Dear Mr. Arison and Mr. Buckelew,
After 6 cruises, 3 of them on Princess, we've made the decision to stop cruising altogether, and we think you need to know why.
The fiasco surrounding the Costa Concordia disaster has shaken us to the core. We've always felt comfortable sailing, because we've always felt safe. Up until now, we were always confident that in a real emergency, the well trained staff and crew would know what to do, and would execute their duties to ensure passenger safety.
Watching the National Geographic expose on the events surrounding the Concordia, which included cell phone footage and passenger accounts of the harrowing circumstances on board, I could not help but to envision myself in similar circumstances, and it is simply chilling. We were shocked beyond belief that the situation on board had been allowed to escalate to such chaos. Accounts of passengers running from lifeboat to lifeboat, trying to find room, and ultimately having to jump and swim to shore defied belief.
I am well aware that the true facts are still being investigated, but, at this time, the public perception is that there was a complete breakdown of the command structure and safety procedures. Footage showing people being directed back to their cabins while the ship was clearly taking on water was very disturbing.
I am not writing to ask for anything from you. I simply want you to be aware of the impressions of one pair of formerly enthusiastic cruisers. I would imagine that we are representative of many others, who might not take the time to write.
Our perceptions are that:
- The crew performed admirably under the circumstances.
- The passengers were not properly informed of emergency procedures.
- The Captain and senior staff unnecessarily delayed alerting passengers and evacuating the ship, causing unnecessary risk.
- The delay in evacuation caused issues with the launching of the lifeboats.
- There was a breakdown of communications on all fronts.
Again, these are perceptions, not facts, but as is often said, perception IS reality.
The current cruise industry response of re-evaluating the mechanics of the safety briefing and muster drill is only one small part in restoring confidence. Speaking only for myself, I need to see steps that will demonstrate that the Captain and senior staff are deserving of the trust that we put into them.
It is somewhat ironic that the Concordia incident, demonstrating such a poor response by a commanding officer in the face of an emergency, came at the same time as the anniversary of the successful water landing of US Airways Flight 1549 by Captain Sully Sullenberger. There could not be a greater contrast between two disastrous events.
We've come a long way since the sinking of the Titanic, and yet it seems that the fundamental issues of safety of life at sea still remain. I don't know how you will accomplish it, but you need to either somehow restore public faith in the commanding officers of your ships, or rely on the public to gradually forget the horrific events that occurred on January 13th.