Cruise Ships Keep Hitting Obstacles

You would probably have to live in a cave not to have heard something about the Costa Concordia that ran aground and capsized off the coast of Italy and caused numerous fatalities and injuries a few weeks ago. With differing accounts of how many fatalities/injuries and even passengers it is even unclear exactly what happened other than the ship wound up on a reef and the result was disastrous.

However, it is only one of many recent mishaps the cruise ship industry seems to be having lately. It makes one wonder if traveling on a cruise ship is safe or even desirable.

I, for one, have never taken a cruise and therefore do not claim to know firsthand about the experience. One of the reasons I have never pursued it is claustrophobia and a mild ocean phobia. I respect the ocean and its vast power. I prefer NOT to be stranded in the middle of it.

I am one of the subscribers to the notion that I have no desire to be stuffed into a sardine can in the middle of the ocean with little to no options should anything go wrong. I especially would not want to be stuffed somewhere inside a sinking sardine can in the middle of the ocean.

I’m not a big fan of flying in an airplane either, but at least I have to endure that for a relatively shorter period of time before it’s over. Anytime I can opt for a road trip versus flying, I do. To me cruise ships are just too much of everything except a backup plan.

Pirate attacks are a real threat. Just this week the Italian cruise ship Costa Allegra was left drifting powerless in the Indian Ocean waiting for another ship to come to its aid and one of the major concerns were whether or not pirates would attack them. This is a real threat to cruise ships in the open sea.

If open sea robbery and mayhem isn’t enough, 22 passengers were robbed of their passports and valuables when they got off the Carnival Splendor in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for a port visit.

When the Concordia capsized, much like the Titanic, most of the life boats could not be deployed and people were scrambling for their lives in alternative ways, including jumping into the water. The sheer numbers of the crowd that was trying to escape a disaster that wasn’t being coordinated or managed was a recipe for catastrophe. Fortunately, the ship was in shallow water or many more lives would have been lost. It goes without saying how much worse it could have been had there been more panic, more fire, etc.

One of my friends was on the Carnival Magic in the gulf and posted on his Facebook page and I also later read in the news; that a crew member jumped into the ocean and was rescued. The article did not indicate why the crew member jumped ship.

Apparently Argentina turned away the Star Princess supposedly because of a norovirus outbreak and the Adonia over a container ship in its berth with its crew on strike but it is rumored it is really because of old Falkland Island issues with the British.

Last year another cruise ship was left drifting in the Pacific without power off San Diego for days before it could be towed back in to shore. People slept on deck and ate cold sandwiches because food spoiled for days.

There have been various norovirus outbreaks which are not isolated to cruise ships; but cruise ships are required to track and report them. A couple years ago these gave the cruise ship industry a lot of bad press as well. The truth is that it is not solely a cruise ship phenomenon. It is not uncommon for norovirus to spread in airplanes, hotels, restaurants, and any other crowded environment. It is likely the compartmentalization and close quarters of a cruise ship allows for imposing regulations of both tracking and reporting the outbreaks easier than the other places they occur. Ships and passengers are isolated for longer periods of time than any of the other places outbreaks occur; and the passengers are registered and can be tracked. However, one does wonder if the tendency toward outbreaks in any of these places doesn’t indicate something may need to change. Perhaps these places in fact are too crowded.

These huge cruise ships somehow wind up left drifting powerless in the middle of the ocean with all these people aboard. I do not claim to be a mechanic or engineer but something that large with that many people should have backup generators or a better rescue operation; preferably both. To think they leave thousands of people stuffed together in such close quarters without power, food, vulnerable to pirate attacks, disease or even panic that could erupt is irresponsible. It points to little focus on the human factor.

It appears the cruise ship industry has some work to do. The power things seems like it could be fixed. The other things may be a little more difficult as they are perhaps more random. They can’t of course be responsible for the crime in Puerto Vallarta. As for the Concordia that ran aground, even if the captain was to blame, accidents do happen and bad employees happen. The questions remain are the ships too crowded to start with, are safety measures adequate, are rescue operations adequate?

In conclusion, although from time to time I have thought I should give the “at least once” consideration to taking a cruise; I am certain I will not be lining up anytime soon for one of these sardine cans.

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