Francesco Schettino 15 Years

January 24, 2012 by staff 

Francesco Schettino 15 Years, The tragic sinking of the Costa Concordia cruise ship last week is leaving a line of worried passengers in its wake. Betty Westbrook is among them. The retiree from Allen, Texas, called me hours after the ship sank off the Italian coast, hoping that I could help her. “What are my chances for a refund?” she asked

Westbrook believes that had she been aboard the cruise liner, she might have been a casualty. “I’m 82, and I couldn’t have made it off the ship without help,” she says. Reading about the Concordia crew’s alleged unpreparedness for disaster has made her nervous about her February cruise to the Bahamas on the Carnival Magic.

The Concordia went down Jan. 13 after running aground near the island of Giglio. The death toll today stands at 15. The ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, is reported to have maneuvered the ship too close to a fishing village. He was arrested following the disaster and is currently facing criminal charges for abandoning ship and manslaughter.

Costa Cruises is owned by Miami-based Carnival, the world’s largest cruise line operator, and not surprisingly, some passengers are now having second thoughts about their floating vacation. A nonscientific online survey conducted soon after the disaster by the opinion website found that one-quarter of those polled were “less likely” to book a cruise after the Costa disaster.

Westbrook told me that when she heard about Carnival’s handling of the Concordia sinking, she phoned her travel agency immediately to find out whether she could cancel her cruise.

The answer to her question is: No refunds — at least not for her.

“We’re not making any changes to our refund policy,” said Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen. If she canceled, Westbrook would lose her deposit or 75 percent of the total cruise fare, whichever is greater. (Unfortunately, Carnival’s refund policy is similar to that of most other major cruise lines.)

Costa, however, is offering passengers scheduled to sail on the Concordia through Feb. 25 their money back and a 30 percent cruise credit.

Meanwhile, the cruise line says it is covering the costs of lodging and return transportation for the Concordia’s survivors, as well as offering counseling to the passengers and their families “as needed.” It is also refunding all voyage costs, including onboard expenses.

In a statement issued just after the incident, Costa and its corporate parent sought to assure passengers such as Westbrook that its vessels are safe. “Costa is committed to ensuring that no such incident ever occurs again,” it said. “Our number-one priority is always the safety and security of our guests and crew, and we comply with all safety regulations.”

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