Aside from the snappy title, this weekend’s tragedy is far from light-hearted. A cruise ship called the Costa Concordia hit a reef Saturday, January 14, 2012, near Italy in its tour of the Mediterranean Sea. The Isola del Giglio, a lovely little island off the coast of Italy, situated just above the “knee” if you were to view Italy as a leg with a boot at the end, has a nasty little reef of sharp rocks just off its coast. Apparently the ship’s captain steered frighteningly very near the coast and off the original course when the ship found the rocks that lodged a giant boulder and put a 50 meter (150-foot) gash in the hull.
Whether human error or not, the real tragedy was seemingly in the manner in which the disaster was then handled. First of all, those on board were told that it was only an electrical problem, even though the ship was already starting to list. Secondly, the staff seemed ill-prepared to act appropriately to assemble and get people into life jackets and life rafts. Finally, the man at the helm, the ship’s Captain, did not react immediately to the situation and call for help. In fact, he left the vessel before everyone was off, which in Italy, carries a twelve-year sentence!
I have friends who cruise extensively and said that they feel very safe on the ships. While that is great, because disasters of this type CAN happen, however rare, we, as consumers, need to get more involved in our vacation plans than figuring out how many flip-flops to pack.
Whenever I travel, I consider the following things. I think you can find them helpful and possibly LIFE SAVING!
1. Always have maps of where you are, in the big picture and the small picture. When I travel, I like to have a street map of where I am, so I can use alternate routes if possible and steer away from areas that reportedly have problems. When I am in a hotel, the first thing I look at [after claiming which side of the bed I want...] is the emergency evacuation route on the back of the door. I want to know how far I am from the stairs and which way to turn if I cannot see because of smoke. I check windows to see if they open and what my options are if I need to exit that way. [NOTE: If I were in Burj Khalifa in Dubai, outside routes are definitely NOT an option... Curious how that would look? See the latest Mission Impossible-Ghost Protocol movie. Incredible.]
2. When flying, ALWAYS follow the emergency procedures spiel with the flight attendant. Check out the map and find out where your nearest two emergency exits are. Personally, I memorize where they ALL are.
3. Just because you are vacationing doesn’t mean that you aren’t prepared for emergencies! Find out where your emergency exits are. Check emergency equipment, such as fire extinguishers or fire alarms. Near water? Look for tsunami signs. In a foreign land? Learn at least a couple important phrases such as, “I need help,” “Fire,” and maybe the equivalent of “Get the heck out of here!”
4. Take responsibility. Take our cruise ship folks. Apparently no evacuation instructions were given, but if ANY emergency information is given, pay attention and then figure out how to do what they tell you when needed. If no information is given, seek it. Bug them! You pay good money for cruises, tours, or whatever, so make sure they do their job and give you all the tools necessary to make it safe and survivable.
I am not telling anyone to skip a cruise, or any other vacation plan, but you can prepare for it, so when the unthinkable happens, you will survive to tell the tale.
Article with photos of the disaster:
Maps and diagram of ship and damage: