recovery efforts and looking after our guests and crew members, along with securing the vessel to ensure there is no environmental impact.”
Arison said he and his senior management team have been in continuous contact with the Costa executive team in Italy and the company has senior level technical experts on the ground to provide additional support for what he termed a “tragic and highly unusual incident.” He also thanked the crew, Italian Coast Guard and authorities for their rescue efforts and support.
Also about 7 a.m. today, Costa Cruises put out another statement that said: “We are deeply saddened to learn that additional people have been found during the search of Costa Concordia, and extend our heartfelt sympathies to their families.
“We continue to cooperate with authorities to support the rescue and recovery efforts, and to help secure the vessel to ensure that there is no environmental impact. Our main priority remains the location of those passengers and crew who have not yet been accounted for.
“While rescue efforts continue we are reaching out to all our guests and their families to offer further assistance,” the statement said.
Handling Concerned Cruise Clients
CruisePlanners, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. and other cruise sales executives told Travel Agent earlier this week that after the accident they immediately briefed their agents, agency owners and independent affiliates and provided them with talking points.
But have agents been getting many questions? If so, what are they saying to clients? Travel Agent put those questions to agents on Facebook (www.facebook.com/travelagentmagazine).
Three days after the accident, Adele McIntosh from Legendary World, a boutique luxury agency with offices in San Marcos, CA, and Tucson, AZ, posted that, as for client questions: “None so far.” A Cruise Planners agency in New Port Richie, FL, similarly said yesterday that it had received no questions from its clients.
And, Natasha N, another agent, wrote: “Nope, none...only more cruise bookings with no mention of the accident.”
Daniella Harrison from Flagstaff, AZ, says: “Surprisingly enough, I haven't received a single call. I think the news coverage on the incident is good enough for people.” She added that her agency usually books many small ship luxury cruise lines so she doesn’t see the accident as a client concern right now.
Another agent said she had personally received no questions but had seen people posting their concerns on Facebook. Dhameera Ahmad, however, said she was getting client questions. "Not sure how to leverage this," she said.
While he hasn’t had questions about the accident, “I think that it's easy to respond to,” said Murray Lundberg, cruise consultant/travel agent, Expedia Cruise Ship Centers in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada. “The industry's immediate response to this tragedy will be to tighten up every regulation to make cruising safer than ever, and it's already the safest way to travel by far, in terms of injuries per passenger.”
Debbie Stegall from Marietta, GA, wrote that, yes, she is getting calls, and her approach is to tell them: “That can’t possibly happen twice.” And Stegall added: “They’re okay with that.”
Have you had calls from concerned clients who have already booked a cruise, or are in the process of booking one? What is the biggest concern, and how are you handling? Tell us at www.facebook.com/travelagentmagazine.