The Costa Allegra is adrift off the coast of Seychelles after a fire erupted in the electrical room. The incident comes just weeks after another Costa Crociere ship, the Costa Concordia, ran aground off the Italian coast killing at least 25.
The 1,000-passenger Costa Allegra left the port of Diego Suarez in Madagascar on Saturday and was due to arrive in Mahe, Seychelles on Tuesday before the fire struck. On Monday, planes, ships, and tug boats were headed toward the adrift luxury liner, located about 200 miles southwest of the Seychelles' capital and 20 miles from Alphonse Island, an atoll in the Indian Ocean.
The fire did not spread from the electrical room and there were no injuries reported. Nevertheless, the ship was left without power and emergency batteries were used to keep essential machinery going.
Commander Cosimo Nicastro of the Italian coast guard said that it took the crew a few hours to extinguish the fire. Costa Cruises further explained the situation in a statement:
The shipboard fire-extinguishing system and procedures were promptly activated and the special fire-fighting squads intervened to extinguish the fire, the company said. As a precaution, the general emergency alarm was given and all passengers and crew members not engaged in the management of the emergency reached the muster stations with the relevant safety equipment.
Inspections on the state of the engine room are on-going in order to restart the necessary equipment to reactivate the functionality of the ship, Costa added.
The ship's distress signal alerted naval authorities, including the Maritime Rescue Control Center in Rome.
Costa Crociere and the relevant authorities are acting to provide the ship with the necessary support. Costa Allegra is going to be reached by tugs and other naval and aerial units, the company said.
The Italian coast guard dispatched cargo ships near the Costa Allegra to help on Monday. Meanwhile, the Seychelles coast guard and air wing mobilized, and an aircraft commenced flyovers Monday evening, according to Seychelles presidential spokeswoman Srdjana Janosevic. The island nation sent two tugs to the drifting ship and the Allegra is expected to be tugged back to Port Victoria, the Seychelles capital.
Built in Genoa and commissioned by Costa in 1992, the 600-foot long ship has eight passenger decks and 400 cabins. Onboard are 636 passengers of various nationalities and 413 crew members, though the ship is capable of handling up to 1,400 people.
A spokesman for Costa said the passengers included 130 each from Italy and France, 100 from Austria and 90 from Switzerland. The passengers were in good health and, having been promptly informed of the situation, were assembled at the muster points as a precaution.
The Costa Allegra was on a month-long tour of the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, and the Mediterranean. After leaving Mauritius, the ship went to Madagascar and was due to head to Seychelles, Oman, Egypt, and Jordan before the voyage ended in Savona, Italy next month.
Upon news of the incident, shares in Carnival, the beleaguered American company that owns the Costa fleet, fell by nearly two percent on the New York Stock Exchange.
The accident comes just weeks after the Costa Concordia ran aground off the Italian island of Giglio forcing the evacuation of 4,200 passengers. Many complained at the time of long delays and a lack of organization in the evacuation process.
At least 25 perished and the Concordia's captain, Francesco Schettino, has been accused of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck, and abandoning ship before all those aboard were evacuated. He denies any wrongdoing.
Last month, Carnival Corp. estimated that the Costa Concordia cruise ship sinking would lower net income by $115 million to $175 million in fiscal 2012. Fleet-wide booking volumes, excluding Costa, declined in the mid teens'' following the disaster through Jan. 25, bottoming out Jan. 16, Carnival said.
Since the disaster, Carnival announced a review of safety and emergency response procedures across its entire fleet. The Miami-based company owns nine cruise ship brands including the Cunard Line, Holland America, Princess, and Costa.
Cruise watchers have been looking to see what impact the Costa Concordia cruise ship sinking would have on industry booking. Though it's too early to determine any long-term effects, indicators show that sales remain strong for most operators.
Statistically, cruising remains one of the safest vacation options, which may account for why few travelers canceled existing trips in the wake of the Costa Concordia disaster.
Earlier this month, cruise operators like Royal Caribbean and Celebrity began offering large discounts and promotions in order to bump up sales after the Concordia catastrophe.
It remains to be seen what, if any, impact this latest incident will have on industry bookings.
Things to Consider Before Taking a Cruise:
Know Your Personal Health before you leave on a cruise. Cover all your bases and check your itinerary to ensure you have the proper vaccines for the regions you'll visit. Bring as much documentation and information as possible because, though every ship has a doctor on board, levels of training vary from ship to ship. Most doctors are also considered contractors and as such are not employees of the cruise line. This can create a legal grey area if something goes wrong.
Traveler's Insurance covers a variety of trip-related problems from lost luggage to emergency cancellations. Cruise ships do, however, create some unique situations that are best discussed with your provider before you take a trip. For example, find out of your coverage includes things like helicopter evacuations.
The Reputation of a Cruise Line can tell a lot about its operating procedures. Before you book, research the safety and sanitation of various liners. In the U.S., the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has records of cruise ship inspections under its Vessel Sanitation Program that are available to the public.
Know the Ship's Layout before you set sail and familiarize yourself with the emergency procedures. Take note of the location of your life preservers, what lifeboat you are assigned to, and the meaning of the ship's emergency signals. Every ship is required by law to hold a fire and lifeboat drill with passengers within the first 24 hours and it is imperative that you attend.
Mark Johanson is the travel editor at the International Business Times. He has traveled to and written about more than 30 nations and territories on every continent except...