Members of a Taiwanese tour group that had been aboard the the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia returned safely to Taiwan yesterday after the luxury liner ran aground off the Italian island of Giglio on Friday.
Travel agency Phoenix Tours yesterday said it would assist the 13 Taiwanese tourists who were on board the cruise ship in seeking compensation from the ship’s operator.
Anthony Liao (廖文澄), general manager of the travel agency, said 11 Taiwanese passengers that had been on the ship — 10 tourists and one tour guide — returned safely to Taiwan at about noon yesterday.
The group had arranged the 10-day cruise in the Mediterranean Sea through the agency, Liao said.
Two other Taiwanese tourists, who booked their plane tickets and cruise tickets with the agency, but were not traveling with the group, chose to stay in Italy and continue their vacation, Liao said.
After arriving at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, each tourist received a hongbao (a red envelope containing money), a Taiwanese custom that is believed to calm a victim’s fears.
In an interview with Formosa TV yesterday, two of the returning tourists described how they fled the sinking ship.
“We were last two people in our tour group to board the lifeboat, along with the ship’s crew. Our legs were too weak to move,” one said. “It was freezing and we did not have many clothes on.”
“I will never go a cruise ship again,” another said.
The tour guide said they could tell the ship was listing severely, but the ship’s captain simply told them that the electricity had gone out.
The guide said he was aboard the same ship last month and that the chances of such a large ship capsizing were extremely low.
Eight members of the tour group were newlyweds who were on their honeymoon.
Liao said the agency’s 10-day tour was scheduled to begin on Thursday and end on Saturday. Each customer paid about NT$160,000 for the trip, which covered both airfares and the cruise.
Liao said that each tourist would be compensated for their lost luggage and for delays, as such occurrences are all covered by the travel insurance the company bought for them before they embarked on the trip.
Regarding a refund from Costa Crociere, the owner of the ship, Liao said Tourism Bureau regulations stipulated that travel agencies should refund customers after deducting all necessary costs.
He estimated that each customer would receive at least NT$106,000, adding that the agency would do everything it could to help customers gain the maximum compensation.
“The situation is very chaotic at the moment,” Liao said. “There were more than 4,000 tourists on the ship and it will take the company some time to process the requests.”