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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.

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Subsequent statements on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday quoted Arison, who has been in continuous contact with executives in Italy, but has not flown there himself.

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Arison, who also owns the Miami Heat NBA team, has written six messages on Twitter mentioning the tragedy, but Evan Nierman, founder of Florida public relations firm Red Banyan Group, said that was not enough.

"If he's the point person, I would want a constant flow of information - Twitter, Facebook, talking to reporters, letting them know what's going on. I would have him out there in a real way. He needs to be in front of cameras, he needs to be meeting with people, he needs to show that he's in charge of the situation."

A statement on Wednesday from Costa Cruises, owned by Carnival, said the Italian company commissioned salvage experts in the hours after the accident to draw up a plan to recover the fuel reserves from the ship before they leak into the water.

The ship's captain is being accused of causing the accident by steering too close to shore and then abandoning the vessel before the evacuation was complete. He was charged with multiple manslaughter and placed under house arrest on Tuesday.

Costa has said that in light of the accusations and continuing investigation, it would be inappropriate to comment further.

Regarding its safety procedures, a Carnival spokesman said the company is still waiting for further information from the investigation to understand the cause of the accident and that as the company finds out more, it will apply any lessons learned and update its procedures accordingly.

Still, Carnival's strategy could end up tarnishing its brand image, experts said, at a time that is crucial for the cruise industry, which is already grappling with a weak economy.

"This is the time, now through the end of March, when cruise bookings are at their highest. I would have thought you'd want to reassure travel agents, customers and partners (such as) airlines, hotels and car rentals agencies," said Stewart-Allen.

"There is a variety of stakeholders here who are really keen to feel reassured and I don't hear those messages," she added. (Reporting By Martinne Geller in New York; Editing by Steve Orlofsky, Andre Grenon, Gary Hill)

IN PICTURES: The sinking of the Costa Concordia

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