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All Things Travel: Basic Questions Unanswered In Italy Cruise Ship Disaster

BOSTON (CBS) - The cruise business took a terrific hit this weekend.

One thing is for certain, Carnival Cruise Lines, which has made a major effort to promote its more upscale brands like Costa and Holland America, is in damage control mode.

The Costa Concordia capsized off Tuscany over the weekend, leaving many questions unanswered as the incredible pictures of the 4,000 passenger ship on its side flashed around the world. The comparison with the sinking of the Titanic 100 years ago only makes the story more intriguing.

Twice, as a member of the press, I have been invited to the bridge command center of cruise ships.

Having seen the duplication of effort of sailors doing that work, it seems almost impossible for a disaster of this scope to take place.

Bob Weiss
Bob Weiss, CBS Boston travel contributor

That is where human error comes into play.

About 15 years ago, I made the overnight trip from Stockholm to Helsinki through one of the trickiest crossings through a hundred small islands.

On arriving on the bridge after dark, we saw two teams of the crew monitoring two sets of radar in use.

If the captain had been on the bridge, he would have operated from a raised platform with his own set of radar for positioning.

Ten years ago, I was on the bridge of a Royal Caribbean ship traveling from Boston to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

During the daylight hours, they not only had radar to warn the ship of any vessels that were approaching, they also had a crewmember scanning the horizon.

So what went so wrong after The Concordia struck a submerged rock?

The collision apparently knocked out power aboard the ship and emergency lighting did not kick-in.

What is most important, according to cruise experts, is that this same problem disabled the ship's public address system and passengers could not apparently have been given up-to-date safety instructions.

Once a decision was made to evacuate the passengers, the ship was virtually on its side and some of the lifeboats could not be lowered.

There is also a question or when, or if, lifeboat drills were held for the passengers.

On every cruise that I have been on, a drill is held within a couple of hours of departure.

Everyone must attend with their life jacket on and be checked off as being present.

A crewmember is at every lifeboat with extra crewmembers in the hallways to direct passengers to the proper deck.

The only good factor in all of this is that the cruise ship was near a port and the coastline.

Here are a couple of tips for travelers whether they are on land or sea.

First of all, always carry a small flashlight and keep it near your bed, if it is needed.

Second, I learned a long time ago to always place my room key card by the exit door on the floor.

I will not forget it and can find it in the dark. That way, you can get back in your room if necessary at a later time.

All Things Travel reports can now be heard every Monday at 5:55 a.m. on WBZ News Radio 1030.

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