Cruise Ship Back In Baltimore After Fire, Repairs Continue

cruise ship
Chris Owen

When cruise ships come to town, civic leaders rejoice. The floating resorts bring with them jobs and tourism dollars that might be otherwise elusive. In May, Baltimore, Maryland, welcomed Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas to town with gusto, as the state’s governor named May 13 Royal Caribbean Cruise Day. But the hoopla of that new cruise ship in town was short lived when just days later, the ship caught fire and was pulled out of service for repairs. Still, cruise lines are worth courting for cities and those cities are worth standing behind for cruise lines.

Returning to Baltimore this week, there was no brass band or gubernatorial declaration and the reason for the fire is still under investigation. Affecting three aft decks of the ship, some areas are still not ready for passengers, reports Travel Weekly. But local businesses and media are still excited to see the ship return, sailing from the Port of Baltimore on seven-night sailings to Bermuda and the Bahamas.


If any part of this story sounds familiar, there is good reason. Just last month we heard from governor O’Malley, then lobbying on behalf of Carnival Cruise Lines, looking for a waiver from new environmental rules to keep the cruise ships coming to the city. In 2011, Gadling was first to report cruise line crew members accused of smuggling drugs into the Port of Baltimore. Still, cruise travelers flock to Baltimore, often setting new records for passenger travel on a variety of year-round sailings.

Costa Concordia, Final Report: The Captain Did It

Costa ConcordiaCosta Concordia grounded off the coast of Italy in January 2012, where the cruise ship still sits today. Removal of the ship is a well-defined work in progress, now over halfway complete. Placing blame for the grounding, which resulted in the death of 32 people, is also coming into focus. Last week, Italian maritime authorities released a 176-page official report that documents much of what we already knew and verifies some suspicions.

Captain Francesco Schettino, 53, is blamed for causing the accident and delaying the evacuation. He is charged with manslaughter and abandoning ship. The report verifies that Schettino was in command of the vessel when it hit rocks off the coast of Tuscany.

OK, Maybe I Did Not Fall Into A Life Boat
Initially, Schettino had said that he “tripped and fell into a life boat,” rather than abandoning his ship. It was a claim he stuck to for months, vowing to clear his name.

“Soon I will reveal the shocking truth,” said Schettino in our report Captain Of Wrecked Cruise Ship Cries Foul, Says He’s Innocent. “And then all those people who denigrated me will have to apologize, not to me but to the families of the victims and to the public, which was conned with false information.”

That apology probably won’t be coming any time soon. According to the report, Schettino boarded a lifeboat leaving 300 passengers on board and was on land while 80 people were still on the ship, fighting for their lives.

The Captain Is Responsible, Like It Or Not
The report also highlights some serious communication problems, tagging Schettino for blame. One of he most serious: the Italian Coast Guard was not advised of the grounding by the ship, finding out only after being advised by a passenger’s mother.

Other elements of the incident, directly attributable to Schettino:

  • The grounding happened by sailing too fast and too close to shore
  • Delayed sounding the general alarm
  • Unauthorized people on the bridge were distracting him
  • Failed to consult large scale maps, causing him to use the wrong landmark on the island of Giglio to turn the ship
  • Minimized the seriousness of the accident to the coast guard

At one point in the aftermath of the Costa Concordia grounding, Schettino insisted that he saved thousands of lives by steering the ship toward shore where it eventually grounded. According to the detailed report, that would not have been possible as the ship’s rudder was not working at the time.

Other officers on Costa Concordia at the time have alleged blame too, mainly for allowing Schettino to make misleading “everything is just fine” announcements to passengers. His business-as-usual attitude apparently caused crew members to lose valuable time performing emergency duties.

Schettino denies the charges, but in May it was decided that there was enough evidence to try him for manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship while 4,200 passengers and crew were still aboard.

On the bright side, cruise travel has never been safer.

Right after the grounding of Costa Concordia, cruise lines worldwide took a detailed look at safety procedures in an industry-wide Operational Safety Review then a Preparedness Risk Assessment in 2013, bringing new rules and procedures that were universally adopted by all major lines. A new Cruise Industry Passenger Bill of Rights came out in May that details generally accepted procedures cruise travelers may not have known about.

Schettino will be the only defendant in a trial, which will begin on July 9 in Italy.

Want to see Costa Concordia, as it is today? Check out this recent video:

Cruise Travel Apps Free To Use At Sea

travel appsWhen we review travel apps that actually do something, they often tap crowd-sourced information that is as rich (or not) as the number of users who have contributed their opinions or reviews. GPS-based travel apps take existing technology and manipulate it in one way or another to bring every thing from finding a friend on the road to creating a virtual journal of our travels, step by step. In the world of cruise travel, the number of apps available is limited compared to other modes of transportation but they are often highly specific, producing information not available elsewhere.

travel appsNorwegian Cruise Lines has a newly updated travel app that can be a helpful planning tool in advance of sailing with information about destinations, ships and special offers. Once on board Norwegian’s newest ships, even more helpful features are available.

The free download for iPhone, Android and Windows 7 features photo galleries and videos; ship information including deck plans and on-board amenities; stateroom descriptions, images and floor plans; 360-degree virtual ship tours and more.

On board Norwegian Epic and Norwegian Breakaway, passengers can log on, select an Internet package to buy then text and call others on the ship who are also connected, using time from their pre-paid plan. Free services include the ability to see previews of and book shore excursions, restaurants and other on-board products like spa services and shopping. Users can view their shipboard charge account as well as a list of daily activities at any time, also without using purchased Internet minutes.travel appsSailing some other cruise line? Cruise Ship Mate ($1.99), can be even more helpful in the planning stages of cruise travel as it has the ability to see all itineraries of all major cruise lines. Included among features that do not need an Internet connection to use are deck plans, cruise ship information and a packing list. Connected, users get cruise ship deck cam links and a chat feature that enables passengers on a specific ship and sailing date to communicate in advance of and during sailing.

A unique feature on the Cruise Ship Mate app is a Cruise Ship Tracker. This one allows users to see the exact location of any ship at any time, using technology similar to that of CruiseCal, the long running subscriber-based website that pinpoints where ships are and which ships will be in port at the same time you are.

But maybe you are not really into apps but have some favorite travel websites that you would like to access quickly on your Apple iPhone or iPad?

iPhone 5 users can create quick links to their most-visited websites using the “add to home screen” option, like I did for the Gadling site. On your favorite site, in Safari, just tap the “Share” button at the bottom of the screen, tap the icon labeled “Add to Home Screen,” tap the “Add” button then launch the website from your Home screen by tapping its icon.

Looking for other helpful travel apps? Check this video for apps that tell us everything from what is going on at any given destination to where restrooms are located.


[Image credit – Chris Owen]

Maritime History Comes To Life With New Titanic

maritime historyMaritime history buffs travel around the planet to see and experience places where ships and the brave crews aboard may have helped to forge a new land and explore the unknown. The naval and passenger ships of yesteryear were an integral part of making the world we know today. Now, taking a step back to the past with an eye on the future, an Australian billionaire is honoring the legacy of Titanic, the ill-fated ocean liner that sank in 1912 after hitting an iceberg, in a bold new way.

Last year, the 100-year anniversary of the sinking of Titanic was honored at namesake attractions, museums and events around the world. Adding to the slew of memorials, Australian billionaire Professor Clive Palmer will build a nearly exact replica of Titanic.

Australian billionaire Prof. Clive Palmer,

“This magnificent vessel is to be constructed in memory of the heroic people who served on the ship, the passengers who sadly shared their fate and all those that survived the tragedy,” said Professor Palmer in a Daily Echo report.

To be built in China’s CSC Jinling Shipyard, Titanic II will enter passenger service in 2016 sailing from Southampton, England, to New York City on a route similar to that of the original Titanic – minus the iceberg.Carrying 2,436 passengers, new Titanic II will cast a profile nearly identical to the original at 883 feet long (less than a foot longer than the original), 106 feet wide and have a maximum speed of 24 knots. At 55,800 tons, the new ship will be just 8,000 tons larger but have some important features that the former “unsinkable” version did not. Steam engines will be replaced by diesel electric pop propulsion units and, unlike the original, there will be plenty of lifeboats for all on board.

Staying with the “ship of dreams” motif, Palmer promises his new Blue Star Line will produce a vessel every bit as luxurious as the original White Star Line ship, with some important additions.

“Through the rebuilding of the ship I want to recognize the artists and artisans whose skill, creativity and dexterity has never to this day been fully acknowledged because of the ship’s limited service,” said Palmer.

Honoring the original design, the ship will offer staterooms and public spaces that will be nearly identical to the original Titanic – right down to having no televisions. Palmer is undecided on if the ship will have Internet access available but is adding an additional deck, air conditioning and modern toilets.

Titanic II will also feature a 400-seat theater, casino, shopping, business center, modern medical center and helicopter-landing pad.

Those sailing the new Titanic will have to choose between classes of accommodations, much like the original, or a package that allows them to sample all three classes in one voyage.

Along with nearly duplicate features of the original ship, including Turkish baths and a squash court, Titanic II is set to sail her first voyage in 2016 from Shanghai, China, to Southampton, and then on to New York.




[Photo credit- Blue Star Line]

Missing Cruise Ship Spotted Off Coast Of Ireland

Missing cruise ship M/V Lyubov OrlovaA cruise ship that went missing back in January was spotted drifting toward the coast of Ireland late last week. The M/V Lyubov Orlova was on its way to the scrapyard when it broke away from a Canadian tug in international waters last month and hadn’t been seen since. It has been floating aimlessly across the Northern Atlantic and is now reportedly within 1200 nautical miles of the Irish coast.

The Russian-built cruise liner was seized in St. John’s, Newfoundland, back in 2010 because its owners were in debt to the tune of $250,000 and hadn’t paid the crew in over five months. In February of last year, the ship was bought by Neptune International Shipping and was scheduled to be scrapped in the Dominican Republic. That’s where it was headed when the ship broke free from the tug charged with delivering it to its final destination. When the crew of the tug failed to recapture it due to high winds and extremely choppy seas the Orlova was left to drift across the open ocean. Canadian authorities refused to mount a salvage operation because the vessel was adrift in international waters.

While in operation, the Orlova was designed to serve as an expedition ship, carrying passengers to both the Arctic and Antarctic. The past few years haven’t been kind to it, however, and while it sat empty in the St. John’s Harbor it has fallen into a state of disrepair. At the time of its departure it was also said to be overrun with rats.

The current owner of the vessel, Reza Shoeybi, is now scrambling to reclaim the ship. He says that he is working with salvage companies in Ireland to try to retrieve the vessel. Bad weather in the North Atlantic is hampering those efforts, however, and it may be some time before it can be captured and towed into shore.

In the meantime, the ship is open to rights of salvage as long as it remains in international waters. If you’ve ever dreamed of owning your own cruise ship, now is your chance.

[Photo Credit: Dan Conlin via WikiMedia]