11 Taiwanese survivors of Mediterranean cruise ship disaster complete return home


TAIPEI–Eleven of 13 Taiwanese citizens aboard a cruise ship that capsized in the Mediterranean off the coast of Italy arrived in Taiwan Monday, with their travel agency promising to refund their costs and request compensation from the cruise company for their losses.

Some of the survivors broke into tears as they embraced family members who were waiting for their arrival at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. They all rejected invitations to be interviewed, but one of the survivors said briefly that it had been chaotic during the rescue operations.

The whole incident was so dramatic that it was like a scene from the film “Titanic,” said one of the tourists who still appeared to be in great shock.

According to Phoenix Tours, the company that organized the Mediterranean cruise package on the Costa Concordia, an Italian cruise ship, the group of returning travelers comprised of 10 tourists and their tour guide. The two other people, who used the company’s services to book berths for the cruise, were continuing their independent journey, it said.

The four honeymooning couples and two tourists over 70 were greeted at the airport by Liao Wen-cheng, the tour agency’s general manager.

Liao said the voyage on the Costa Concordia was scheduled for Jan. 12-21. Each member of the tour group had been charged NT$160,000 (US$5,332) for the cruise package, which included return flights and tickets for the ship.

However, the ship ran aground and capsized on Friday evening local time, three days after it had set sail, Liao said, promising that the company will follow the tour contract and refund each client the cost of the tour package after deducting necessary costs.

“Each person will get a refund of at least NT$106,000,” Liao said.

In addition, Phoenix will assist the travelers in seeking compensation from the cruise company, he added.

Thanks to Phoenix’s insurance policies that cover losses resulted from tour delay and luggage loss, the incident will not have a big financial impact on the company, Liao said.

According to the tour agency, the 114,500-ton Costa Concordia has a capacity of 4,200 people and is the largest ship owned by the Costa Cruisese cruise line. It was commissioned in 2006.

Five people of the 4,000 onboard have so far been confirmed dead, according to international media reports.