The 25-year-old Domnica Cemortan insisted Francesco Schettino and other crew members against allegations of a chaotic evacuation, insisting the team saved thousands of lives.

“He was always showing me photos of his daughter when she was little. A man who wants a lover doesn’t behave like that,” she said.

“He did a great thing, he saved over 3000 lives.”

The huge cruise ship, Costa Concordia, capsized last Friday night, killing at least 11 people, and there are 21 still missing.

Cemortan defended Schettino against accusations he acted improperly.

“I saw him there, before I managed to get off. He did not abandon ship before everyone else. He would not have done that.

“He knows what his duty is. He is one of the best captains in the company. He is very skillful and experienced when it comes to manoeuvring the ship in enclosed spaces, like harbours.”

Cemortan said when it became apparent the ship was in trouble, she was called to the bridge to translate instructions for passengers as she speaks several languages.

“All our colleagues made announcements in different languages because there was a problem with the electricity. It was very dark on the ship,” she told the Moldovan daily Adevarul.

“I stayed on the bridge in case the captain needed me to (translate) … there were about 20 more officers, cruise directors and the captain.”

Italian prosecutors allege 52-year-old Schettino, who is married, may have been distracted from his duties by trying to impress Cemortan.

He under house arrest, accused of skimming the liner close to land to give a “salute” and then abandoning his ship when hundreds of frantic passengers were still trapped on board.