A year after the grounding of the Costa Concordia cost at least 30 of the ship's 3,780-passenger their lives, the cruise industry is looking to move past the photogenic disaster while stressing a renewed focus on safety. Whether or not potential passengers are ready to forget or forgive catastrophe remains a crucial question.
The disastrous sinking spawned a media circus featuring, among images of the hulking wreck, the captain's perp walk and courtroom testimony. News accounts proliferated, books were published in a hurry and even a museum exhibit went up amid the controversy and fingerpointing.
For the cruise industry, the past year has offered plenty of opportunity for soul searching.
"To this day, I think cruising is still extremely safe, but the fact that that could happen really shook me up," Carolyn Spencer Brown, the Editor-in-Chief of Cruise Critic and a 15-year industry veteran, told The Huffington Post. "It was horrible."
In the wake of the accident, Brown adds, "We're all a little bit more aware of the need for real safety."
One big change has been that lines are now requiring muster drills before departure so passengers are better prepared for emergencies, Brown says, adding that some cruise lines had already took that step on certain trips. Companies are serious enough about the drills that passengers have been tossed from ships for skipping them.
"Cruise lines are really looking at what they're doing safety-wise and what they can improve," Brown says. "That's a positive to come out of this."
Other changes have been enacted. Boats are now carrying more lifejackets in more accessible places and crews are being more frequently retrained on evacuation procedures, the Cruise Lines International Association recently announced, as part of a broad report on cruise safety commissioned immediately after the Costa disaster. (The full Cruise Industry Operational Safety Review is available online.)
The deadly accident didn't seem to hurt demand among veteran cruisers, according to a Cruise Critic poll in which 66 percent of readers said the Costa tragedy didn't impact their trip plans. Another 30 percent of readers said the accident made them more aware of their own safety but didn't lead to a change of plans.
Meanwhile, the wreckage of the ship itself remains a grisly tourist attraction in its own right, a stunning sight but also an inadvertent headstone.
This summer, entreprenuerial ferry captains plied the waters near the wreckage, and bed and breakfasts on the island of Giglio advertised their views of the stricken ship. Users of TripAdvisor shared information about seeing the ship on a thread dedicated to "Costa Concordia Shipwreck Day Trip from Rome." Earlier this month, disaster tourists were picked up by Italian coast guards after their inflatable boat experienced rough seas. Irony was narrowly averted.
The continued reminder of the infamous crash wears thin on Giglo residents, including Mayor Sergio Ortelli, USA Today reports.
"Everyone here will be thankful when the ship is finally moved and our lives can go back to normal," the mayor is quoted as saying.
Recently, 60 Minutes reported on the on-going salvage operations, an enormous and unprecedented engineering challenge that will, one day, if all goes to plan, finally lift the Concordia from the sea floor.