“Cruise disaster unlikely to halt industry growth” reads the headline in a Jan. 14 Miami Herald article that assessed the economic impact of the Costa Concordia capsizing off the coast of Italy on Jan 13. (As of 6 p.m. EST Jan. 19, 11 passengers were confirmed dead and 21 more unaccounted for.) AP business writer Daniel Wagner interviewed a trio of travel experts in South Florida, where the cruise industry is based, and the consensus is that people won’t stop cruising.
“When a plane goes down, how many people stop flying?” said Stewart Chiron, who writes the blog Cruiseguy.com. “It’s inevitable that a few people will be concerned, but I think most people understand that these things happen, and that the cruise industry as a whole has an incredible safety record.”
I am one of those people who don’t stop flying when a plane crashes. But I may stop cruising because of the Concordia disaster. I can sum up my reason in four words – Ryan, John, Austin, Natalie. Those are the names of my children, aged 21 to 11, and why I became an ardent cruiser in the first place. And why I may never board a ship again – at least not with my kids in tow.
A little background will help me explain:
I have never let fear get in the way of experiencing places that are far from my little corner of the world. In fact, I was on a plane weeks after 9/11, despite the fact that my husband was evacuated from the Sears Tower on Sept. 11, as precautions spread from coast to coast. My motto has always been “when your time’s up, your time’s up.” In the meantime, get out there and seize the day.
When our three boys were still small, we took a family cruise to Mexico, and my husband and I went on a few cruises without the kids, including a memorable Mediterranean cruise on the 308-passenger Windstar Surf sailing ship.
But we got into cruising in a big way when the older kids hit their teen years. There’s nothing quite like a moody teenager for ruining a family vacation – our oldest did a fine job of exactly that when he was 14, during a weeklong stay in Williamsburg., Va. Cruises became the way that teenagers and vacation bliss could successfully co-exist.
We discovered that cruises offer the perfect mix of family time – I insist that everyone comes together for the evening meal in the ship’s dining room, no eating in the kids’ club or grabbing a bite from the buffet line – as well as time to chill without the “rents.” For the middle boys, now 15 and 17, time without Mom and Dad means sleeping until noon, then lounging by the pool until the action heats up in the teen club. The boys consider themselves big-shots when they head out “clubbing” with other teens after our family dinner.
My husband and I have never worried about them onboard, even though the partying extends into the wee hours. Although I never let my teens stay out late at home, on a cruise ship we loosen the rules. “What harm can they get into, out here in the middle of the ocean?” has been our mentality.
Incidentally, you might be surprised at just how late the teen clubs are open on most cruise lines. On Royal Caribbean, minors need to be in their cabins by 1 a.m., or so we discovered when we cruised Liberty of the Seas last month. But when we sailed on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Jewel two years ago, even my (then) 9-year-old daughter’s club partied until 2 a.m. on New Year’s Eve. However, it wasn’t the evening activities that captivated this ‘tween girl. The daytime arts & crafts and scavenger hunts and ice cream eating contests and trivia contests made Natalie one happy cruiser. As for the oldest, he spends his cruise days chilling in the movie theater, by the pool, or in his cabin, happily ordering yet another round of room service.
Which gets to the point of why I am feeling leery of cruising with my kids again. Half of the time I have no idea where my kids are on the cruise ship. I know they will turn up at dinner, or in the case of our youngest child, that we need to sign her out of the kids’ club at a prescribed time. Sometimes we happen to see them by the pool or in the lunch line and decide to play an impromptu game of ping pong or tackle the rock climbing wall together. Other times, on these 3,000- and 4,000 passenger behemoths, we don’t see our kids until dinner time.
I read in the online version of The Guardian about Concordia passenger Giovanni Masia, 85, who has not yet shown up on the island of Giglio, or Porto Santo Stefanoon the mainland, where other passengers were taken. Masia’s son Claudio, who also was on board, placed his mother, wife and children on a lifeboat before searching in vain for his father. [On Jan. 19 the Associated Press reported that Giovanni Masia, who would have turned 86 next week, was buried in Sardinia.]
Although The Guardian article doesn’t say so, I can assume that Claudio Masia eventually boarded a life boat or swam to shore. And I can understand that reaction. He had a wife and children to think of.
But as a mother, if I couldn’t find my children on a sinking ship, there is no way I could board a life boat. My kids might, unbeknownst to me, be secure in a lifeboat on the other side of the ship. (During the lifeboat muster, they reassure you that counselors will take care of kids in the club “in the highly unlikely event of an emergency.”) Nope, that wouldn’t be reassurance enough for me. If I didn’t know my kids were safe, I’d go down with the ship.
The cruise ship industry better hope that I am an anomaly.
Continued thoughts and prayers to all impacted by the Concordia disaster.