Costa Concordia Wreck Could Be Upright This Month

Costa Concordia
Carlo Mirante/Flickr

It was a very unlucky Friday the 13th in 2012 when the luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia ran aground off the coast of Italy, sending shock waves through the world of cruise travel. After the event, which took 32 lives, cruise lines took a hard look at everything they were doing. Back at the scene of the wreck, environmentalists voiced concerns about long-term damage to the delicate marine environment. It would be a long, difficult process to remove the ship, one that may take a big step forward this month.

Last year Gadling explained the process of removing the wreck. First, the grounded ship was stabilized to keep it from sinking further into the ocean. Next, an underwater support system was installed. Now, the process of standing the ship upright, called parbuckling, should take place later this month. Once that delicate operation is complete, the ship will be floated away.

After the grounding of Costa Concordia, the governing organizations of the cruise industry ordered an operational safety review both in response to the grounding and as part of the industry’s continuous efforts to review and improve safety measures. The Costa Concordia event also contributed to the birth of the so-called Cruise Passenger Bill of Rights, which details rights cruise travelers have when things go wrong.Follow along on the wreck removal progress at The Parbuckling Project website and see a great Reuters slide show, with aerial view of Costa Concordia as it lies on its side next to Giglio Island.

Crews Work To Move Shipwrecked Costa Concordia

Disney Cruise Line Tops All Others In Satisfaction Survey

Disney Cruise LIne
Chris Owen

Ranking cruise lines in a variety of critical areas, Disney Cruise Line came out on top in JD Powers 2013 Cruise Line Satisfaction Report, released today. In spite of recent negative press reports affecting cruise line satisfaction across the board, the survey revealed some surprising trends and priorities. The study also verified some long-held beliefs about cruise travel.

“Many cruise lines in the report have very high levels of passenger satisfaction, well above the report average; however, for more than a year, the overall industry has been dealing with a lot of negative news affecting customer perceptions, expectations and trust,” said Ramez Faza, senior account manager of the global travel and hospitality practice at J.D. Power in a MarineLog report.

Top three cruise lines on a scale of 1000 gave Disney Cruise Line (871) a commanding lead over second place Royal Caribbean International (838) followed by Holland America Line (835). Noted as a big problem for cruise lines, all of which scored high on customer satisfaction, nearly one in five cruise passengers reported having a problem on their sailing.”To raise the bar, the industry must focus on meeting the needs of the nearly 20 percent of passengers who experience a problem with their cruise line experience,” notes Faza. “Cruise lines need to understand the causes of customer dissatisfaction and determine what will motivate them to come back.”

Confirming what many cruise travelers already know, price was rated as the primary reason for choosing a particular cruise line (53 percent), with the average fare paid a reported $1628 per person.

The report of 3,003 cruise travelers in the past 12 months measured cruise line customer satisfaction based on service, stateroom, food, embarkation/debarkation, entertainment, cost, and excursions.

In the February edition of Condé Nast Traveler, Disney Cruise Line also found plenty to be proud of as three of their four ships ranked in the top three places in the large cruise ship category.

Disney Cruise Liner's Floating Water Park

Moldovian Dancer On Wrecked Cruise Ship Resents Prostitute Reference

Moldoivian Dancer
indi.ca/Flickr

When the cruise ship Costa Concordia was grounded off the coast of Italy, the blame fell on Captain Vincent Schettino, practically convicted by the court of popular opinion. In July, Schettino will go on trial. Meanwhile, a Moldovian dancer who was on the ship has problems of her own

At the time of the event, we met Domnica Cemortan, 26, a former cruise ship “hostess” and dancer from Mondolvia. It was said in a variety of publications that Cemoran was having dinner at the time with Schettino and somehow wound up on the bridge. Now, Cemortan is suing Schettino and the cruise line for damages of $280,000-$420,000 over the $15,000 being offered to all who sailed.

“The media has presented her as a prostitute,” insists Gianluca Madonna, Cemortan’s Italian lawyer. Apparently, at the time of the accident, Cemortan told investigators that she was “in love” with Schettino, a suggestion she later told the UK’s Daily Telegraph that she rejected, reports Travel Blackboard.

Cemortan is now seeking damages against Schettino and the cruise line for failing to defend and rehire her. She might also go after several Italian newspapers, magazines and TV channels who she says “slandered her reputation for suggesting she had been involved with the captain.”Strangely associated with Cemortan’s complaint is that there was an hour and a half delay in receiving the key to her room. When she got it, her stateroom was on the same private floor as Schettino’s room, an area of the ship normally reserved for crew members.

“She is a hard worker and is a beautiful dancer, very professional,” said attorney Madonna, insisting his client had done nothing wrong and had “risked her life helping Russian passengers because there was no one on board who spoke Russian.”

Since the accident, Cemortan has not worked regularly and the cruise line did not renew her contract.

Not sure what the dance style used by a nice Moldovian girl would look like? Here you go:

Unique Themed Cruise Brings Wine, Stars And Seminars

themed cruise wine
payhere/Flickr

Themed cruises are becoming more popular all the time as fans of (insert almost anything here) gather at sea. Music fans dominate the offerings with ships setting sail sold out with fans of Kid Rock, KISS, Blake Shelton and others each hosting their own theme cruise. Then there are fans of movies like the Turner Classic Movies cruise, now in its third year. Another one that caught our attention features music, wine and dining in a way that looks to epitomize what themed cruising is all about.

The Wine, Dine and Music cruise asks a simple question on its website: “Spend a weekend in wine country or a week on a wine cruise – you decide!” Appealing to someone who might go on a weeklong trek through California wine country, this one looks to be a good alternative that brings wine country to you. On your ship. In the Caribbean. With musical guests.Music
Featuring Kenny Loggins, Three Dog Night and others, the Wine, Dine and Music cruise will have nightly entertainment along with Meet ‘n Greet artist sessions and Jam sessions and special music performances on days at sea. For many theme cruise fans, that would be a week’s worth of fun. But there is more.

Wine
Each stateroom gets a free bottle of wine from each of the seven wineries also along for the ride, delivered nightly to their stateroom. Like a tour through wine country, the onboard programming also makes available wine tastings, wine seminars and wine club memberships. Focusing on specialty varietal wines in an experiential sort of way, those on the Wine, Music and Dining cruise are likely to meet and spend time with others sharing similar interests.

A central focus of this well planned themed sailing is to enjoy a gourmet meal paired with excellent wine, with others who appreciate the experience.

Dine
On the food front, the Wine, Dine and Music cruise features menus created by Chef John Ash (Author, From Earth To The Table), also known as the “Father of Wine Country Cuisine,” as well as food tastings by Catherine Venturini (Chef-Owner, Olive & Vine), chef recipes and lectures.

Unique to this theme cruise, and something we have not seen before, is the combination of all three elements, Wine, Music and Dining, all on one sailing. Also included is all the regular onboard programming and features with prices starting at $1029 per person. That price compares favorably to a weeklong land vacation through California wine country, minus the vineyards, making the Wine, Dine and Music cruise a good choice for budget travel too.

Sailing November 9-16, 2013, on Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas from Tampa, the seven-night itinerary includes Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico as well as Georgetown, Grand Cayman and three days at sea.

An International Smartphone Plan For Cruise Travelers, Finally

smart phone
celesteh/Flickr

Many cruise travelers have no problem at all controlling the expense of using their smartphone internationally; they simply turn it off for the duration of the trip. That done, they proceed to communicate with the rest of the world via email on Internet time bought from the cruise line. They don’t dare turn on their smartphone because if they do, the first message they see is one warning of potential overage charges they will incur if they use it – until now.

Recently, AT&T announced three different Cruise Ship Package plans with cruise travelers in mind:

  • AT&T Cruise Ship Calling: Includes 50 minutes for $30 per month
  • AT&T Cruise Ship Calling and Messaging: Offers 50 minutes of talk and 100 text/picture/video messages sent for $60 per month
  • AT&T Cruise Ship Calling, Messaging and Data: Includes 50 minutes, 100 messages sent and 100MB of data for $120 per month

A minimum one-month trial is required, which works well with the idea of “turn it on before you sail, turn it off after you’re done.” The new plan is currently limited to the ships of Royal Caribbean International, Azamara Club Cruises and select Celebrity Cruises ships. See att.com/cruiseships for list of ships and details.On-ship networks operate only while in international waters. Docked at a pier, anyone with a smart phone can turn it on and access any available signal. Right about then would be a good time to have Boingo installed to pick among available signals and log in on one that works with your device at no additional charge.

AT&T Cruise Ship package kicks in when users see “Cellular at Sea” displayed on your device.

Have no clue what usage you might have while traveling via cruise ship? AT&T also has an International Data Calculator that can help.

Smart Phone Becomes 'Smart Wallet'