Claims of sex, booze and drug abuse in Costa fleet

By Jonathan Brown, Michael Day

With the Costa Allegra safely in the Seychelles, the ship's owners have been hit by claims ships in the fleet, including the Costa Concordia, were hotbeds of sexual harassment, drinking and drug abuse.

Former Costa Cruises staff have claimed to prosecutors that drug and alcohol abuse, and the use of prostitutes, took place among crews aboard the company's liners, including the doomed Concordia, which crashed into rocks off the Italian coast in January with the loss of 32 lives.

Valentina B, who worked as a nurse aboard the Costa Atlantica vessel in January 2010, claimed she witnessed "corruption, drugs and prostitution". The vessel was then under the command of captain Francesco Schettino. He is under house arrest, suspected of multiple manslaughter and of abandoning ship before passengers after crashing the Concordia on January 13.

Another ex-employee, known as "Mery G", said: "I worked on the Costa Concordia in 2010 for only two months ... very often the officials and crew were drunk." She also claimed she was molested by a drugged crew member. She said she intended to sue the company.

The prosecutor who is leading the criminal probe into the Concordia disaster, Francesco Verusio, confirmed to the Independent that former employees had made the allegations, which were leaked to La Stampa newspaper.

But he added: "These particular claims were two among hundreds of others in which drug abuse and prostitution were not mentioned, so we don't know how much credence should be given to them."

In a statement, Costa Cruises said: "The possession or trade of narcotics on board is prohibited ... Costa crew are not allowed to consume alcohol in a quantity that may impair the capacity to perform onboard duties. In addition, the crew on guard must abstain from the use of alcoholic beverages at least four hours before the start of their shift."

Tests have shown that Schettino had not used drugs before the Concordia collision. Some witnesses say they saw him drinking but others dispute it. The reports came after passengers on another Costa cruise ship returned to dry land after 72 hours stuck aboard a powerless liner. Passengers from the Costa Allegra arrived in Port Victoria in the Seychelles on Thursday night after three days on a diet of bread and cold cuts, washing in mineral water and braving the stench of backed-up toilets. They were offered two weeks' rest and recuperation in the luxury Indian Ocean resort.

The ship's captain, Niccolo Alba, praised his 413 strong crew for their actions following a generator fire which left the ship powerless.

"They all followed my instructions to the letter, and they all behaved as great professionals," he said.

But some passengers disagreed. David Tinson from Headley Down, Hampshire, said: "They treated everyone like cattle, with absolute contempt."

Pam Morrey, from Stoke on Trent, who was celebrating her 60th birthday with the cruise, said it was lucky that there had been no serious problems. "No one was washing, everyone's hands were in the food, I'm staggered there wasn't an outbreak of dysentery."

But Austrian doctor Thomas Faller, 66, was more relaxed. "It was not dramatic. It was quiet. After [the fire was out] it was just boring."

- Independent

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