Go on a cruise!

Those who read my blog have already noticed I’m never writing about stuff that are currently going on in the world. But the tragedy of Costa Concordia’s sinking has deeply affected me, so I decided to write about it.

I grew up in Santos, Brazil (city that houses the biggest port in Latin America), and have lived in front of the sea since I can remember. The coming and going of container and cruiseships are for me one of my childhood most lively memories, as you can imagine by the picture below, taken from my bedroom window.

Since my mother and my sister started working on cruiseships, my attachment got higher and higher. Now we could all see their ships coming back home, hours before it reached the shore, and listen to the incredible, and sometimes awful, stories on board.

One of these days, I saw the picture of the giant sinking “C” at the front page of a german newspaper and decided to read more about it. There were numerous accounts of people that have survived the tragedy, explaining how chaotich the rescue missions where and that the crew was trying to make things seems like they weren’t so serious. Afterwards, the writer talks about the fact that, what was known as a luxury line, was now offering cruises for surprisingly low prices, and whether this may have affected the security systems of the company.

First of all, although never having been on a sinking ship myself, I find it hard to imagine that more than 4.000 people can walk calmly to the rescue boats, as they are told to. I also can’t imagine this ever having happened before. In my imaginative head, it can only be a caotich situation. The crew is trained to contain chaos in such situations, so that the operations can flow as programmed and more people can be saved, so no wonder if they aren’t running around the ship and yelling “WE’RE GONNA DIE!”.

I don’t want to be disrespectful to the families who lost their loved ones to this tragedy, and I’m sure security specialists would find this comment extremely stupid, but I find incredible that only six people died (this number may get higher in the next days). Why would security specialists find this stupid? Because all the security systems in a ship are made for saving everybody, there should be no deaths. Besides, a ship can take hours to sink, leaving enough time for all the rescue operations to be completed. Well, at least that’s the theory. In practice, we should consider the human factors, those that no security system can prevent. The heavy sleeper that wakes up too late, the woman on the shower, that with the movement of the ship hits her head and becomes uncounscios, the drunk guy that didn’t take it seriously, the people in panic that couldn’t react fast enough, families looking for their relatives and we can’t forget those people who go back to grab their valuable belongings. I know it sounds stupid, but there’s always someone who does that. If the crew would have abandoned the ship before helping the passangers like the captain did, I’m sure there would have been hundreds, or even thousands, of deaths.

If you’ve ever been in a ship, you know that every single human being on board has to go through a safety drill right after embarking, before the ship leaves the port. In this drill, people learn how to react in such situations and how to get to their lifeboats from wherever they are (yes, everyone has a specific lifeboat, which you can find by a number on your bedroom key). Once again, this is just theory. In practice, people find the drill boring and hardly ever pay attention to it, not to mention the ones who are making jokes all the time and making the crew’s work very hard. It’s like in the airplane, when the flight attendant is showing the security proceedure and half of the people are sleeping. The other half is reading or listening to music. Well, that I can understand, I mean, what are the chances of surviving an airplane crash anyway?

With family and friends working on board, I’ve already listened to a bunch of scary stories. When people criticize the captain of Concordia for taking too long to turn on the alarms, I kept remembering those stories, and wondering what would have happened if the captains of all ships around the world always activated the alarms and evacuated the ships every time there was a hole and water coming inside. Plus all the other problems that can happen, and they do, everyday. Whether he was irresponsible or not by taking so long, it’s not for me to judge. This requires a lot of investigation and knowledge that I don’t have. The only thing I can do is to call him an asshole for having abandoned the ship, but I’m also not doing that. First of all, because I’m not really sure if he was an asshole of he just completely panicked, for being the person who could better understand the gravity of the situation. Besides, I’m also not sure whether he could have saved one of those lives if he’d stayed on board for longer, and I think there are enough people to judge him, so I’ll leave the dirty work for them.

Now, that the security of the ships have been affected by the low prices of the cruises…this doesn’t seem realistic to me. The fact that luxury items are becoming more accessible is not an isolated case of Costa, but a world phenomenon. Globalization, democratization, capitalism, growth of 3rd world countries, crisis in the world’s leading economies and many other factors are responsible for this tendency, and it doesn’t seems like it’s going to stop anytime soon. And frankly, I don’t think the cruise companies are losing money because of this, quite the opposite. Instead of having 2 or 3 luxury lines, they now have dozens of them.

I’ve always worried about the safety of my loved ones on board, but at the moment, I’m quite relaxed. I’m sure there’s a safety paranoia going on in all ships around the world, stuff being double-checked and precaution on its highest possible levels. We might be stupid sometimes, but we do learn with our – and also from other people’s – mistakes. So let’s pray that this horrible tragedy with Costa Concordia will serve as an example so that this never happens again.

Cruises are now probably safer and cheaper than ever. If I were you, I would book mine.

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