Entries in Costa Concordia (5)


Italian Cruise Ship Tragedy Could Mean Deals for Travelers

Laura Lezza/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- With the non-stop media coverage of the Costa Concordia tragedy and the image of the capsized ship bombarding screens, monitors and mobile devices for several weeks, it probably comes as no surprise that people may think twice before booking a cruise.

Both Carnival Corp. and Royal Caribbean International reported booking declines in the low-to-mid-teens in the weeks immediately following the accident compared with a year earlier. Carnival is the parent company of Costa Cruises, Holland America, Princess Cruises and Seabourn Cruise Line. Royal Caribbean also has a fleet, including Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises, among others.

For better or worse, one person's tragedy can be another's opportunity. As travelers reconsider cruise vacations, deals have surfaced.

"When demand is soft, the cruise lines will either reduce prices or add additional incentives to entice customers to book," said Matt Lee, vice president of cruises for Travelocity. "Typically, they'll add incentives like free upgrades, onboard credit and reduced deposits before they'll decrease the price of the cruise."

Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor-in-chief of popular cruise review website, said that last-minute opportunities are robust right now, especially for the Caribbean in February and March -- peak times to cruise in the region.

"I haven't seen so many deals for seven-night cruises under $600 in a long time, especially for these months," she said.

Still, bargain hunters need to act fast. Though several cruise lines have launched new short-term sales to spur demand, said Lee, he expects bookings to bounce back and the window to close quickly.

"Now may truly be the best time to book all year. Take advantage of these deals before the demand catches up with supply," he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Cruise Survivors Consider Legal Action, Piece Lives Back Together

ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- One week after the Costa Concordia cruise ship crashed off the coast of Italy, leaving at least 11 people dead and 21 missing, newlyweds Benji Smith and Emily Lau said they were still trying to get their lives back together as they figured out how to hold those determined responsible for the accident accountable.

"When we first got off the ship we had the adrenaline to keep us pumping and moving," Smith said. "It's hard for us to imagine even working. This is all we can focus on."

The couple believes the cruise company, Costa Concordia, and not just the ship's captain, should be held responsible for the 11 deaths, and the emotional and physical injuries of the survivors. But Smith and Lau also voiced anger at Italian authorities and the U.S. Embassy for what they believed was their unresponsiveness after the escape on the island of Giglio.

More than 120 U.S. citizens were reportedly on the cruise ship, including a missing couple from Minnesota, Jerry and Barbara Heil.

Since returning to their Cambridge, Mass., home this week, Smith and Lau said they had been busy with doctors' appointments, and obtaining new driver's licenses, documentation and replacement car keys.

Smith, a computer scientist, and Lau, a musician, survived the crash by climbing down a rope on the side of the sinking ship. They said they still struggled with their physical and emotional well-being. Lau said she lost access to the entire upper range of her voice, which is problematic for a singer.

The couple had been married 14 days before the accident, which the CEO of the cruise company attributed to "human error" by Capt. Francesco Schettino. Authorities are investigating Schettino for suspected manslaughter and abandoning his ship, among other possible charges.

Under house arrest, Schettino told a judge he had tripped into a lifeboat and did not abandon his ship. Domnica Cemortan, a potential witness, said on Moltovan TV that Schettino was a hero and "the captain saved 3,000 to 4,000 people."

According to the Italian navigation code, a captain who abandons a ship in danger can face up to 12 years in prison.

Costa Crociere S.p.A., doing business as Costa Cruises, owned the cruise ship that carried about 4,200 people. Its parent is British-American company Carnival Corp., the largest company in the cruise industry, with more than 100 ships in service and 11 international brands.

Carnival Corp. did not respond to ABC News' requests for comment, but Carnival's CEO said in a statement: "This tragedy has called into question our company's safety and emergency response policies and procedures."

Morningstar, an independent investement research firm, has estimated the company will face an $85 million to $95 million loss in revenue while the ship is out of service. The capsizing cruise ship could cost its owners $130 million if the ship can be salvaged. If the $650 million luxury liner is too badly damaged, Costa and Carnival will have to absorb that cost too.

Survivors Arthur Beach, a civil defense lawyer, and his wife, Alex Beach, of Albuquerque, N.M., said they would not pursue any legal action, but seek compensation for their lost items.

Oscar Rosales and his family of El Paso, Texas, said they had not yet had the chance to consider whether they would participate in a legal response. Rosales, his wife, daughter and family friend, who all chose to stay in Rome for a few days after the accident, are returning to the U.S. Friday.

"For starters, I don't think they've done enough for the passengers, and so we'll just have to see what they're going to do next," Rosales said, who said the directions to hotels and flights home were "poorly mismanaged."

John H. "Jack" Hickey, a maritime trial attorney in Miami, said passengers seeking to bring claims against the Costa Concordia cruise company would have to do so in Genoa, Italy, where Costa is based, according to Carnival's ticket contract. Hickey represented passengers who suffered severe injuries in July 2006, after the Crown Princess cruise ship tilted nearly 24 degrees.

The ticket contract is about eight pages of legal terminology, which states "the Passenger assumes responsibility for his or her own safety and the Carrier cannot guarantee the Passenger's safety while on or off the Vessel," Forbes reported. If the cruise line had touched a U.S. port, passengers would be able to sue in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Hickey said.

Hickey said he is considering whether to become involved in legal action. Four or five survivors of the recent crash have contacted his law office, and he has begun working with a lawyer in Italy. Hickey said those with physical and emotional injuries could potentially receive compensation in the Italian legal system, and all death claims should be pursued.

A class action has been initiated by an Italian consumer defense group, Codacons. About 70 passengers have reportedly joined the suit.

Carlo Rienzi, Codacons head, told the Agence France-Presse he hoped to get each passenger at least $12,774 in compensation for material and emotional damage.

Benji Smith and Emily Lau have said they are working on how to pursue legal action and which legal opinions to trust. The couple said they were reluctant to trust the cruise company even with the reimbursement of their lost luggage.

"We've just been failed, neglected and abandoned over and over again," Smith said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Who's Cashing In on the Cruise Ship Disaster?

Laura Lezza/Getty Images(GIGLIO, Italy) -- For many Italians, one phrase uttered in exasperation captured everything that went wrong and what little that went right when the Costa Concordia luxury liner keeled over off the Italian coast. As the ship’s captain Francesco Schettino sat safely in a lifeboat and reportedly balked at orders to return to his ship, another captain on shore erupted in angry frustration.

“Get back on board for —’s sake!” yelled Coast Guard Captain Gregorio DeFalco in Italian.

That quote -- “Vada a bordo, cazzo” in Italian -- is now emblazoned on T-shirts, turned into a Twitter hashtag, and made into numerous Facebook groups, the largest of which has over 21,000 likes and features altered pictures in which Schettino is made to look like a pirate. The group also features photos of Schettino fleeing the wreckage in various vehicles ranging from kayak to a Jet Ski.

Schettino remains under house arrest as a court investigates accusations that he abandoned his ship and was responsible for manslaughter.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Italian Cruise Ship Wreck Costs Could Surpass $130 Million

STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images(GIGLIO, Italy) -- The near-sinking of the Costa Concordia cruise ship will send a tidal wave of bills at the owners that could reach $130 million -- if the ship can be salvaged.

If it is determined that the $650 million luxury liner is too badly damaged, the owners -- Costa Cruises and its parent company Carnival Cruises -- will have to absorb the loss of the ship.

"They just lose," said Jaime Katz, an equity analyst for Morningstar Inc., an independent investment research firm.  "The ship is gone.  They will have to start over or have one less ship in that market."

That determination has yet to be made, but even a bill that big would not sink the company, experts said.

Carnival Cruises is the largest company in the cruise industry with more than 100 ships in service and 11 global brands. Nevertheless, the company is bracing for an iceberg of bills heading its way.

Already, the disaster has affected Carnival's stock. On Tuesday shares of Carnival were down nearly 14 percent to $29.53.  Bloomberg said it was the biggest drop for the company since April 2009.

Morningstar has estimated that the company will face $85 million to $95 million loss in revenue while the ship is out of service.

Carnival, which is based in Miami, has a $30 million insurance deductible for damage to the ship.

Lawsuits will also sink the company's bottom line. The company reportedly has a $10 million deductible on third-party personal injury liabilities, and Italian laws regarding civil suits may protect Carnival and Costa from mega suits that are common in the U.S.

And, according to Bloomberg, Carnival said it, "further anticipates other costs to the business that are not possible to determine at this time."

But despite the public relations nightmare, Katz said that passengers would continue to sail the high seas after a bit of assurance from the industry, especially Carnival and Costa.

"People are not going to be booking as quickly," she said. "[Carnival] is going to have to assure people this is a safe way to travel."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Sinking Cruise Ship Raises Safety Questions

STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images(PORTO SANTO STEFANO, Italy) -- The sinking of the Costa Concordia, the luxury liner that struck rocks off Italy's west coast Saturday, has raised questions about the safety of cruise ships.

The ship was carrying 4,234 passengers and crew on its weekly route when investigators say it got dangerously close to the shore. The rocks tore a 160-foot long gash in the hull, causing the ship to tip and sending passengers scrambling to the deck.

Like a scene from the movie "Titanic," vacationers reported forcing their way onto lifeboats and jumping into the icy waters to swim to safety -- a far cry from the carefree cruises advertised on TV. But experts say cruise ships have a good track record, and that failsafes and emergency plans should keep everyone aboard safe, even in the event of a mishap.

"Cruise ships have a redundancy of back-up systems," Aaron Vanhuysen of the U.S. Coast Guard told ABC News. "If they lose one of their generators, they have a back-up emergency generator. If they lose a fire pump, they have another fire pump they can access as well."

Cruise ships are designed with their hulls divided into watertight sections. Even if two sections are breached, the ship will stay afloat. They also have sophisticated navigation systems: sonar; radar; and GPS to guide the crew. And in the event of an emergency -- whether it's a rogue wave, a sudden steering problem or a fire on board -- cruise ships are required to have enough life jackets and lifeboat space for everyone. They're also required to hold an evacuation drill within 24 hours of setting sail. For those on the Costa Concordia, the drill was scheduled for the following day.

The Costa Concordia was carrying 4,234 passengers and crew when it hit the rocks near Giglio, a small island off the coast of Tuscany. Investigators say the ship was an "incredibly close" 150 meters (roughly 500 feet) from the shore.

Scuba divers reportedly found two more bodies in the submerged part of the ship today, bringing the death toll to five. Before the bodies were found, 17 people remained unaccounted for -- 11 passengers and six crew members.

Experts are still analyzing the ship's black box, which has already revealed a one-hour lag between the time of the impact on the rocks at 9:45 p.m. local time and the ship's alarm call to the coast guard at about 10:43 p.m.

Investigators suspect the ship's captain, Francesco Schettino, tried to maneuver the ship before alerting coast guard, the Italian news outlet Ansa reported.

Schettino was in custody today, facing possible charges of manslaughter and abandoning his ship. Schettino reportedly left the stricken vessel at approximately 12:30 a.m., while many passengers didn't get safely off the ship until 6 a.m., Ansa reported.

The Costa Concordia crash is one of the worst cruise line disasters in recent years. In 2005, a 70-foot wave tore through the Norwegian Dawn -- an ocean liner en route from the Bahamas to New York City. Four passengers were treated for minor injuries. And in 2010, three large waves struck the Louis Majesty off the coast of Spain, shattering windows and flooding several floors of the ship. Two passengers were killed.

An estimated 15 million people hopped aboard cruise ships in 2010, the majority of them Americans.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio