New Cruise Ship Safety Drills Enforced after Concordia Disaster

With the massive job of pumping 2300 tonnes of fuel from the partially submerged ship Costa Concordia now underway, and expected to continue for four weeks, the spotlight is back on the doomed cruise liner. A Dutch salvage company is heading up the fuel drainage operation which has been hindered by bad weather but started on Sunday afternoon.

17 people died and 15 passengers remain unaccounted for since disaster struck on January 13th, and not surprisingly, cruise safety procedures have come into question.

Last week, Cruise Lines International Association announced that all cruise ships must hold muster drills before leaving port – a tighter measure than the previous rules that demanded that passengers had to participate in safety drills within 24 hours of embarking.

“There are various means of delivering passenger safety instructions and abandon ship instructions, but we believe … the existing international requirement that we provide this instruction within 24 hours can be bettered by doing it immediately upon (passenger) boarding,” said Michael Crye, executive vice president of CLIA.

CLIA is the largest cruise industry organization in North America and across the water, the European Cruise Council and the UK-based Passenger Shipping Association have also adopted the new policy which is effective immediately.

The mandatory procedures have come into force following the apparent chaos onboard the Concordia when she ran aground off the coast of Tuscany with 4,200 people on board.

Although cruise bookings are down, many are saying it’s too early to predict the impact of the Costa Concordia disaster on longer term bookings but meanwhile, Florida-based CruiseOne has launched a book not, pay later, cruise offer.

Customers can book a 2012 without paying a deposit and the company says it will front the cost of the deposit for anyone who books a cruise this year by the end of February. Customers then pay back the deposit to CruiseOne at the time full payment for their holiday is due.

"We realize that upfront costs can deter travelers from planning their vacations in advance," said Dwain Wall, senior vice president and general manager of CruiseOne. "By paying deposits for our customers through this promotion, we hope we are alleviating any stress and bringing the excitement back to the vacation planning process."

Meanwhile, Disney Cruises has reported that its newest ship, the Disney Fantasy, is already 75% booked in advance before it embarks on its maiden cruise.

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