Unless you have been out of human contact and living in a cave for the last several days, there is no doubt that you have heard and seen the stories on the tragic tale of the Costa Concordia. At Travel N Relax our hearts truly go out to all who have been affected by this senseless tragedy. The media, who is always one to love a good “Bad News” story, has jumped onto this headline with a frenzy, and recently many story lines have been screaming out the question… are Cruise Ships safe? We at Travel N Relax have also been studying this question more intensely over the last few days and we are happy to report that… Yes, Cruise Ships, and Cruise Ship travel, is safe. Let’s look at some of the major facts of this tragedy so that you can see for yourself how we came to this conclusion. First it is quite evident that the ship itself was not the element at fault. Rather it was the Ship’s Captain Francesco Schettino who appears to be the main element to blame. While the court proceedings against the Captain are likely to go on for months, if not longer, what is known is that the Captain, who has a record of disobedience, had deviated the course of the ship by a matter of miles so that his head waiter could salute his family on the Island of Giglio as they passed by. In this process not only did he make an unauthorized deviation but he also took the ship much too close to the shore. Company vessels were forbidden to come closer than 500 meters (547 yards) to the Giglio coast. Investigators say the Concordia was about 150 meters (164 yards) offshore. Some reports also show that the Captain was driving the ship like a Ferrari – much too fast. Being in unauthorized waters he did not know, much too close to the shoreline, the ship then hit the submerged rock that gashed a good part of the ships base leading it to take on the seawater in several spots and thus tip and sink as it did. All that said, such incidents are of course extremely rare and unusual and cruising continues to be one of the safest means of travel among all types of vacationing methods. When you consider that about 16 million people took a vacation at sea last year (according to the Cruise Lines International Association) you can see that the tragic loss of life and injuries is in fact small compared to the total number of people sailing. Modern cruise ships, including the Concordia, have sophisticated equipment designed to keep them on course, steer them away from bad weather and keep them steady in rough seas. Nevertheless, as this incident shows, human error and lack of thought can regretfully lead to tragedy and, as in any mode of transportation, we as the passengers must also take self responsibility, to help assure our own safety. In this case, many had not yet taken part in the muster exercise, which instructs passengers on how to evacuate safely and quickly in the case of an emergency. Many cruisers often view these lifeboat drills as regulatory nonsense and either skip the exercise altogether, or do not pay real attention as the exercise takes place. Many passengers have taken a “just let me get on with my vacation” attitude toward muster drills, confident in the safety of modern technology, and reasoning that technology has improved in the century since the Titanic went down, taking 1,500 passengers and crew to their death. The good news is that technology has in fact improved. The bad news however, as the Concordia incident has shown, is that human error is timeless. A “sloppy” safety procedure, and many human mistakes, not the ship size or the ship technology, was the issue on the Concordia. Sadly, it was the perfect storm. Our hope is that we might all learn from this incident, realizing that while cruises themselves are still incredibly safe, human error and lack of thought still regretfully persist leading to tragedies such as this one. With that understanding, we suspect that the vast majority of people who are planning to take a cruise are probably still going to cruise…. And they’re going to be fine. Cruise travel itself is safe. However, as with any mode of transportation (including rides down our own local highways) it is the human error (and lack of thought) element that we must always protect ourselves from. That is the real, danger that we will always face.