One of the most dangerous activities you can participate in during a cruise is found only on Royal Caribbean's cruise ships. It's the "FlowRider," a simulated surfing and water-boarding activity where a thin stream of water shoots up a sloped platform to create a wave-like flow of water.
Wipe-outs are expected. But what is not expected are the serious, life-altering injuries and, sometimes, even death.
You can see one such serious accident in the video below, where a young man falls on his neck.
A considerable number of cruise passengers have been seriously injured on the Flowrider, which Royal Caribbean helped design and install on five of its cruise ships: one FlowRider on each of the Freedom class cruise ships (Freedom of the Seas, Independence of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas) and two on each of the Oasis class ships (Allure of he Seas and Oasis of the Seas).
You will read absolutely no warnings about the dangers of the FlowRider on Royal Caribbean's website. Nor will you see any warnings whatsoever posted around the FlowRiders on any of the cruise ships. Even after a passenger was killed when he fell while trying to surf, the cruise line decided not to warn cruise passengers that the activity is, well, deadly.
The cruise line's approach to the problem has been to require all passengers who participate in the activity to sign an electronic liability waiver. The process of scrolling through the electronic keypad in a long line is so quick that it's clear that no one reads the waiver. Moreover, the waiver is legally invalid. Earlier this year, the Eleventh Circuit Court of appeal struck down the Royal Caribbean waiver finding that it violated federal law (46 U.S.C 30509) which prohibits contract provisions that attempt to absolve a shipping company from its own negligence.
At the moment, Royal Caribbean has an illegal waiver, and still no warnings on-line or warnings posted around the FlowRider.
So what is the cruise line thinking?
Some people think that Royal Caribbean may be going back to the drawing board to try and draft a new waiver.
In a recent message thread on the website of the popular on-line cruise community Cruise Critic, there is discussion that the cruise line is working on creating a new and improved liability waiver - apparently for the purpose of trying to navigate around the statutory prohibition found in 46 U.S.C. 30509.
If that's true, the new waiver will be struck down too. It's too bad that the cruise line won't post warning signs on its website or on the seven FlowRiders on its cruise ships. There are lots of people who don't understand just how dangerous this activity is.
If Royal Caribbean is going to be the only cruise line promoting this dangerous activity, it needs to spend less time drafting illegal waivers and more time drafting effective warnings before the next unsuspecting passenger steps on a surf board and breaks his neck.