Monday, February 27, 2012

Adrift in Pirate Waters

Have you ever wondered if you shouldn't have spent the money, even if it was a bargain?

Costa Cruises Concordia off the coast of Italy
January 2012
Photo by Rvongher

I'm going on a cruise. Not just any cruise, but a Costa Cruises cruise. The prices were really good, nearly half off, so I talked one of the ladies, with whom I sailed in Belize, into going with me. We've plunked down the money, bought the "insurance," scoured the various travel sites, picked up our airline tickets, and decided on before and after hotels.

Winnie, also on last year's sail, narrowed her eyes and shook her head. "You're going with Costa Cruises? Isn't that the same cruise lines as--"

"The Costa Concordia?" I supplied.

"Yes," she nodded.

"Oh, yes, it is," I said, picking a piece of lint off my shoulder. I yawned, stretched, and sent her a smug smile. "We got a great deal."

Winnie snorted. "Yeah, I'll bet."

"No, the prices are great and, really, it will never be safer. That cruise lines is not going to take any chances. None. For the next few months, those ships are going to perform flawlessly. They'll be the safest cruise ships out there."

Photo of the Costa Allegra by Jean-Phillipe Boulet

So today, the headline accosting my senses was:

Onboard fire cripples Costa

cruise ship

Costa Allegra, with 636 passengers on board, stranded in Somali pirate waters

It wasn't long before Winnie dropped into the chair on the opposite side of my desk. "So, I understand there was a little problem on a Costa Cruise ship today."

I looked up and tapped the tip of my pen repeatedly on the clear spot on the desk. "It was just a little fire. They put it out," I defended.

She leaned back in the chair and folded her arms across her chest. "Yes. And now they are--"

"Adrift, helplessly afloat in pirate infested waters." I said. "So what is your point?"

Winnie straightened a stack of papers on the corner of the desk before returning her gaze to me. "Well, how many boats does Costa Cruises have? Will there be any left by the time you go on your cruise?"

I angled my chin up. "We bought the insurance. If we get sick, or break a leg, or they run out of ships, we'll get our money back."

Sandra came over at that point. "You talking about the cruise?" she said, smiling.

"If there are any boats left, after today's disaster," Winnie said.

Sandra had not heard of the newest disaster. I told her, trying to make it sound less intimidating. "It was just a little fire on the Costa Allegra, and now it is adrift, but there is a large fishing boat in the area and tugs are on the way. Should be there tomorrow."

"In the meantime, the waters are infested with Somali pirates, and they are helplessly adrift," Winnie expounded.

"Yeah, but they have armed guards aboard," I countered.

Sandra's mouth dropped open. "They have armed guards on a cruise ship?"

I shrugged. "Just a few."

Sandra and I have talked about it. If they haven't gone through all their ships by the time we leave for the cruise, we are going to wear our life jackets to dinner, and sleep in our bathing suits. "I'm kind of hoping they'll move us up to a better cabin. Right now we're in steerage."

"Oh," said Winnie, "you'll probably have your choice of rooms."

This morning's article went on to say:

Since the Allegra may be stranded without power to operate the vast kitchens, Sandra and I have decided to take some snack crackers, a can of cheese whiz, and a couple of boxes of breakfast energy bars. We'll lock them in the safe. If I can figure out how to smuggle some coconut rum aboard, we'll do that too. We'll call it our "personal insurance plan."

After all:

Today's fire-caused loss of propulsion on the Costa Allegra comes 15 months after a cruise ship operated by sister line Carnival was left adrift for days following an engine room fire. The 3,006-passenger Carnival Splendor was off the coast of Mexico at the time of the incident and eventually had to be towed back to California.

The people on the Splendor had to eat Pop Tarts that were dropped onto the ship while it was being towed to port.

Sandra plans to take some seasickness pills. Being adrift is a lot rougher than being underway. I'm taking my computer with me. As long as there is power and wifi, I'll keep you informed.

I wonder if the people aboard the Allegra got a good deal on their passage?


  1. i worked on costa for 3 months, i couldnt deal with it longer. it was undoubtedly the worst experience of my life.

    if you wanna be extra safer, get in touch and i will give you the codes for fire, water leakage, man overboard, pirates (yes there is a code to that as well), bomb danger and stuff.

    so. if you hear the codes, just run to your rooms, get your life jackets and go to your meeting point.

    usually, they will first signal to the crew using sound beeps and the code. then, some minutes lates, you will be warned (but it might be kinda late).

  2. My daughters and I are cruising this October - Carnival Cruising to Grand Cayman and Cozumel. Of course, this weekend Carnival Cruise passengers were robbed at gunpoint in Mexico while on a "Nature Excursion". My thinking is: Why would anyone go on a "Nature Excursion" when there are so many "Party Catamaran" trips. Screw nature - we're going to party!

    1. Oh my gosh, it was the Carnival Splendor whose passengers got robbed. First the Splendor feeds their passengers Pop-Tarts and Spam when it is cast adrift 15 months ago, and now, two days ago, 22 passengers are robbed, including passports and I.D.. I think I'd avoid the Splendor.

  3. The intrepid Melanie Sherman! I love your sense of adventure...but I do so hope you don't have a lot of it. Pam, the Fearful.

    1. Pam,

      I have to admit, I'm with you on this. My new idea of adventure is now limited to yummy new rum drinks with little umbrellas in it, and cabana boys to bring me those drinks.

  4. Luisa I don't skype but I would love those codes. Can you email me at

  5. Max
    Be sure to bring a personal locator beacon in case you fall off the little party boat.

  6. Um. Pop Tarts? Are you making that up?

    1. This is what it said in an article regarding the Splendor:

      "The USS Ronald Reagan tried to ease the burden Tuesday by air-lifting 65,000 pounds of Spam, Pop-Tarts and other supplies onto the deck of the Carnival Splendor -- "anything that doesn't need to be cooked or refrigerated," a Coast Guard spokesman told AOL News..."

  7. You had me laughing out loud so many times that my son came out to see what was so funny. So we read this together and I laughed some more! Wonderful! i hope you have something to laugh about on your cruise. Bon Voyage!
    Be safe!

  8. Laura,

    I'm so glad I made you laugh. That makes it seem almost worth it. The people at work are laughing also.

    Sandra and I are not laughing. But the cruise is months away. Maybe we'll be laughing soon, if there are no more disasters.

  9. Oh Gawd, Melanie. Get those codes from Luiza.

  10. Jewell,

    It isn't too late to join us on the cruise. Have you ever wanted to see Gilbralter? Cadiz? Pirates from Tripoli?

  11. Melanie, I think you should bring your video camera and do an exposé on cruise ship safety while you're there. You could interview the crew, secretly, and have them tell you all the violations, etc. Then you could sell it to one of the cable channels.

  12. That is a great idea. I have video on my camera. They could call the show, "Deadliest Cruise."

  13. Bad things come in threes. So do you think the robbery in Mexico qualifies as the third? Or would it have to be another Costa ship? I'm going with the former.....

  14. Dale,

    Interestingly enough, it was the Carnival Splendor whose passengers were robbed. The same ship that, 15 months ago, had a fire aboard ship, lost power, and had to be towed to port. But I do hope that counts as #3.


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