Seabourn defends debarking elderly couple for skipping drill
By Donna Tunney
The most striking image to date in the saga
of how maritime safety has changed since
the Costa Concordia wreck might well be
the sight of two elderly passengers standing with their baggage on a Lisbon pier, debarked for having missed a muster.
Seabourn, the line that booted them, is
standing by its decision to force the California couple to disembark the Seabourn
Sojourn on May 12, after the wife missed
the ship’s mandatory passenger safety drill
before the ship departed from Lisbon.
And the agent who booked them said the
lesson learned is simple: He will relate this
experience to other cruise clients so they
are fully aware what the ramifications can
be if they don’t show up at a drill.
The agent, Steven Shulem, president of
Strictly Vacations, in Santa Barbara, Calif.,
said the couple had booked a 20-day, three-leg cruise from Rome to Hamburg, Germany, and had participated in the drill when the
ship left Rome on May 4. At the start of the
second leg, from Lisbon, another drill was
announced and held, per industry policy.
But the 84-year-old woman wasn’t feeling well, and since she had participated in
the drill before leaving Rome, she decided
to skip it, Shulem said. Her 90-year-old
husband attended both drills.
Within an hour of the Lisbon drill, the
two found themselves watching from shore
as the Sojourn sailed off.
“I think Seabourn could have handled
this differently,” Shulem said. According to
his client’s account, when the elderly lady
didn’t show at the drill, a crew member was
sent to her room. She told that person she
ipating in muster drills and reviewing safety
material and videos provided in cabins.
Mike McGarry, the association’s senior
vice president for public affairs, said, “In
February, CLIA’s member lines, along with
the European Cruise Council and Passenger
Shipping Association, voluntarily adopted a
policy that calls for the mandatory muster
of embarking passengers prior to departure
from port. This policy has been communi-
cated widely to a global audience.”
Shulem said that the couple, who are
longtime clients, cruise once a year. They
were assisted in Lisbon by Strictly Vaca-
tions’ 24-hour emergency services vendor,
since Shulem was aboard the Oceania Riv-
iera’s christening cruise when the incident
Within an hour of the drill,
the couple, ages 84 and 90,
watched from shore as the
Sojourn sailed off.
“Fifteen minutes later, an officer was at
their door, telling her the couple needed to
disembark,” Shulem said. “The staff packed
them up and put them off.”
Passenger safety drills have taken on new
urgency — backed by strict compliance —
since the Costa Concordia shipwreck on
Jan. 13, which claimed the lives of 32 peo-
ple off the Tuscan coast.
A Seabourn spokesman said: “Mandatory
attendance at the emergency drill conduct-
ed prior to every voyage is a strict company
policy to ensure the safety of everyone on
board. No exceptions are permitted.”
He added that “a guest who is too ill to
attend may attend a makeup drill when
their health permits.” Seabourn did not
elaborate on why that option wasn’t offered
in this case.
“Everyone knows the story of the Concordia,” Shulem said. “It’s just common
sense” to attend the drills.
CLIA said it provides its travel agent
members with information to assist customers in preparing for a cruise, including
information about the importance of partic-
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M A Y 21, 2012