Costa Allegra passengers return to Europe

2012-03-02 15:43

Rome - Scores of passengers from an Italian cruise ship stricken by a fire in the Indian Ocean returned on Friday to Rome, Paris and Vienna saying they were happy to put an unpleasant experience behind them.

Cruise operator Costa Crociere laid on the flights from the Seychelles for passengers who said they had had enough after four days stuck on a ship with no electricity, no working bathrooms, no air-conditioning and no engine power.

"It wouldn't have felt right continuing with this holiday, which has been ruined," one passenger, Jonathan, told reporters in Rome's Fiumicino airport.

"When we saw smoke there was panic, especially when the lights went off and we were left in the dark," said Jonathan, one of 36 people arriving in Rome.

A total of 114 passengers returned on the flights to Europe on Friday.

Costa Crociere said earlier that about 70% of the 627 passengers on the Costa Allegra had decided to stay on in the Seychelles for a holiday at the company's expense and all passengers would be reimbursed and compensated.

Unpleasant smell

Another passenger arriving in Rome, who declined to give his name, said: "After the Concordia we were afraid" - referring to the Costa Concordia, which crashed in Italy on January 13 in a tragedy that claimed 32 lives.

"They told us to go to the muster stations and stay there. We didn't know anything about what was happening. The lifeboats were ready," he said.

A third passenger in Rome said: "The worst thing was not being able to use the toilet. The ship was full of excrement in various parts and it stank."

At Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport one of the 43 bleary-eyed former passengers arriving on the Neos charter flight, Bernard Poirier, said tensions had been high on the ship, with arguments breaking out over supplies.

"People started fighting over a chair, it was everyone for themselves," he said. Others praised the crew for their professionalism in the crisis.

Thirty-five passengers arrived in Vienna, with many saying that while the trip had been "uncomfortable" there had been no real panic on board.

The Costa Allegra, which had a total of 1 049 people on board including the crew, arrived in the Seychelles on Thursday after being towed by a French deep sea fishing boat through pirate-infested waters of the Indian Ocean.

The ship had been due to arrive in the Seychelles on Tuesday.