No one can have heard of the death of a passenger on board the Marco Polo this weekend without anything but intense sadness, and sincere condolences for the family so tragically bereaved. It is truly heartbreaking as accidents go.
And, despite the hype and the storm of criticism currently being hurled at owners Cruise And Maritime, an accident is exactly what this is.
The Marco Polo was only hours from port, sailing up a storm lashed English Channel at the conclusion of a forty-two day Caribbean and Amazon cruise. The unfortunate passenger was sitting in the ship’s Waldorf restaurant, when a huge wave smashed in one of the big floor to ceiling windows, killing him instantly.
Inevitably, the usual raft of armchair critics have been roused from their winter torpor, and the internet is awash with their retrospective pearls of wisdom. Let’s look at some of these, one at a time.
Why didn’t the Marco Polo run for shelter in a Channel Port, given the fierce weather?
Seems reasonable, until you consider that, in order to reach any European port, the Marco Polo would almost certainly have had to alter course, and very likely expose herself to even worse sailing conditions than the ship was already encountering. Shortsighted and foolhardy as a course of action.
In addition, many ports simply don’t have docking facilities to accommodate a ship with such a deep draft as the Marco Polo. Docking a 22,000 ton ocean liner is not as easy as swinging a car into a convenient parking space.
A newer, bigger ship would have weathered these conditions much better….
To which I can only add one word: Titanic.
The ship was old, and badly maintained
Sure, the Marco Polo is a lady of a certain age. Fifty two, to be precise. What does that mean? Absolutely nothing.
Having sailed on the ship three times myself, I know fine well that the Marco Polo is one of the stoutest, most strongly built cruise ships sailing anywhere. With a hull strengthened to withstand Antarctic ice, she is far more capable of overcoming bad weather conditions than most of the new, high sided modern ships now in service.
I went through a pretty nasty storm in the Aegean on the Marco Polo, and she handled the rough seas very well indeed.
Maintenance? There is no point at which you can maintain the windows of any ship against an unstoppable volume of salt water. Much bigger and more modern ships have had their windows punched out in howling gales. The sea will always be the master here.
And, in my experience, I have to add that the Marco Polo is most certainly not a badly maintained ship.Quite the opposite, in fact. I would not hesitate to sail on her again.
Why didn’t the Captain simply stop his engines, and ride out the storm?
This one is the absolute height of stupidity. Only an idiot of the highest order would voluntarily disable his own power plant in any weather conditions, and thus endanger every life on board.
This is a hideously tragic accident. The fact is, we are all on borrowed time and, if we shied away from doing things simply on the rare to unfeasible idea that something similar could happen to us, then we might as well be dead anyway. When you stop dreaming and then doing, you die inside, even if you keep on living for decades.
None of which is intended to detract from an awful, heartfelt human tragedy. My sympathies are with the family of the unfortunate gentleman. They are also with the crew of the Marco Polo, who are no doubt very traumatised by such a sad and upsetting event.