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Costa Concordia owner offers refunds, but gets low marks for response

Costa Concordia survivors will get full refunds, plus travel and lodging costs covered. But Costa Concordia owner Carnival Corp. faces criticism for its handling of the tragedy.

By Martinne GellerReuters / January 19, 2012

Prayer vigil: Granddaughter Lexi Heil, center in pink shirt, stands with friends and family during a prayer service for Jerry and Barbara Heil in White Bear Lake Minn., Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012. The Heils are the only Americans unaccounted for after the Costa Concordia ran aground Friday near Tuscany, Italy.

(AP Photo/The Star Tribune, Kyndell Harkness)


Carnival Corp & plc, whose luxury liner Costa Concordia capsized off the coast of Italy last week, said it was providing lodging, refunds and other support to people affected by the accident, even as some public relations executives criticized the company's handling of the situation.

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"I give my personal assurance that we will take care of each and every one of our guests, crew and their families affected by this tragic event," Carnival Chief Executive Micky Arison said in a statement late on Wednesday - five days after the incident that left 11 people dead and 22 missing.

Costa Cruise Lines, a unit of  Miami-based Carnival and operator of the ship, has been arranging lodging and transportation for passengers and crew members to return home, and has offered assistance and counseling as needed. It has also begun refunding passengers their cruise fares and all costs incurred while on board.

IN PICTURES: The sinking of the Costa Concordia

The company - owned by  Carnival, the world’s largest cruise line operator – also said it was contacting every passenger and crew member or their family and will be addressing personal possessions lost on board.

For passengers that have tickets to sail on future Costa Concordia cruises, the company is offering a full refund plus a 30 percent cruise credit, The Washington Post reports.

Public relations experts have chastised Carnival for being slow to address the disaster and vague about its response and efforts to prevent similar incidents in the future.

On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being "outstanding," Carnival's public relations strategy in the immediate wake of the disaster gets a four, said Allyson Stewart-Allen, director of International Marketing Partners, a consulting firm.

"It wasn't quick, it wasn't specific, it wasn't reassuring," Stewart-Allen said, noting that Carnival's first statement, released on Saturday nearly 24 hours after the Costa Concordia liner struck rock causing it to capsize, did not quote a specific person.

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