UK journalist booked Costa Concordia cruise after disaster


A British journalist managed to book a cruise on the Costa Concordia two days after the liner ran aground off Italy leaving up to 32 people feared dead, he told the BBC on Saturday.

Simon Calder, travel editor with The Independent newspaper, said he made an online booking for a package holiday on the Costa Concordia last Sunday for £882.70 ($1,375, 1,063 euros).

He was swiftly posted out travel documents and given his own cabin number on the ship, which remains half-submerged on its side as divers search the wreckage for those still missing.

So far, 12 people have been confirmed dead in the tragedy, while 21 people are missing. More than 4,200 people were on board the luxury liner.

"Clearly, in the first 24 to 48 hours, the main focus of the company was doing everything it could to rescue people," Calder told the BBC.

"But by Sunday, I was keen to find out what the rights were for people who were booked on Costa Concordia, and crucially, her sister ships built to the exact same design.

"The company in London couldn't help at all, and so I went online to see what I could find. I couldn't find any information of any help to people with future bookings.

"What I could find was a special offer selling a cruise on Costa Concordia, departing in April.

"And I thought 'Well this is wrong', and I thought, 'Well, I will just test it, because clearly they cannot still be selling it.'

"They sold it to me, took my money, and then on Monday they sent out the confirmation, complete with a map of where I will be going, and even my cabin number on the ship.

He added: "Quite remarkable that a company should be doing this, given that the ship was -- as we have just been seeing this morning - horribly stricken."

The company operating the ship, Costa Crociere, said it had taken action from Saturday, January 14 to stop bookings being made for the Costa Concordia, but it had taken until Monday to block all bookings.

"That could explain why it was still possible to make some bookings during the weekend," a spokesman said.

Costa Crociere, or Costa Cruises, is a subsidiary of US-based group Carnival.

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