Saturday, January 14, 2012

Cruise Ship Disaster

A day before its port call at Palermo during a Western Mediterranean cruise, Costa Cruises' flagship, the Concordia, was abandoned off Elba, near the Tuscan coast, last night around the dinner hour following a lateral collision with a large reef. By daylight, more than half of the gigantic ship was submerged sidewise. At least three are reported dead, but most of the 4,229 passengers, including over 1,000 crew, were rescued. It is being reported that 40 or more were injured and dozens may be missing.

Reports state that the chaotic scene was dominated by panic, with most passengers crowding into lifeboats while a few jumped into the cold water to swim to shore, and the largely Asian crew fluent, for the most part, in English but not Italian; communication was difficult as almost half the passengers were Italians lacking any mastery of English. The passengers were from all over the world, many from Europe but some from as far away as Japan, Argentina and the United States. The captain, who abandoned ship before his passengers were evacuated (this is a crime in Italy), is being held by police. In 2008 the Concordia had a minor accident in the Port of Palermo when it scraped a pier during a storm.

At 290 metres (950 feet) in length, the Concordia, which was built in Italy in 2005 at a cost of 450 million euros, is a particularly large ship boasting seven restaurants, thirteen bars, four pools and even several "artificial beaches." The spa alone is the largest of any cruise ship, and the theatre holds a similar record. In fact, the Concordia is one of the largest civilian passenger vessels of European registry (Costa is owned by Carnival Cruise Lines, a British-American firm), with accommodation for 3,700 guests. It typically calls at Palermo at least a dozen times each year. That obviously won't be the case in 2012.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Beat the Heat (and crowds) - Sicily in Winter

The new year begins with a particularly "travel-oriented" issue of our online magazine.

Stefania Lanza's article lists great reasons for visiting Sicily during the cooler months of the "low season." Saving money is one reason, but austerity is back in style - even here in Italy.

Finally there's the long-awaited article on cooking classes in Sicily. This provides information on cooking lessons around Sicily in various settings. Bizarre as it may seem, very few online publishers have ever attempted such a list. The author, Roberta Gangi (herself a good cook), thinks that's because there's usually "self-interest" involved in promoting one cooking program over another. For transparency, we should mention that two of the cooks listed in her article do, in fact, advertise their cooking courses on Best of Sicily, but we have no connection whatsoever to the others.