The Costa Concordia capsizing was a nightmare for the passengers and for the cruise industry itself.
This week, as every major cruise line and port across the world is attending the Cruise Shipping Miami conference, the big theme is restoring passenger confidence.
“(For) the cruise industry, and the ports that these ships come to, our highest priority is safety and security,” said Bill Johnson, director of the Port of Miami.
Keeping passengers boarding ships is vital to the South Florida economy. Over 4 million people got on ships at the Port of Miami last year — tops in the world.
Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades is not far behind with 3.66 million passengers.
Cruise expert Stewart Chiron, known as “The Cruise Guy,” says ships have made immediate changes on their lifeboat drills.
Chiron says government regulators are making sure cruise lines perform safety drills before leaving the port, and the cruise ships themselves are taking a tough stance with passengers who don’t show up for safety drills.
“They have the right to disembark the passenger without any refund, so they are not kidding with the lifeboat drills,” he said.
But the Port of Miami doesn’t want any passengers hesitant about getting on board. They are adding three new cruise lines this year, including the popular Disney line.
There is also a focus on passenger health, as medical experts look for new ways to stop Norovirus.
“We have extensive cleaning rituals, cleaning sanitation programs,” said Steve Williams of Royal Caribbean’s medical operations. “We use the very latest in chemicals and one of the reasons we are at this show is to see what else is out there in the market because we are always looking for the latest and greatest solution.”
But the best defense is just washing your hands. The exhibitors say the Concordia taught a lesson: never be complacent.
That is an important message in a business that is the lifeline for thousands.