Monday, February 27, 2012

Now the Costa Allegra goes bang

'An Italian cruise ship with more than 1,000 people on board is without power in the Indian Ocean following a fire'.

Costa do seem to have their problems, don't they - whoooops!

How long until we hear that Costa's name is going to be removed from all of their ships, I wonder? And who nowadays (apart from Italians) will trust Costa with their lives and book new cruises with them?

The Costa brand is almost as 'dead in the water' as the Costal Allegra, I'd bet.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Captain not solely to blame, says prosecutor

From the web site:

According to today's Telegraph, the chief prosecutor in charge of the inquiry has implored investigators to look beyond the behaviour of the captain to the role played by the liner's owners, Costa Cruises.

His comments were published as salvage experts began the difficult task of removing around 2,400 tonnes of fuel from the vessel.

Beniamino Deidda, the prosecutor, said in an interview carried by several Italian newspapers today: "For the moment, attention is generally concentrated on the responsibility of the captain, who showed himself to be tragically inadequate. But who chooses the captain?"

He said investigators needed to avert their gaze to the decisions taken by "the employer; that is to say, the ship's owner".

Deidda, who has spent a large part of his career dealing with health and safety cases, said numerous other issues needed to be addressed.

He specifically mentioned "lifeboats that did not come down, crew who did not know what to do [and] scant preparation in crisis management".

He added that it was "absurd" that in at least one instance, recorded on video after the Costa Concordia was holed, a member of the crew should have told passengers to return to their cabins.

Schettino has also maintained that his employers have a shared responsibility for what happened. Among the questions the inquiry is seeking to answer is why more than an hour elapsed between impact and the order to abandon ship.

Questioned by prosecutors last week, the captain said that he was in frequent contact with a representative of the company during that period.

Schettino and his first officer are the sole formal suspects in the inquiry, which is looking at whether to bring charges of manslaughter and the illegal abandoning of a ship.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Costa's 'previous'

Does this sound familiar, following reports of the collapse of discipline and seeming absence of leadership during the Concordia disaster?

My eyes fastened on the bit about, 'only young Costa staff doing their best'.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Worse and worse

The dreadful Costa Concordia disaster has reminded me all over again of the weaknesses in leadership at all levels that we witnessed on Costa Europa. The captain and senior officers let us all down by simply dreadful communications and the Costa Head Office seemingly saw no reason to override them on our behalf.

Even today, if you Google 'Costa Europa' you can find a link to our ruined cruise - see: But, more interestingly, there's a link to a story about an incident in Sharm-el-Sheikh two years ago where the Costa Europa crashed into the dock resulting in the deaths of THREE crew members. See:

And even more interestingly from the point of view of disaffected passengers on our ''Jewels of the Indian Ocean' cruise, it seems that Costa in general has a lot of 'previous' - see:

After the Sharm incident Costa offloaded the Europa to Thomson. Remember, we're talking about a pretty much clapped out tub with dodgy engines, poor management and seemingly disaffected lower level staff. A poisoned chalice, you might think. But, no! In's latest Passenger Ratings Survey, published last week, the Thomson Dream came TOP in two of the eight categories, i.e. Best Service and Best Entertainment.

So, if Thomson can turn around such an apparent basket case it really does ask still more questions about the whole Costa organisation.

What has struck me during the appalling Concordia tragedy was a passenger talking glowingly about the precision of the lifeboat drill at the start of the cruise. I've come to really dislike the way that the Italians manage this event - MSC are just as bad, in my view. You're treated like naughty children, forced to line up on deck and stand in silence for 15 minutes in neat straight rank and file and generally treated with little respect.

All other cruise lines that I've sailed with put more effort into explaining the whats and whys without dragging you out on deck and putting you on parade. On Celebrity Equinox last November our muster station was the main restaurant, where we were sat comfortably and were shown a safety film.

The Concordia incident shows that Costa seem to have put all of their effort into pointlessly drilling their passengers but little or none into training their crew and officers - it's all seeming and no substance. There have been reports of crew racing passengers to the lifeboats and the remaining crew not knowing how to launch them.

The purser who was rescued after 36 hours with a broken leg has justifiably been feted as a hero, having become trapped below decks while trying to rescue passengers, probably because he was an honorable exception - the captain himself has been reported as having left the ship before midnight whilst the rescuing of passengers went on until 3am.

And now Costa are hanging their captain out to dry, blaming him but also saying they'll support him. Talk about riding two horses at once.
'Something is rotten in the state of Denmark', wrote Shakespeare. It's SO tempting to paraphrase this, isn't it?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Names, vouchers and discounts

Dear old Costa, seemingly oblivious to the irony, has asked its 'customers' for help in naming its next two ships. Perhaps realising that not all of its former passengers can be relied upon to play the game properly Costa hasn't given us the option to put forward our own names - booooo!

So, what names would those of us who were victims of this year's Costa Europa nightmare cruises in the Indian Ocean choose? Mine would be 'Packet' and 'Fortune', but I'm sure that my fellow victims, sorry, 'customers', could be more imaginative!

Meanwhile, rumour reaches us that Costa have accepted a fellow passenger's vouchers against one of their cruises advertised by Thomas Cook, discounts and all, one assumes. So, I suppose that might encourage some of us to consider one more Costa cruise if only to claw back some of the money that they declined to refund to us earlier this year.

Friday, September 4, 2009

A matter of honour

Well, we're still here and still pushing for recognition from Costa that they wrecked many people's legitimate holiday expectations and have still failed to appropriately recompense their customers.

It's probably worth bringing ourselves up to date with a few developments, none of which do anything to improve Costa's dismal reputation amongst those of us treated with such disdain following the disastrous February 'Jewels of the Indian Ocean' cruise. This was when engine failure slowed the Costa Europa so disastrously that ten days on shore and four days at sea became ten days at sea and four days ashore.

Whilst still at sea we were initially offered EITHER €300 off our on-board accounts OR €600 off a future Costa cruise, valid until the end of 2010 and applicable to any Costa cruise. This inadequate offer caused such uproar during the seemingly interminable sea days between Mombasa and RĂ©union that a virtual mutiny was only calmed by the offer being immediately amended to include both the €300 now and the €600 later. We were then rushed off the ship in Mauritius at dawn.

In May, one of our shipmates decided, having been ignored in his demands for further compensation, to 'bite the bullet' and book another Costa cruise in order to use up the €600 vouchers. His travel agent spoke to Costa and accepted the vouchers. Costa subsequently got back in touch with the agent and said that they would not now accept them because the cruise he had booked was a promotional deal.

When we were given these vouchers we were told that they could be used against any Costa cruise up to the end of 2010 - there were no provisos at all. Worse was to come - our shipmate was incensed and said that he'd cancel his booking, only to be threatened with a £300 cancellation fee. You just couldn't make it up, could you?

This was just one of a number of instances of Costa seemingly attempting to claw back the €600 by ensuring that it could only be redeemed against full price cruises, thus making the vouchers effectively valueless since you could book their cruises elsewhere with discounts greater than €600.

During the summer one shipmate after another started to take Costa through the Small Claims process. It might be no coincidence that rumours have since started to circulate that Costa has now started to accept their own €600 vouchers in certain cases, even against discounted cruises and even to offer further financial compensation. It would therefore seem that it's worth continuing to challenge Costa legally in order to get more appropriate recognition of their dreadful management of that cruise, or at worst just get them to honour their own promises.

My wife and I still can't agree on whether to trust Costa ever again, even to use their vouchers. Her view is that a combined €1200 could buy us a nice little cruise on which we'd spend little of our own cash - we'd then never ever sail with them again. My view is that having been treated disgracefully by Costa once leaves me determined not to allow them the opportunity to blithely do it again.

Shipmate Terry, who'd himself worked on cruise ships long ago, said over dinner on only the second night of the cruise on the Europa and having observed the staff at work around us that 'This is not a happy ship'. How does that come about you might ask. Having just come back from a very successful cruise I now have some insight into this, I believe.

The captain of Azamara Quest was reall quite young for so senior an officer - he can only have been around 40, perhaps less. In his daily tannoy updates to the passengers he displayed earnest enthusiasm, good humour and a determination to make sure that we had the best possible cruise. He and his senior officers were often seen on deck, meeting passengers and joining us for the post-dinner entertainments.

He also displayed a clear understanding of what all of his staff did on board, to the extent that I'm certain that when the passengers were ashore he was making behind-the-scenes tours to check standards and to keep up morale. I certainly have never before seen such permanently cheerful crew on a cruise, right across the job spectrum, and I'm convinced that this was largely down to his very effective leadership.

So, Costa selling off the Europa is a good thing in that another cruise company will give it the overhaul it so desperately needs and squeeze some more fruitful years from it. However, its disaffected staff will be scattered throughout the fleet. And what about its captain, who spoke hotly of 'honour' when cornered? Desk job in Genoa, one would imagine.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thomson Nightmare?

Guess what? Costa has offloaded the Europa to Thomson who propose to rename it 'Thomson Dream'. I sincerely hope that no money changed hands for that tub, given the total re-build that it'll need, starting with its knackered engine.

And indeed it does seem that Thomson recognise the reconstruction task they've taken on, as the 'Dream' won't enter service for a full year.

There have been a number of developments since the last posting, but I'm still away from home at the moment and will catch up when I get back. However, my wife and I have just taken a cruise in Costa's home waters on the 'Azamara Quest' and now know precisely what excellence in cruise ships looks like. Azamara - part of Celebrity - makes Costa look amateurish. More on this later too.

I've always had a soft spot for Thomson since my first cruise with them, on the 'Destiny'. They could teach Costa many, many lessons on customer service alone. Let's hope that, in the dreadful 'Costa Europa' they haven't taken on a white elephant that will turn their 'Dream' into a nightmare.