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Thoughts with Costa Concordia Victims and Survivors

A Costa Cruise ship sunk last night off the coast of Civitavecchia, Italy. Three have been reported dead. Forty are still missing. I first read about the tragedy early this morning via a link on Twitter to an article in the UK’s Daily Daily Mail Online.

This is the part that gives me chills:

We were crawling up a hallway, in the dark, with only the light from the life vest strobe flashing,’ her mother, Georgia Ananias, 61, said. ‘We could hear plates and dishes crashing, people slamming against walls.’

She recounted the moment when an Argentine couple handed her their three-year-old daughter, unable to keep their balance as the ship lurched to the side and the family found themselves standing on a wall.

Mrs Ananias said: ‘I grabbed the baby. But then I was being pushed down. I didn’t want the baby to fall down the stairs. I gave the baby back. I couldn’t hold her.

‘I thought that was the end and I thought they should be with their baby,’ she said.

My son is three-years-old. I imagine the terror I would feel as a mother, passing off my child into the arms of strangers as I tried to regain my balance, worrying that we may not ever make it safely to shore.

My mom is in her 60s. I can picture her holding this child for a brief moment and then passing the child back to the parents’ arms, wanting the family to be together, the baby to at least have the security of her own mother’s arms, if they were all to perish at sea.

I have sailed in those waters, docked at Civitavecchia before setting off on a whirlwind tour of Rome with my husband and then two-and-a-half-year-old daughter.

The Costa Concordia’s captain has been arrested. The Titanic-like descriptions of the chaos during the evacuation is chilling, with many lifeboats not being launched due to inefficiencies by the crew. The emergency drill was not scheduled to even take place until the next evening, well after the ship set sail. Survivors left without money, credit cards, or a change of clothing are disgusted by the mishandled evacuation and treatment by Costa following their rescue.

This tragedy reminds me of  a report on Dateline that I watched last year about Oceanos, a Greek ocean-liner that sank off South Africa’s eastern coast in 1991. I was horrified to learn how the ship’s captain and senior crew abandoned the ship and its passengers, leaving the entertainment crew to lead the heroic rescue of the remaining 571 passengers and crew left aboard.

Will I cruise again? Yes. But I will only sail with cruise lines that deserve my trust. A small few come to mind, with one in particular standing out, whose reputation and credibility is so steadfast, it seems impossible for such blunders to take place aboard their ships. Of course accidents can happen while at sea on any ship, but the human error and bungled emergency evacuations of both of the Costa and Oceanos ships is inexcusable.

Today I can’t stop imagining the horror of those onboard the sinking Costa ship and the heartache of family members whose loved ones cannot be found. I am thinking of that Argentine couple and the heartwrenching moment when their child was given back to them by a kindhearted woman. I am praying they made it ashore safely. I am praying for everyone involved.

Tragedies like this always snap me out of the skewed world of what only seems important and remind me of what really matters: family, love, kindness, compassion. I’d write more, but I’ve got two children that I need to go hug. I may never let go.

About Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.


  1. I agree with you that the Costa Cruise ship disaster is sobering, especially knowing that it was due to human error. The cruise lines that I have sailed – Regent, Silversea and Seabourn – take safety very seriously. The muster drill is on the first time the ship leaves port and there are weekly crew drills that don’t involve the passengers. This should be a wakeup call to the entire cruise industry to tighten up safety practices. I’m especially interested to know if crew who man the lifeboats in an emergency (I’m talking cabin attendants and wait staff) are prepared to actually lower the lifeboats. That seemed to be in question during the Costa disaster.

  2. This story haunted me as well. Cruising has not been my favorite way to travel. But if I get the urge, I will definitely think twice before booking with them after handling an accident this way.

  3. Having recently taken our family on a Mediterranean cruise, this story hit close to home. We also had a muster drill within hours of boarding the ship but I must say that there was a real feeling of security on our huge Royal Caribbean ship, which was like a city inside. It was hard to imagine that anything could go wrong. Our crew was extremely attentive to the passengers’ needs and we felt quite “pampered.” However, I don’t know how our crew members would have responded in a situation such as the Costa Concordia disaster. No one -neither passengers or crew – ever expects such a dire situation to occur and I’m not sure the crew members on any cruise have the education or training to handle such a catastrophe. It sounds like it was “every man for himself” in the Costa situation – definitely something I will consider before booking another cruise with any company.

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