Local couple spent honeymoon on ill fated cruise ship

LOCAL honeymooners who enjoyed a week long cruise on the ill-fated Costa Concordia which ran aground last weekend, have been speaking about their meeting with the ship’s controversial Captain.

Wednesday, 25th January 2012, 8:48 am

Newlyweds Jolene and Gerrard McIlwaine sailed on the ship back in October for their honeymoon and while they were shocked to hear that the tragedy last Saturday night, they said they are not surprised at the accusations being made towards the ship’s Captain, after meeting him in person.

Captain Francesco Schettino is currently under arrest as reports claim that he abandoned the ship after it hit rocks metres from the island of Giglio, before many of his passengers had a chance to evacuate.

As part of their honeymoon the couple were invited to have the honour of meeting the Captain, however the pair were left unimpressed by Schettino’s attitude towards themselves and their fellow passengers.

Speaking to the Times, Jolene said: “When we met the Captain, he really wasn’t interested in speaking to any of us and I was unimpressed by his behaviours. Instead of having dinner with the invited couples, he spent the night standing at the bar talking to a blonde woman.

“It was clear that he didn’t want to meet any of us and only did so because it was one of his duties.

“You would think that he would even pretend to be interested in meeting you or at the very least be courteous to his own passengers but he didn’t even say hello, he just nodded when introduced to the guests.

“The Captain just stood at the bar chatting to a blonde woman, some passengers asked for a photograph and he begrudgingly agreed. They told us that his attitude annoyed them because they were made to feel that they were getting in his way.

“The running joke among passengers we spoke to was that he was a bit of a playboy, only interested in the female passengers and not us couples.”

Divers are still searching the stricken vessel for people listed as missing and are focusing primarily on the stern by the deck four restaurant muster station, the area is where several of the bodies recovered so far have been found.

As the couple watched the news unfold last week, Jolene said that their minds were cast back to the first night of their honeymoon when a safety drill was held. Jolene added: “They held a safety drill on our first night and it was a bit chaotic, the instructions are read out in so many languages and it took so long before it came around to say them in English. We had to stand for ages waiting for the instructions to explain what we had to do.

“We were sent back to our room for life jackets, we knew it was just a drill so we were quite calm but we both thought that if this had been a real emergency, it would have been a nightmare.

“The confusing layout of the ship must have been awful for those poor passengers on board, it is a huge ship. Even finding the lifeboats must have been incredibly difficult, we were there for a week and barely knew our way about the ship.

“I was glad they did the drill but I honestly thought there was no way this ship could ever sink.”

Costa Crociere, the owner of the luxury cruiser, said in a statement that it seemed that the captain had made “errors of judgment” and also acknowledged that emergency procedures had not been followed.

Prosecutors were investigating whether the captain, Francesco Schettino, had ordered the liner to sail close to the island of Giglio in order to sound a three-horn salute in what locals call an “inchino”, or reverent bow, to the inhabitants.

She said: “We heard the horn blowing on our last night’s and it was going past land at the time. When I heard the reports I honestly thought back and remembered him doing that and thinking how strange it was at the time.”

Despite their the couple enjoyed the week of luxury on board and said it was the perfect way to celebrate their honeymoon, she added: “The rest of the crew were fantastic, they made us feel welcome on board and it really was an incredible holiday. It was an amazing ship, it was my first ever cruise and when I came back I decided that I would only ever go on cruises because I enjoyed it that much.

“Then I heard the news last week and I couldn’t believe that it was the ship we were on that had ran into trouble. Our hearts go out to those poor people who have lost loved ones.”