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The Book of the Week is “S.O.S., Spirit of Survival, One Family’s Chilling Account of the Costa Concordia Disaster” by Dean, Georgia, Valerie, Debbie, and Cindy Ananias, published in 2013. This informative, suspenseful horror story is a must-read for all travelers who go on cruises.

“People were freaking out in various languages and everything was mass confusion.” Such was the situation on the Mediterranean cruise, Costa Concordia in mid-January 2012. The trip turned out to be not just a ruined vacation for the Ananias family– the parents and two of three grown daughters– but a series of life-threatening traumas and insult-to-injury indignities.

About four thousand people found themselves on a sinking cruise late at night. There were indications from the start of the trip, that the captain and crew of the ship were disorganized, negligent and sorely lacking in customer service training and emergency preparedness.

One circumstance (just one of many) that exacerbated the disaster, was that the ship was listing so precariously, lifeboats on one side of it were prevented from reaching the water by the laws of physics. After much exhausting effort, an attempt to lower the lifeboats failed, and hundreds of passengers already in them had to be lifted out of them only to fret about what to do next, how to get off the sinking ship.

In disasters such as this, life-threatening elements (such as which side of a listing ship will have operable lifeboats) are difficult to predict, but passengers can use ounces of prevention, and should, for the entire duration of the cruise.

The following are just some of the actions that can save lives in worst-case scenarios (if the parties involved are not too vain and don’t care how they look):

  • wearing one’s life jacket all the time (there weren’t enough life jackets for all the people on the Costa Concordia);
  • keeping tightly snug in one’s pockets– a packet in a waterproof holder containing: one’s travel documents, wallet-contents, contact info of one’s homeland’s embassy in all countries where the cruise might get shipwrecked, emergency-contact info of one’s family and friends, and (if one is American) contact info of major media outlets so that one can publicize one’s horror story while it is happening in order get maximum compensation from the cruise-line’s lawyers who are experts at defending against any and all legal challenges from anyone harmed by the cruise line’s activities;
  • keeping a flashlight tightly snug in one’s pocket all the time;
  • wearing sturdy, but lightweight and comfortably but snugly fitting shoes (not high heels) all the time;
  • carrying a sweatshirt tied around one’s neck or waist all the time– in case an evacuation takes hours in freezing weather; and
  • knowing how to swim before cruising.

Another step passengers can take to avoid losing valuable items, includes not bringing fancy jewelry or fancy clothing in the first place!

Read the book to learn: everything you ever wanted to know about what the authors went through during the cruise’s sinking, and their tips on how to avoid what they went through.