Most passengers of crippled Costa liner take Seychelles holiday offer


02-March-2012

Members of the press capturing the arrival of Costa Allegra in Port Victoria

More than half – 356 – of the passengers have accepted the liner company’s offer of a 7 to 14-day holiday in Seychelles where they looked forward to enjoying the country’s beauty, famed beaches and the International Carnival which is set to start today.

Passengers on deck as the cruise ship docks in Port Victoria

One man however said he was not in the mood for a holiday as the other passengers were flown home, after a well-coordinated operation where immigration formalities were completed on board and the luggage taken ashore well before the ship docked.

A French tuna-fishing boat towed the stricken Costa Allegra into Port Victoria where ambulances, a Red Cross medical team and a fleet of small buses awaited the passengers.

Among the 456 crew members was Seychellois Rene-Pierre Alis – a children’s entertainment manager – who called his family a few hours before the ship reached Victoria when phone network became available.

“It was my day off duty. I was sleeping in a cabin near the engine room when I felt a lot of heat. I fled like hell when I realised there was a fire,” his parents quoted him as saying, before his mobile telephone battery went dead because it had not been charged and he had been using it as a torch.

The director of the local chapter of the Apostleship of the Sea Albert Nappier showed Nation a letter from the Vatican requesting his office to help the crew relax.

“Most of the attention is at the moment focused on the passengers and the crew are not likely to leave the ship soon, so we are here to help them enjoy a little of what is happening around. We will also help them contact their families,” he told Nation.
 
Many of the passengers said they felt tired and dirty “but there was never any shortage of drinking water or cold food”.

The toilets, air conditioning and lights were not working after the generators failed.
After it docked with the help of two tugs, passengers lined the upper deck, waiting calmly to disembark as some filmed the scenery and others took pictures.

There were reports some passengers had broken limbs and others were bruised but the ship’s captain Niccolo Alba said only two people suffered minor injuries to their wrist and collar bone areas “after falling”.

He said there was no panic on board even after the fire that damaged the first of three generators, and the crew did a fantastic job, a claim supported by the passengers Nation spoke to.

One woman was rushed into an ambulance and another needed to be supported.
A passenger from Germany, who also declined to be named, said they had been ready to jump into lifeboats when the power went out throughout the ship, but soon realised there was no major danger.

In a press conference yesterday afternoon, Costa’s vice-president Nobert Stiekema and the ship’s captain said the fire hit the first of its three main power generators and the other two soon failed.

Later the emergency generator – which according to regulations is situated far away from the main ones, and located on the topmost deck – also failed, leaving the ship to rely on batteries which worked for only six hours.

"Nothing was working so we realised this was not minor damage," he said. "The crew were great. They tried the best they could to make us comfortable."

A team from Costa Cruises, a unit of the U.S. cruise line’s company boarded the Costa Allegra on Wednesday to make arrangements for hotel accommodation and onward flights for the passengers.

The passengers, including four children, are from 25 nations. The largest contingents are 127 from France and 126 from Italy. There were also 38 Germans, 31 Britons, 13 Canadians and eight Americans.

The 29,000 tonnes Costa Allegra left Diego Suarez in Madagascar on Saturday and, sailing northeast, had been due to dock in Mahe on Tuesday.

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