Last Friday, the cruise industry suffered a serious disaster with the wreck and partial sinking of the Costa Concordia off the coast of Italy. As of the writing of this post, 5 more bodies were found in a submerged portion of the ship, bringing the death toll to 11. There are still 21 people who are not accounted for. It is sad to think that this disaster was caused by the captain’s decision to show off the ship too close to shore.
I took my first cruise in 1993. That cruise was all that was required to get me hooked. Since then, I have been on 14 cruises and I have my 15th cruise scheduled for April 2013. The wreck of the Costa Concordia has not diminished my love of cruising. But I have thought about the consequences of having such large ships with so many passengers.
International maritime regulations require that passengers must be able to be evacuated from a ship in the event of an emergency in no more than 30 minutes. It must be a logistical nightmare to think that you could get 4,200 people off of a ship the size of the Costa Concordia in anywhere near 30 minutes. Under ideal conditions, it would take at least a couple of hours to get everyone off of a ship that size. If there’s an emergency, it’s bound to take longer.
For me, bigger is not better when it comes to cruise ships. On the mega ships you get lots of shops and promenades and restaurants . . . and crowds. You need to make reservations to eat in restaurants, you have to stand in line for just about anything. And if you want to sit on deck to watch the scenery or to get some sun, you better reserve your chaise lounge early, because there are not enough to go around. When you’re on one of these huge ships, it doesn’t really feel like your on a ship. It’s more like being in a big hotel that just happens to move from place to place. What’s really crazy is that some cruise lines just keep building them bigger.
I think it would be wise, for anyone contemplating a cruise on a mega ship, to accept the fact that it is going to be quite difficult to get off a mega ship during an emergency. As they say, that’s the cost of doing business. I just like the odds a little better on the smaller ships.
My next cruise in 2013 will be on a ship with a passenger capacity of about 175 people. I’m sure that ship will not have all the glitz and entertainment that the Concordia had. If I really wanted that kind of entertainment, I could go to Las Vegas and probably spend a lot less money. Yes, in this case, I think smaller is better.