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Costa denies 'unfounded' reports of survivor discounts

By Marnie Hunter, CNN
updated 5:55 PM EST, Tue January 24, 2012
The cruise ship Costa Concordia lies stricken off the shore of the island of Giglio on January 21.
The cruise ship Costa Concordia lies stricken off the shore of the island of Giglio on January 21.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Cruise line denies offering discounts on future cruises to survivors
  • Costa did offer discounts to passengers set to sail January 14 and beyond
  • Concordia passengers will be reimbursed for all expenses, Costa announced
  • Indemnity for hardship suffered has not been determined

(CNN) -- Costa Cruises is on the defensive again. The cruise line issued a statement Tuesday denying that it offered discounts on future cruises to passengers who were aboard Concordia when it ran aground.

The statement was in response to news reports that the cruise line offered 30% off on future travel to some survivors.

"The company has never offered any discount on future cruises to our guests who were on board Costa Concordia for the cruise of Jan. 13 and involved in the tragic accident," Costa's statement said, calling reports published by various news outlets "unfounded."

An internal investigation into the reports that surfaced over the weekend revealed no evidence of discounts being offered to disaster survivors, said Buck Banks, Costa's North American spokesman.

"There's probably no way to know for sure as confused as things were in the hours just following the accident," Banks said.

"I'm not going to say mistakes couldn't have been made," he said. Banks said he was certain no discount offers were made to North American passengers.

It must have been a mistake or miscommunication if any discounts were offered to survivors, said Dan Askin, an editor at cruising website CruiseCritic.com, noting that there's no confirmation that such offers were made.

The cruise line did offer 30% off on future cruises to guests who were scheduled to sail on the Concordia from January 14 and beyond, which Askin called "perfectly ordinary" compensation for people booked on cruises canceled because of an incapacitated ship. Costa is offering cancellation without penalty by February 7 to concerned passengers booked on other ships, the company's statement said.

Passengers involved in the Concordia disaster will receive full refunds for the cruise and all related expenses, Costa said Monday. All costs associated with travel to the port of embarkation and the return home, including transfer arrangements made independently of the cruise line, will be reimbursed, as will medical expenses, cash deposits and any expenses incurred on board.

Costa said it will update passengers on the return of personal belongings and try to return valuables stored in cabin safes.

The company has been following up on the emotional and physical well-being of affected passengers, the statement said, and talking with tourism trade associations and consumer protection groups to determine indemnity for passengers for the hardship endured.

Costa had no comment on a class-action lawsuit against the cruise line and its parent company, Carnival Corp., that Italian consumer group Codacons and two U.S. law firms plan to file in Miami.

"We've been contacted by hundreds of victims and the numbers are growing moment by moment," said Mitchell Proner, senior partner at Proner & Proner, one of two firms involved.

The suit is seeking at least 125,000 euros (about $160,000) per passenger, Proner said.

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