The current problems with the engine fire on the Costa Allegra do not appear to have any connection with the sinking of the Costa Concordia. I remain highly dubious about the management of Costa (and, therefore, of its parent company Carnival) but it does seem to be an unfortunate coincidence and something that could happen to even the best cruise line.
However, the incident does raise a matter of concern and one we recently mentioned in Inside Traveller.
The ship was sailing through an area where pirate attacks are common. Like other cruise lines, Costa had taken the precaution of protecting the vessel with a group of Italian marines.
The idea of sitting on a deck in the sun and relaxing is very appealing – but how relaxed would you feel if you knew the cruise line had armed guards to protect their guests?
The coast off Somalia is not the only area where cruise companies have to sail with a detachment of armed guards. Cruises from the Gulf ports – which are now being heavily promoted – also carry guards and have to pay heavy additional insurance premiums due to the extra risk.
But do the cruise companies tell their passengers about this?
Many would know about the risks of Somalian piracy but the risks for vessels sailing from Dubai and Oman are much less publicised.
It would be interesting if an American passenger were to take action against a cruise line for selling a cruise in an area where they had to use armed guards without informing their passengers.
Personally, I go on holiday to rest and I can find plenty of places in the world where I can do that without armed guards to guarantee my safety.