January 13 marks one year since the Costa Concordia wrecked off the coast of Italy
Since the accident, the cruise industry has revised procedures including safety drills
Cruise Critic editor calls the new muster drill standards the most important reform
Cruise travelers are taking safety more seriously, she said
When the lights went out during the magic show, the Costa Concordia passengers watching thought it was part of the act. Then there was a scraping sound, the ship began to list to one side and a panicked evacuation began.
One year ago, on January 13, 2012, the Costa Concordia struck rocks and turned on its side off the Italian island of Giglio, killing 32 people and shaking an industry that prefers to be known for fun in the sun and endless entertainment.
Capt. Francesco Schettino may be indicted in the next few weeks on charges that include manslaughter and abandoning ship before his passengers, and other Concordia executives and crewmembers may also face trial. The ship is still in the water. Salvage experts hope to float the ship by the end of summer 2013 and eventually tow it to an undetermined port for salvage.
Since the disaster, safety policies have been reviewed and changes made to make cruise travel safer.
To find out what changes passengers can see aboard ship, CNN.com interviewed Cruise Critic editor-in-chief Carolyn Spencer Brown, a veteran of more than 200 cruises. Spencer Brown has sailed with all of the world’s top cruise lines and many lesser-known lines.
The interview has been edited for clarity and brevity:
How has the cruise industry changed in the wake of the Costa Concordia disaster?
The primary change, and the most important change, that we’ve seen in the wake of the tragic capsizing of Costa Concordia is a renewed commitment to safety on a global level. It’s not that cruising was unsafe before. But the idea that something this disastrous actually did happen has made the cruise industry determined never to suffer a repeat.
The other big change? This accident was sobering for cruise travelers, many of whom in the past might have tried to skip the muster drill or chat away during the safety instructions. Cruise Critic readers understand, better than before, that while the cruise lines are responsible for safety, they too have a role to play in cruising safely. Post-Concordia, I’ve been to 14 muster drills – on a variety of ships and cruise lines – and have noticed that people take them much, much more seriously now. They listen. And on one ship passengers even asked questions. I have never seen that before!
What changes do passengers see?
The most important change, and the first improvement to come out of the tragedy, was a new muster rule. Before, cruise ships could hold the muster, also known as the safety drill, up until 24 hours after sailing (though to be honest, most did do musters before the ship left port). Now, the drills must be completed before sailing. This is important because several hundred passengers who’d boarded Costa Concordia the day it ran aground had not yet attended a muster – and so didn’t have the information on what to do in case of an emergency when they needed it most.
Is cruising safer now than before the Concordia incident on January 13, 2012?
Absolutely. There have been 10 initiatives put into pla