For now, the ship's wreckage has been impounded by authorities and is surrounded by rescue workers, cleanup crews and scientists monitoring its stability on the rocky perch where it ran aground. Civil Protection, the agency running the rescue effort, says there is so much activity surrounding it that authorities don't see a risk of looting yet. It also says it plans to remove the wreckage before looters can reach it.
Authorities have passed a decree preventing anyone from coming within a nautical mile of the wreck, a ruling that will remain in effect as long as the huge liner is still in place, the Coast Guard said.
"The ship is being guarded 24 hours a day. It's not possible to even get close," said Lt. Massimo Maccheroni, a Coast Guard official.
Civil Protection director Franco Gabrielli says it could take seven to 10 months to remove the 950-foot-long (290 meter-long) ship once a contract is awarded for the job. Costa Crociere said in a statement Thursday that it expected to award a contract by the end of March.
But Marx, whose 64 books include "Treasure Lost at Sea," says that divers inevitably make a dash for sunken loot, even at great risk, and that they treat shipwrecks as a free-for-all.
He estimates it will take four to six months before a real treasure hunt starts — in part because divers will want to avoid the rough winter sea. Some divers will also be put off because the ship is still shifting on the reef it collided into and is considered unstable.
But soon, treasure hunters will go. "Bright-eyed divers will want to make a fortune," Marx said.
He said anything that is pulled up from this now-infamous ship will have value, noting that even coal brought up from the Titanic, which sank 100 years ago, found eager buyers.
"Even the dishes, the crockery inside that ship — that's going to be worth an absolute fortune," Marx said.
Reinhardt, the German lawyer, says his clients would love nothing more than to get back their cherished valuables. But at this point they are merely counting on a cash settlement.
"They would prefer to get their original stuff," he said. "But they don't have hope."