Is Bruce Ismay Back as Francesco Schettino?

January 19, 2012

By Karen

Cats Working has never covered cruise travel, but the capsizing of Costa Concordia has been dominating the news. As a veteran of nearly 40 cruises, I have to weigh in.

I think Captain Francesco Schettino is the reincarnation of Bruce Ismay.

Ismay was the managing director of the White Star Line. He was on Titanic’s maiden voyage, demanding she make record time to New York in spite of numerous warnings of ice ahead. We all know how that turned out.

Ismay jumped into a lifeboat while women and children were drowning, and spent the rest of his life in disgrace, regretting he survived.

In Schettino’s case, it may turn out that his u-turn into the shallows after his ship was gashed open and took a huge boulder in the gut may have saved the lives of those who were able to swim to shore.

But his quick thinking in that one moment is negated by the arrogance that led him to deliberately endanger the vessel in the first place. And he’s been lying about every action he took ever since.

He’s claimed he did it to honor a retired captain, Mario Polombo, who lives on the island of Giglio, and that they were on the phone together when the ship hit the rocks.

Polombo has said he wasn’t on the island that night. Wouldn’t he have mentioned that to Schettino?

What Schettino hasn’t said is that he also did it to impress a maître d’ from Giglio. Probably unbeknownst to Schettino, the maître d’s sister posted on Facebook in the hour before that the ship would come really close.

When the ship began to founder, Schettino claimed at first that he was thrown overboard.

If so, he must have climbed back onboard, because he told a judge in court Tuesday that he was helping passengers into a lifeboat when he tripped and fell into the lifeboat himself.

The lifeboats aren’t open like those on Titanic. They have roofs. It’s hard to imagine someone tripping into one. Not to mention that Schettino’s 2nd and 3rd in command happened to trip into the same boat with him.

And we’ve probably all heard the conversation between Schettino and Coast Guard Captain De Falco where Schettino suddenly turned dumb about how to board his ship.

In all the picture’s we’ve seen of Schettino, he’s wearing a dark sweater and coat — civvies. What happened to his uniform? Was he given dry clothes on shore because he’d been in the water? Or did he return to his cabin to change because he didn’t want to stand out with his 4 stripes while his ship was erupting into pandemonium?

Costa initially supported Schettino, while admitting human error was involved. But if worldwide outrage makes them ultimately let the Italian courts have their way with Schettino, who could blame them?

An excellent site for following developments in this story, often before the media knows them, is A CC member from Australia who survived the capsizing provided a thorough report of her experience the very next morning, and you’ll find many links to international news stories. You don’t have to join it to read.

Concordia passengers have been comparing this to Titanic, and it’s a fair assessment as far as their terror goes, but the loss of 11 lives (or 34, if the 23 who remain missing didn’t make it) is a far cry from a tragedy where only a third of the souls onboard managed to survive, and the rest drowned in waters over 2 miles deep.

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