NEW YORK (MainStreet) – The tragic sinking of the Costa Concordia cruise ship has shaken would-be cruise travelers, and now the industry is working to assure customers that their ships are safe.
Earlier today the CEO of Norwegian Cruise Lines, Kevin Sheehan, sent an email to the company’s booked travelers that stressed the safety record of its ships, outlined the experience of its captains and gave a rundown of its navigation and safety protocols.
“We operate all of our vessels to meet and exceed the requirements of the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention and the International Safety Management Code maritime standards, the international safety requirements which govern the cruise industry,” reads the email in part. “Every crew member is well trained in the company's stringent safety protocols, participating in weekly safety drills on board every one of our ships.”
The email conspicuously avoided any mention of the Costa Concordia tragedy, but it’s fairly obvious that the company is hoping to calm jittery travelers who might be considering canceling their reservation. The email also makes special mention of the fact that its captains have an average of 33 years at sea and take at least 15 years to be promoted into the role. The captain of the Costa Concordia, Francesco Schettino, has been widely blamed for the sinking, and Norwegian Cruise Lines is clearly hoping to draw a contrast and tout the credentials of its own captains.
Norwegian Cruise Lines is hardly alone in seeking to bolster its safety credentials, though. Last week Royal Caribbean CEO Adam Goldstein published a blog post about the company’s safety record on its website. Unlike Sheehan’s email, the post explicitly acknowledges the Costa Concordia sinking and the concerns of customers, but it hits many of the same notes, emphasizing the experience and training of its captains and crews and its compliance with safety standards. In the 600-word post, Goldstein uses the words “safe,” “safety” or “safely” 16 times.
It’s easy to see why the industry is concerned. January is traditionally the biggest month of the year for cruise bookings, and while the industry says it hasn’t seen a significant drop in bookings, that doesn’t mean would-be passengers aren’t concerned.
Travalliance, which publishes several trade publications for the travel industry including Vacation Agent, conducted an online survey of more than 1,500 agents in the wake of the Costa Concordia sinking. It found that 37% of agents were contacted by travelers in the days following the sinking, and that a little more than half expressed some sort of safety concerns.
Despite these concerns, few if any of these travelers are actually canceling their reservations, in part because many realized they couldn’t get their money back.
“Of the travelers who called, about 10% were asking about canceling,” says Mark Murphy, CEO of Travalliance. “But if you don’t have travel insurance, then after 30, 60 or 120 days, you forfeit some or all of your payment, so you’re not getting money back.”
Murphy says that this fact, combined with the growing consensus that the sinking was an isolated incident due to a “rogue captain,” means that mass cancellations are unlikely and bookings will probably stay more or less intact. Still, it’s not at all surprising that the cruise lines are taking steps to assure customers that their ships are safe.
Matt Brownell is a staff reporter for MainStreet. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter @Brownellorama.