COSTA CONCORDIA……MY THOUGHTS

January 25, 2012 -

John Heald

I had woken at 5:00amish that morning because, as most diabetics will tell you, the call to the bathroom usually comes very early and as always before heading back to bed I had a quick glance at my Blackberry and saw I had lots of e mails all from the PR department at Carnival and from other senior beards. All of them contained the words Costa Concordia and instructions to call Miami ASAP.

I turned the TV in the bedroom immediately to Sky’s 24 hour news station and honestly I could not believe my eyes. No, this wasn’t real, this couldn’t happen. But it was real. The Costa Concordia lay on her side, the hull ripped open.

This is a very difficult blog for me to write. You know I was accused by some heartless sod on another cruise site of taking this incident “too personally.” Well I did take it personally. I am a crewmember, a brand ambassador, and mostly I am someone who loves the cruise industry, so you’re bloody well right I took this personally. It’s a difficult blog to write because I have to be careful what I say because there are so many unanswered questions and I certainly don’t want to speculate but what I do want to do is write how I feel about some of the things that have been written and said.

I have been a sailor for 25 years. “A sailor” I hear you say, “you’re not a sailor you are a fat chap that stands on stage and tells stupid jokes.” Well yes, that’s true of course but I am first and foremost a sailor and please allow me to explain why I say that.

When I first joined Carnival in 1987, in addition to my training as a bar waiter which consisted of me being handed a tray and a menu and told to go serve slippery nipples on the Lido Deck, the safety training was much more intense. The training was summed up by a statement that I will never forget and in fact still remains true today.

The statement was made by the then safety officer and now one of Carnival’s senior captains, Angelo Los, who told us new crew members “before you are waiters, before you are dancers, before you are anything, you are seamen.” Now obviously there is the comical side to that because before we are anything we are……….well you get my point I am sure. But the serious side to this is that whether you are on a ship with a big X on the funnel or a ship with a climbing wall or a ship with a red and blue whale tail, the crew all have one thing in common…………they are sailors and while they are there to serve and entertain you, before that they are there to help save your life in an emergency.

Apparent reports from passengers on the Costa Concordia and reports in certain media outlets have questioned where the officers were when guests went to the muster stations – instead of seeing officers, they claim to have seen dancers and chefs and waiters and photographers.”Where were the officers” shouted one female reporter with huge hair and a spray on tan?

In an emergency, officers are normally on the bridge, in the engine room and at the location of the issue, trying to manage the situation at hand.

This is very important for everyone to read and understand. I hope that you never ever have to muster with your lifejackets on but let me say that if you do, the crew are all trained in safety procedures and how to care for our passengers and that is our foremost concern.

God I am so angry when I see news reports on CBABNBCNNFOX that provide no context or information on how much the crew care and how heavily our industry is regulated with regard to safety standards. A truly knowledgeable cruise industry safety expert should be sitting on the couch with Whoopie Walters and the other women – someone who can explain about what it’s like to be in an emergency at sea and how the system works so that people sitting on their couches at home understand the safety record of the cruise industry.

When I look back at what happened on the Carnival Splendor I do so with pride because every single crew member did exactly what they were asked to do. They did exactly what their training had taught them and they did it calmly and professionally.

I have taken the Costa Concordia tragedy very hard. I also know that our captains at Carnival have taken this very hard as well. Some are worried that our guests will think that the stories told about the captain of the Costa Concordia are stereotypical of all Italian captains. The captains’ concerns are of course understandable but not necessary because we all know that Italians are brilliant captains and that they are great navigators and that’s why so many cruise lines trust them to be in command of their vessels and have done so for many, many years.

We can only watch and admire the efforts of the Italians during the recovery efforts, as well. The efforts of all those who helped bring passengers to safety, and the kind people of Giglio who have opened their doors to complete strangers, is truly extraordinary. It is also hard to imagine the conditions these brave divers are facing.

Is cruising safe? That’s the question that some are asking. All the cruise lines are proactively reviewing their safety procedures. However we must remember that we already adhere to the strict rules and regulations put forth under international maritime law and our industry has a truly exceptional safety record. Meanwhile the crew will continue their training each and every week. Practice drills will be held, crowd management classes given and inspections by Unites States Coast Guard, Lloyds of London, port agencies and other organizations will be carried out.

In the 25 years I have worked for Carnival I have seen the sea in every mood and I am
here to tell you that yes, cruising is safe. Statistically, cruising is one of the safest vacations you and your family can take.

I mourn those who died on the Costa Concordia and I feel such grief for the families who still wait for news on those yet to be found and my prayers and thoughts will remain with them.

It’s not fair of me to speculate about the Costa Concordia but I believe that the Costa crew saved the lives of many passengers and fellow crewmembers. So on behalf of every crew member working in the cruise industry today I would like your permission to say this: I believe the crew performed their jobs and saved lives.

If any of the crew of the Costa Concordia are reading this, let me tell you that you should be proud of the job you did.

They were sailors and stayed at their stations and did what their training had taught them to do under very challenging conditions.

Costa Concordia crew ……………….you are heroes.

John

Hi, I’m John, and this is my blog. So please don’t mistake my opinions — or those of my dear friends, fans or commenters — for those of Carnival Cruise Line or Carnival Corporation. My apologies in advance for anything I may say that upsets you, but this disclaimer covers Carnival and puts the blame directly on me………….. bugger.

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