Cruise sail-by no reason to condemn industry

Contents Show

6245586890 d1c59a905d 0001 Lately,  it seems it seems that every time we turn around more bad news comes out about something bad that happened in the cruise industry.  It was not all that long ago when reports of bad things happening to passengers on ships, crime ashore and fire on board were events that rarely happened.  Then came along the grounding of Costa Concordia and it was as though the flood gateswere opened, showering bad news all the way.

Looking at each incident individually we find reasons that all lead to one common factor: being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Blame who you will, not being in the wrong place at the wrong time would have prevented the lions share of these events.

No, we’re sure not going to blame Mr. Chance for some pretty disgusting acts by crew members charged with passenger safety.  We won’t be rolling dice to decide if a ship will catch fire before we book it.  And we sure won’t ask the captain if he has any lingering whims to take the ship off course after dinner tonight at the Captain‘s Welcome Aboard party.

But being in the wrong place at the wrong time seems to be a central theme, especially with the story of Star Princess sailing right on by some distressed fisherman, leaving all but one to die.

Where does that one fit in?

  • If passengers watching for birds could see someone waving for help from the deck of Star Princess, why could they not see that from the navigational bridge, high up on the ship?
  • “Should we have done something different, should we have pulled some kind of alarm thing on the ship?” questioned one of the bird watchers after informing a crew member, allowing them to see for themselves through those bird-watching field glasses.
  • Would a captain of a cruise ship intentionally ignore the law of the sea to help out other distressed mariners?

These and other questions linger while shipping authorities in Bermuda are investigating whether the officers and crew of Star Princess failed in their duty to help a vessel in distress after passengers spotted a small open boat drifting off the coast of Panama last month.

Score one against the “Cruise lines sail under a flag of convenience” gang who say cruise lines only do so to avoid paying taxes in the United States.  Welcome to the flip side.

The Associated Press reports Minister of Transport Derrick Burgess saying in a statement that “failure to help a vessel in distress is an offense under shipping law in Bermuda”, where the Star Princess is registered.

So for now we wait to see what happens.  Or we should.

Once again, the matter has been all but decided by media addicted to a poisonous role of overstepping the constraints of common courtesy and good sense.  Instead, for their own gain, they pounce on tearing down the institution of the captain as master of the vessel.  Granted, the Captain of Costa Concordia, apparently off course on a joy ride,  opened that door.

In the end, one fact is crystal clear:  the sea is unforgiving and sometimes deals a deadly blow to those with the best of intentions.

I have absolutely no doubt that Princess Cruises operates within the parameters of maritime law.  That’s an easy call.  Long before now, we would have heard of a reckless abandon of seagoing courtesy.  To the contrary, we always hear of ships stopping to pick up those in distress.  I’ve been on the bridges of a number of ships on a number of cruise lines and there is always someone with an eye to the sea.

I have a great deal of respect for the officers and crew of every cruise ship I have ever been on.  On the surface,  the hotel and entertainment departments see to it that passengers have a good time and the operations people stand guard to keep both crew and passengers safe with an equal amount of gusto.  At their core all are able seamen, human and know what to do in most situations.

It’s time to close those floodgates and give the cruise industry and, in this case, Princess Cruises some well-deserved credit.


Afterthought:  Nobody thought to throw a life preserver into the ocean?  That sure would have stopped the ship.


Chris Owen is a travel writer from Orlando Florida charged with sharing frank, inside information on cruise vacations with travelers. Certified a Master Cruise Counselor by the Cruise Lines International Association, Chris can be found via the popular travel blog, and on the long-running cruise information website,

 Flickr photo by ecstaticist

Share this post