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

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:

Two Queens Hook Up In California

two queensNot even close to what the headline could be misconstrued as, two queens from Cunard Line, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary met for a historic Cunard Royal Rendezvous. What’s significant is that one is now a hotel while the other is a cruise ship. Thousands of travelers from all over the world were on hand for the event and fireworks ensued.

Fans of Cunard Line (called Cunarders) and maritime history buffs lined the shores of Long Beach Harbor for the event as the Goodyear blimp hovered overhead and the two ships exchanged a traditional whistle salute.

The Players
Queen Mary entered service as a passenger vessel in 1936 as the grandest, fastest ocean liner in the world. Sailing through WWII as a troopship, Mart transported as many as 16,000 soldiers at a blazing 30 knots (cruise ships today do 20-something). Queen Mary went back into passenger service after the war until 1967 when she became a “floating hotel,” parked in California ever since. A new Queen Mary 2 honors the original, designed for transatlantic crossings.

Much younger Queen Elizabeth, launched in 2010, is also the new version of a ship previously holding the same name. While capable of transatlantic crossings, this ship lacks the heavy plating on her hull and the propulsion system of Queen Mary 2. Still, the 90,000+ ton ship will carry over 2,500 passengers.

Mary and Elizabeth are two of the three Cunard Line queens. The other sister is Queen Victoria. Cunard Line is a member of the Worlds Leading Cruise Lines, Carnival Corporation-owned cruise lines that include Costa Cruises, Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Seabourn and Carnival Cruise Lines.

The Event
A narrative of the ships’ histories was simulcast on both ships and ashore by Everette Hoard, commodore of Queen Mary who called the two queens, “the most famous ships since Noah’s ark,” in the video below.

This is not the first time Gadling has reported queens hooking up in a historic way. “There Will Be Three Queens In New York Today” told of Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria, meeting in New York for the first time in 2011. But that too was not the first meeting of Cunard queens.

“In January 2008, Cunard Line’s first Rendezvous of their three Queens took place. It was quite exciting as it was the first time Cunard had three ships with Queen in the name and all three were together,” said cruise industry expert Stewart Chiron CEO, CruiseGuy.com

Also of historic significance, this is not the first time for a rendezvous between queens named Mary and Elizabeth. The original meeting came during the original Mary’s last transatlantic crossing before being transformed into a hotel.



[Image credit – Cunard Line]

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]

Amsterdam’s Maritime Museum

AmsterdamAmsterdam owes its wealth to the sea. In the Golden Age of the 16th and 17th centuries, the Dutch sailed around the world looking for rare products to bring back to Europe. They were one of the great maritime powers and are still important in shipping today.

Amsterdam is a city made for the sea. Its canals are laid out like a spider’s web, where every family that could afford it built a narrow house on one of the canals, complete with a private warehouse and crane on the upper floor. This maximization of seafront property allowed a large section of society to share in the nation’s wealth.

To really understand Amsterdam and The Netherlands, you need to visit the National Maritime Museum, called Het Scheepvaartmuseum in Dutch. This museum, reopened earlier this year after a major remodel, offers a history of Holland’s maritime adventures from the past 500 years.

Just a short walk from Amsterdam’s Centraal Station, the museum is housed in a large 17th century arsenal. Inside are modern interactive displays explaining how early mariners found their way by the stars, how ships were built, and where and for what they traded.

One of my favorite displays is a set of reproductions of sailors’ photo albums from the past century. You sit in an easy chair flipping through the pages while listening to an audio commentary explaining the photos. It was like sitting with some old Jack Tar as he spun tales of the sea. There’s also a large collection of ship’s ornaments, nautical equipment, and an art gallery of maritime paintings.

%Gallery-139729%Another big draw is the Amsterdam, a beautiful full-sized replica of an East Indiaman from the Age of Sail. This is a big hit with Dutch kids, if the squealing school groups crawling all over it were anything to judge by.

Some locals have complained that the remodeled museum has been “dumbed down”, and while I applaud the many exhibitions specifically directed at children, I have to agree the museum lacks a certain something. There’s a large amount of wasted space and as I finished every floor I was left with the feeling “that’s it?” Yes, the displays are artistically lit and well labeled, and the whole execution is well conceived, yet I was left feeling I’d missed out on something.

Another problem is the price–a tooth-grinding 15 euros ($20.23) for adults and 7.50 ($10.12) for kids and seniors. Thankfully I had the I amsterdam City Card, which got me in for free. If you don’t have the card, I’m sad to say that unless you’re a serious history or nautical buff, the price simply isn’t worth it. It’s a shame the high entrance fee will drive people away, because there are some really beautiful artifacts and works of art here.

Don’t miss the rest of my series: Lowdown on the Low Countries.

Coming up next: Tasting gourmet Dutch cheese in Amsterdam!

This trip was partially funded by Amsterdam’s Tourism and Congress Bureau and Cool Capitals. All opinions, however, are my own.