Costa Concordia crew members say playboy Captain treated liner as his own yacht
Costa Concordia skipper Francesco Schettino was a self-confessed playboy who strutted round the ship with stunning women on his arm, his crew claimed last night.
They said he treated the £390million cruise liner as if it was his own personal super-yacht and hosted lavish dinners for glamorous guests at his table.
He apparently loved being treated like a celebrity on the 13-storey liner, which capsized off the coast of Italy last Friday killing 11 passengers.
On the fateful night, passengers said Schettino strolled into the restaurant with two young beauties on his arm – one of them Moldovan ballerina Domnica Cemortan, 25. She has denied they were romantically linked.
A Filipino chef who worked on the Concordia said yesterday: “He had an amazing presence about him. Maybe it was the uniform, maybe it was his Italian looks, but whatever it was women fell for him instantly.
“He was always joking around with younger females on the ship, and of course with the women passengers.”
Another Filipino worker added: “He had women dining at his table with the other officers most nights. I never saw him drinking alcohol but it seemed like just being a captain gave him more of a buzz than getting drunk.”
Schettino – dubbed Captain Coward – was holed up inside his home yesterday waiting to find out if he will be charged with manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship.
Divers searching the Costa Concordia yesterday found the body of a 12th victim.
A woman’s body was found in the stern of the Concordia. It is believed she was discovered near the muster station where five other bodies were found this week, wearing lifejackets in forlorn hope of evacuation.
Italian Coast Guard Commander Cosimo Nicastro said the body, wearing a life jacket, was found in a narrow corridor near an evacuation staging point at the rear of the ship.
The skipper’s friends said he had been left a “broken man” and has privately vowed never to work on a ship again.
Friends were used to seeing him sail the world’s 15th biggest cruise liner – capable of carrying 4,300 passengers and crew – “like a Ferrari” and upsetting harbour masters with reckless manoeuvres.
At the beginning of each cruise, Schettino would parade on the stage of the ship’s auditorium along with his fellow officers. He gave a speech, praising his crew and promising a cruise to remember, before toasting his colleagues with a glass of champagne.
He would then walk off the stage and back on to the bridge of the liner. Staff said they were used to seeing Schettino, 52, wining and dining beautiful women most nights of the cruise.
His second “stage” was the lavish Concordia Club – a reservation-only fine dining restaurant. Situated on the top floor, it was the best place to eat and be seen.
Each night Schettino sat at the captain’s table with fellow officers and guests they wanted to join them. They were served the finest seafood, meat and decanters of Italian red wine.
He had been dining with Ms Cemortan on the night the Costa Concordia hit rocks.
She was a passenger rep but sources said she was also a regular guest on the ship when she was on holiday.
In an interview with an Italian newspaper yesterday, she said: “I’m not Captain Schettino’s lover.
“He was always showing everyone a picture of his daughter as a baby that he carries around with him. A man that wants a lover does not behave like that.”
On the night of the disaster off Giglio, Schettino was in high spirits. He was joined in the Concordia Club by his two female companions around 9pm, drawing envious glances from passengers and crew.
Italian prosecutors have no clue who the mystery brunette was and are keen to interview her.
Costa bosses confirmed the blonde companion was Ms Cemortan – who later admitted being on the bridge of the ship when Schettino desperately tried to save it from disaster.
A senior source said: “To be honest, nobody quite knows what Captain Schettino was up to in those last few hours.”
Satellite image shows the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia on its side
Italian couple Angelo Fabbri and Eleonora Rossi, who were dining nearby, assumed Ms Cemortan was Schettino’s daughter.
He said the pair sat down to a four-course meal of prawn cocktail, gorgonzola and asparagus risotto, grilled swordfish, dessert and wine.
Mr Fabbri added: “He seemed to me a bit of a braggart, in contrast with other cruise captains that we’ve travelled with.”
Schettino also held court in the Concordia’s cognac bar – one of 13 bars on the boat.
British passenger Ricky Muir, from Glasgow, said: “He was treated like a star and clearly loved it. ”
A senior Costa official added: “It’s clear the captain did a lot of socialising, he was well known for it.”
Back home in sleepy Meta di Sorrento, near Naples, Schettino’s wife Fabiola was the doting partner. But, according to friends, she feared what her husband was getting up to.
After studying at the Nino Bixio naval academy in Piano di Sorrento, Schettino started work for ferry firm Tirrenia in 1982 before moving to petrochemical giant Agip.
He finally got a job at Costa Cruises in 2002, first working as a safety officer before reaching the dizzying heights of captain four years later.
To some colleagues, he was seen as a “maverick”. Just last month, he left the port of Marseilles in 60 knot winds against the harbourmaster’s strict orders.
Back home, locals said he rarely socialises, preferring to spend the limited time he has ashore with Fabiola and daughter Rossella, 15.
They do not recognise the “Captain Coward” headlines, and refuse to castigate him. A banner left outside his home yesterday read “Comandante non molar” – “Captain, stay positive”.
According to locals, the “fly past” he performed close to Giglio is a tradition carried out for hundreds of years by ships off the Italian coast.
Yesterday dancer Rosalyn Rincon told how she was in a magician’s box as part of stage act for passengers when the vessel ran aground.
Rosalyn, 30, from Blackpool, had to free herself from the magic box in the dark after the lights went out, sustaining a cut on her leg.
She said: “I think it was amazing that we got that amount of people off that ship safe and sound.”
A British expat caught up in the disaster could launch legal action against the company that owns the stricken liner.
Sandra Rodgers, 62, who lives in Menorca, lost her late husband’s ashes as she and others struggled to get on to a lifeboat.
Mrs Rodgers, originally from Caergwrle, Chester said: “The evacuation was completely chaotic.”
She is among a number of people being represented by law firm Irwin Mitchell.