A Moldovan dancer who was on the bridge of Costa Concordia with captain Francesco Schettino has admitted she was his lover at his trial.

Domnica Cemortan testified that she was in a romantic relationship with the captain and was with him when the ship ran aground off the Italian coast in January 2012, killing 32 people.

Schettino faces multiple charges of manslaughter and abandoning ship.

On the night the ship ran aground, Cemortan had dinner with the captain before he invited her to join him on the bridge as he oversaw what was meant to be a close sail-past of the island of Giglio, the BBC reported.

She acknowledged in court after being pressed that they had been romantically involved.

She had boarded the ship as a non-paying passenger hours before the crash, she said, adding: “When you are someone’s lover, no-one asks you for a ticket.” She subsequently dismissed the remark as a joke to her translator.

Cemortan said she had worked for Costs Cruises for about three weeks in December 2011, and had met Schettino on a previous cruise.

After the ship hit the rocks, Cemortan said the captain urged her to “save herself”.

She told the court that she helped other passengers to abandon ship before getting into a lifeboat herself.

The court is expected to hear evidence from about 1,000 surviving passengers and crew during Captain Schettino’s trial.

In testimony earlier in the day, ship maitre d’ Antonello Tievoli told the court in Grossetto that he had asked the captain if he could sail close to the island of Giglio because he has family there, the news agency AP reported.

The captain obliged on January 6, but was apparently disappointed with the result, and ordered the ship’s helmsman to plot a closer route for next time.

A week later, the ship ran aground on rocks after veering too close to the island, with 3,206 passengers and 1,023 crew aboard.

The captain has acknowledged fault in the tragedy, but his defence team is arguing the ship sank in part because watertight doors did not function.

He also told the court in late September that his Indonesian helmsman was to blame for steering the ship onto rocks and ignoring orders to slow down.