Fatal Cruise Ship Wreck Will Shake Entire Industry

When the Greek-flagged cruise ship the Sea Diamond sank in the Aegean in 2007, killing two passengers, the international press was quick to point out that the ship was nothing like the modern mega-ships operated by the big mass-market cruise lines frequented by American vacationers. (And I was quick to agree.)

The Costa Concordia, on the other hand, is precisely like that. It is — or was — a modern mega-ship, launched in 2006, carrying 4,000 passengers and crew. It’s owned by Carnival Corp., the largest cruise line company in the world. There will be major and lasting repercussions to the fact that it has run aground and rolled onto its side off the coast of Italy, killing at least three people. (At this point, the BBC reports that dozens more are missing.)

One consequence will be a lasting and disturbing impression on the public which, despite occasional reports of fires and passengers going overboard, had grown accustomed to the idea that modern mega-ships do not sink. The other will be increased scrutiny in the United States and Europe of an industry that operates largely outside the regulatory bounds of both.

Carnival — which owns Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America, Princess, Seabourn, P&O, Cunard, Costa, AIDA and Iberocruceros — will have a lot of explaining to do. But I suspect the other major cruise lines are worried, too.

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