List of Previous Titles

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Cruising in Luxury

A Dream Vacation

I admit I have not as yet had the experience of cruising in luxury aboard one of the world's cruise liners, but it is on my "To Do" bucket list. There are stories about people, usually retired people with some money to spend, who either take very long cruises, or who come off one ship and promptly go aboard another. There are many examples of people who have the choice of living in an upscale nursing home, or for the same money living aboard a cruise ship.

There will be no cigar for guessing correctly where to find them if they are really needed.

The thought of taking a cruise myself is always there in the back of my mind, but recently it has been brought to the forefront because of two incidents involving cruise liners, both of which belonged to the same company. The most infamous is the Costa Concordia that is lying on its side in the waters along the Italian shore. The second simply had a fire in the engine room that knocked out all power and set the ship a drift.

Every cruise liner works very diligently to ensure through risk prevention that they do not have any kind of breakdown. This is just commonsense, but sometimes things do happen in spite of best efforts to avoid them. That is generally called bad luck. The Costa Concordia situation appears to have been something that should never have happened. A formal enquiry is under way, so we shall see.  The facts are that normally, things work well enough 99.999% of the time so that we don't even think about these things. However, when we do dig into the risk potential we come up with such shocking "what ifs" that we wonder why is there a cruise industry at all.

Scenerio:  With mega cruise ships cruising the world, lets say that a ship leaves port with 4,000 passengers and 1,000 crew.  It has a pre-planned route and it must not deviate from its course because many things will have gone into those coordinates to keep the ship in safe and deep enough waters. In our example we have five thousand people on one ship that is now out at sea.

Something goes wrong, against all odds, and a fire occurs in the engine room that knocks out all power that disables the ship's ability to move under its own power, or to provide pumping capabilities, or cooking facilities, or airconditioning or heating, or any of the essential services. This is what happened to the Costa Allegra.

In the case of that ship it got a tow from a large fishing vessel and was taken to the Seychelle Islands, under perfect weather conditions. Passengers had to survive on sandwiches, many of which were delivered by helicopter. But, what if the weather had become stormy while the ship was completely shut down? I am not an expert in these matters and can only use my own imagination, but I see a situation where the ship would founder in rolling seas with thousands of civilians who are being tossed around like bread crumbs. The ship would of course, go off course, but as long as it were in deep water it would still be in a recoverable situation.

If the situation of not having any control over its direction were to continue over several days, each day would raise the risk of a deadly ending. I am an optimist, and because it hasn't happened yet, I will leave that possibility and move on to other probabilities.

What happens when a ship at sea suddendly has to land all its passengers, and even its crew on shore in a country that is not ready to absorb so many people at one time?

There are few countries that could cope with a mass of five thousand people landing on its shores in one spot, all at once. The logistics are mind boggling, and I am fairly certain that cruise companies employ some of the best people to track and be ready to deal with the unexpected at all times. I am convinced that the companies know their business and I would put my faith in them. I am sure that they do not leave shore without things planned down to the tiniest detail, but every plan is only as good as the people who will do their part.

So, in summary, every thing that we do in life carries some risk, but as long as the risk is reasonable, we can live our lives to the fullest. However, one of the things that I will do when I get around to taking a cruise is to ensure that the crew whose hands I place my life and welfare in at least speak a language that I can understand. If the official language of the officers and crew is say, Italian, and I do not understand Italian, that will massively complicate the situation if we get ourselves into a situation that would involve an emergency. Therefore I will not be taking a cruise with an Italian crew any time soon.

Secondly, and most important of all, emergency stations should be called before the ship casts off, just as is done with airlines, because once on the move who knows what might go wrong. According to Murphy's Law, whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.

Happy Sailing!

Copyright (c) 2012   Eugene Carmichael