Two Cruise Accidents – Very Different Levels Of Media Coverage
Collisions involving the Viking Sigyn running over a sightseeing boat last Wednesday and an MSC ship crashing into the Uniworld River Countess and a Venice dock this weekend received very different levels of media coverage.
The first accident happened when the Viking Sigyn and small sightseeing boat Mermaid were sailing towards the Margit Bridge in downtown Budapest on the Danube. When both vessels arrived at the bridge pillars, the Mermaid was slightly ahead.
The front bow of the Sigyn hit the rear of the Mermaid, which flipped over and capsized immediately. Seven South Korean tourists onboard the Mermaid died and a further 21 are missing, so presumably 28 are dead. To put that in perspective, 33 people died on the Costa Concordia in 2012.
The captain of the Viking ship was arrested and charged with "endangering water transport leading to a deadly mass accident."
Cruise Week monitored U.S. media closely for 24 hours after the event, and in terms of readily viewable coverage, only the Washington Post and Associated Press covered the event. The usual suspects, like CNN and Drudge Report, didn't have a word. As the Mermaid sunk in seven seconds in stormy weather, there was no good click bait-type video to entice viewers.
When Cruise Week asked one AP reporter why there was so little mainstream media coverage, she responded, "River cruise is a niche; this is not a big cruise ship."
And then there came the big cruise ship collision.
The MSC Opera was having engine troubles, and with horns blaring and seemingly out of control, she tried to pull into the Giudecca Canal in Venice and scraped the stationary Uniworld River Countess and the dock. One widely played video shows people on the dock scattering as the Opera plows along.
It happened on the weekend, not a weeknight, as was the case with Viking Sigyn in Budapest. Traditionally, weekend cruise problems get more news coverage as there are fewer political and business happenings.
Plus, Opera was clearly a more visual story than the tragedy on the Danube, with many different videos from different angles showing the collision in sunny daylight. Almost immediately, it became one of the lead stories of the day in both the U.S. and Europe.
Thankfully, only a few people were injured (all on Uniworld) and not seriously.
By cruise industry standards, the 65,591-ton Opera, built in 2004, is relatively small for a so-called mega ship, but compared to its surroundings, it looked massive.
Many of those who were interviewed, always commenting after the stunning visual was displayed, expressed anti-cruise industry outrage: "We were told this could not happen in the canals of Venice and yet it did."
The impact of mass tourism in world destinations is a big topic, but in Venice it's perhaps more so than in any other city in the world. The AP writer in Europe told us, "It's a huge story because there's only one Venice. It's not that Budapest is not an international destination, but Venice has worldwide fame as a place to see."
Sadly, Venice is slowly sinking in any case, and the numbers of visitors by land are enormous. Historically, the Italian government has stuck by tourism companies, so despite a lot of rehashing in the media, little may change.
There were two other times the government was set to ban cruise ships from the city centre, and it never happened. That said, CLIA chairman Adam Goldstein of RCL has publicly come out in favour of "finding viable solutions to allow larger cruise ships to access the Maritime berths without transiting the Guidecca Canal."