January 16th, 2012
06:11 PM GMT
London (CNN) – I could not help but think of the Titanic when I first heard of the Costa Concordia. But there is no comparison beyond the anniversary year.
Actually, maybe there is another similarity. The sinking of the Titanic did not stop the cruise industry and this one won’t either.
But the industry will have to remind people what William Gibbons, director of the Passenger Shipping Association, told me: “We have to reassure everybody that now is a good time to book a cruise and that it is a very safe and secure holiday.”
Do you agree?
I have never taken a cruise and have no plans to, but many tens of thousands of people do. Some people even live on cruise ships year round.
The industry built dozens of huge new liners in the last decade, and four to six thousand people can be on one of these floating skyscrapers. At the same time many new very small liners were also built, catering to the wealthy looking for more intimate cruises.
There is much speculation on whether these ships carry too many people to evacuate during a panic.
Some people may want to think twice about taking a cruise this year - short term blips are expected. But the industry will not suffer from dropped bookings already made.
If you have already booked a cruise - not on the Concordia - think twice about cancelling. You won’t get your money back.
“They won't be subject to a refund,” Gibbons said. “Because this incident is so rare and isolated... we're totally confident that all our safety systems, our offices and crew, the training, the supervision of all on board, [people] can be totally assured that cruising is a very safe and secure holiday, and will continue to be so.”
My guess is Costa owner Carnival Corporation will, in fact, offer people refunds on upcoming cruises as a goodwill gesture. That would have a big impact because the Miami-based firm controls so much of the industry.
With more than 100 ships and nearly half the market, the Anglo-American firm trades under names such as Carnival, Princess, P&O, Cunard (including the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary 2) and its Italian arm Costa Cruises. Costa has 15 ships, including the stricken Concordia.
In the nine months to September 2011, its net income was nearly $1.7 billion.
But as at Monday afternoon, I have only seen on television the CEO of Costa. Where is Carnival Corporation’s CEO and major owner, Micky Arison, beyond a statement released to the stock market?
There is nothing on his twitter feed beyond talk of his beloved Miami Heat basketball team.
According to marketing expert Allyson Stewart-Allen, “fielding top executives from Costa's parent company, Carnival Cruises, is a must as only they have measurable credibility for reassuring concerned relatives, friends, customers, employees, investors, media and other stakeholders.”
The company is clearly pointing the finger at the captain, but it's unclear if that will make potential customers feel any better.
And it seems the Concordia could be brought back into the fleet. According to Carnival's stock market statement, it will lose $85 million to $95 million without the ship sailing for the year. It then says, however, “review of the vessel is currently being undertaken to determine how long it will be out of service.”
Shipping expert Malcolm Latarche told me: “ships have been refloated, from much worse positions, even from under water. Some of the big salvage companies will even now be fighting over the contract for it. Yea, its salvageable.”
But would you holiday on the Concordia?
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