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: http://tinyurl.com/as8ekz 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: http://tinyurl.com/7peorel
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: http://tinyurl.com/86ww7fw
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 cruise.co.uk'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?