Cruise line cancels Tunisian ports of call after attack
ROME (AP) — Italian cruise line Costa Crociere said Thursday it had canceled all upcoming stops in Tunisian ports, as the attack on the Bardo museum in Tunis began delivering an immediate economic hit to the country's tourism industry.
Costa, a unit of Miami-based Carnival Corp., had a group of passengers from its Fascinosa cruise ship in the Bardo when Wednesday's attack erupted. Five passengers were killed — four Italians and a Russian — and eight others were injured, Costa said in a statement.
Italy's foreign ministry confirmed Thursday that four Italians were among the 23 dead and several others were injured. Tunisian officials did not mention a Russian among those killed, and it was not immediately possible to reconcile the different claims.
The Fascinosa left port Thursday morning, bound for Spain's Palma de Mallorca, where passengers would be allowed to disembark and go home on Costa's tab if they want to cut short the cruise. Costa said it was suspending Tunisian stops for future Costa cruises.
"The security of our guests and crew is Costa Crociere's priority and a necessary condition for calm and pleasant vacations," it said.
Separately, Italy announced it was beefing up its military presence in the Mediterranean to better protect against extremist threats from both Libya and Tunisia. Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti said additional ships, aircraft and drones would be called up to protect off-shore oil rigs, maritime ships and provide surveillance.
One of Costa's employees has had a double dose of bad luck: Antonello Tonna, the Fascinosa's pianist, was also aboard the Costa Concordia when it slammed into rocks and capsized off Tuscany on Jan. 13, 2012, killing 32 people. The Concordia's captain was recently convicted of manslaughter and causing the wreck.
"After three years I decided to go back because I missed the ships," Tonna told RAI state television of his recent decision to return to playing at sea following the trauma of the Concordia disaster.
Tonna hadn't gone to the museum Wednesday. He was on board when his wife told him about the attack in a text message. He said he subsequently saw teary, shaken passengers returning to their cabins.
"We are hugging each other more," he said. "I have to say, there is a lot, a lot of solidarity."
Another Mediterranean-based cruise ship, MSC Splendida, also had passengers in town at the time of the attack. The MSC ship also left Tunis early Thursday, bound for Barcelona.
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