Ebola on the High Seas: Will the New Cruise Health Questionnaire Work?

The cruise industry finally instituted Ebola-specific protocols after the highly publicized incident yesterday when a healthcare worker from Dallas was discovered to be on a Carnival cruise to the Caribbean. 

TravelPulse published an article discussing the new protocols Cruise Industry Adopts Stricter Ebola Screenings.

Cruise lines like Carnival are finally asking cruise passengers whether they have come into contact with an Ebola patient or worked at a healthcare facility where such a person was treated, within the Cruise Ebolalast 21 days. Cruise lines are also finally inquiring whether the passengers have visited Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone within the last three weeks.  It was a glaring error not to have such a basic protocol before yesterday.    

But there is a problem with the questionnaire. It doesn't address what happens if a passenger checks "yes" to these questions.  

Obviously the questions are designed to bar the passenger and his companions from traveling on the cruise ship. The issue remains will the passenger's cruise fare and travel expenses be refunded? Will the cruise passengers receive a full cruise credit?

We know from norovirus cases that many cruise passengers, although they are symptomatic, refuse to disclose that they have a fever and a runny nose. They then get on the cruise ship and infect others. 

Many passengers are inherently selfish. They have planned the cruise far in advance. They have obtained vacation time from work and blocked a week of "family time." They have looked forward to the cruise for many months. They have flown or driven long distances to the cruise port at considerable expense. They realize that they will be barred from embarking and their vacation will be ruined if they provide full and complete answers about their health.  

Cruise lines are inherently selfish too. Although they collect literally billions and billions each year and pay no U.S. income tax, cruise lines are notoriously stringent in not permitting cruise vacationers to cancel if they experience last minute medical emergencies or even deaths in the family.  There is great debate about the need for travel insurance. The attitude toward people who don't purchase insurance and then suffer a medical problem is often "screw 'em." 

The result is that cruise passengers are often not honest about their health and the cruise lines are often unreasonable in not permitting their guests to reschedule and issue them a cruise credit.

So they sneak aboard, already infected with the nasty norovirus.

But unlike the noro bug, Ebola is deadly. The consequences of carrying Ebola aboard a cruise ship packed with 5,000 passengers and crew members is too great. 

The health questionnaire should include language which states that if you checked "yes" to any of the Ebola questions, don't worry. No you won't be able to cruise, but you are entitled to a full refund and your travel expenses will be refunded as well.  

Cruise Critic posted an article today about the new questionnaire. The articles states: "Notably, cruise lines rely on passengers and crew to provide honest and accurate answers in health screenings and on health questionnaires. CLIA said intentionally providing false or misleading answers is a criminal offense and is subject to prosecution."

Threatening cruise passengers with criminal prosecution is ridiculous. It's the wrong idea. First of all, there is no criminal law which applies and no prosecutor will ever take such a case. You can't scare a consumer into doing the right thing. 

Instead, the cruise industry has to anticipate that cruise passengers will be less than candid. Cruise lines need to provide an incentive by way of a refund. You can call it the "Ebola refund."

This will require a substantial change in the greedy attitude of the cruise industry. But it's absolutely necessary to prevent what happened yesterday on the Carnival Magic.Cruise Ebola Questionnaire

 

Cruise Industry is Completely Unprepared for Ebola Outbreak

A week ago, I went to Twitter and complained that the cruise industry had not issued an Ebola-specific protocol for the cruise lines to follow. The threat of Ebola was growing, but the cruise lines seemed asleep at the helm.  Neither the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) nor its CEO Christine Duffy had even mentioned Ebola.

I had received many inquiries from the public about whether it was safe to cruise. So I tweeted:      

"Passengers fearing #Ebola asking me whether its safe to #cruise / Why no statement byCruise Ebola Scare - Carnival @CruiseFacts or @CLIACEO?"

The popular cruise blog Cruise Hive (@CruiseHive) followed up on the issue and asked via Twitter about the cruise industry's protocols: "I asked the major cruise lines about their Ebola preparation but not one replied! Costa did but no details . . ."

I wrote a short article Ebola on the High Seas: Should Cruise Passengers Worry About Becoming Infected?

CLIA and its CEO didn't tweet or blog or post a story on Facebook about the threat. This is during the heart of the popular CLIA "Cruise Week" when travel agents are in a marketing frenzy to sell cruises. Better-not-scare-the-business-away seemed to be the attitude.

So today we learn that a Dallas health care worker who handled clinical specimens from Ebola-infected Thomas Duncan is on a Caribbean cruise aboard the Carnival Magic.  She apparently went ashore with other passengers in Roatan. When the cruise ship sailed to Belize, the government barred her from going ashore. The government of Belize and the U.S. State Department were in discussions to permit her to board an air ambulance and be flown back to the U.S. When Belize prudently refused, she was stuck on the ship, which sailed on to Cozumel which also barred the ship from port. The Magic is now returning to Texas.

Carnival calls this a "self quarantine." That's hardly true. The U.S. scrambled to fly a jet to medevac her back to Texas. Carnival negligently permitted her aboard in the first place and is not going to let her wander around the ship while she is still within the incubation period.        

Carnival didn't even have a questionnaire to ask passengers whether they had come into contact with an Ebola patient or had worked at a hospital or healthcare facility which treated such a patient in the last three weeks.

Certainly it was easily foreseeable that a nurse might drive down to Galveston for a cheap cruise on a Carnival fun ship.

The reality is that cruise ships are perfect petri dishes for diseases to flourish. 5,000 passengers and crew members are mashed together for a week on the Carnival Magic, using public restrooms and spooning food using the same ladle from gigantic buffets. No wonder in the last ten years we have seen ships plagued not only by outbreaks of gastrointestinal diseases, noro virus and e-coli, but measles & rubella, Legionnaires Disease, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and other infectious diseases.

It's outlandish that the cruise industry has no protocols specifically related to Ebola to keep hospital workers who worked around Ebola the heck off of cruise ships.  And if this lack of preparation is any indication, I shudder to think how ill prepared the cruise ships are to respond if an outbreak occurs.

This afternoon, ABC News published a photo taken by a Carnival Magic cruise passenger Jeremy Malone who saw 30 to 40 crew with buckets of disinfectant to deal with the Ebola scare. I think the photo says it all. No protective clothing, no protective boots, no protective masks, etc. Just tired, hard-working, low-paid Filipino crew members assigned yet another extra job without sufficient training or equipment.

Think that the cruise lines' slogan that the "health and safety of our guests is our highest priority" is true regarding Ebola? Think again.

Ebola Cruise Scare Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page. 

 Photo Credit:  Jeremy Malone via ABC News

Texas Hospital Worker Who Handled Ebola Samples is on the Carnival Magic

ABC News reports that a Dallas health care worker who handled clinical specimens from Ebola-infected Thomas Duncan is on a Caribbean cruise aboard the Carnival Magic.

The cruise line says that the female worker is allegedly being "self-quarantined" and is being monitored for signs of infection. She apparently has no symptoms yet. 

She departed on a cruise ship from Galveston, Texas, on October 12th was out of the country before being notified of active monitoring required by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). She works at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, which treated Mr. Duncan (who died) where nurses Carnival MagicNina Pham and Amber Vinson tested positive for Ebola.

The hospital is being roundly criticized for having sloppy and irresponsible procedures to respond to an Ebola patient.

Carnival released a statement, saying:

"We are in close contact with the CDC and at this time it has been determined that the appropriate course of action is to simply keep the guest in isolation on board." 

But there is a dispute whether Carnival had any choice but to keep the worker on the cruise ship. 

Belize (the port of call yesterday) banned the passenger and her traveling partner from entering the country. The ship has already stopped in Mahogany Bay, Honduras on Wednesday and is scheduled to sail on to Cozumel. 

A newspaper in Belize contains dramatic information indicating that the Prime Minister in Belize denied entry into Belize for the "stricken U.S. nationals to be air lifted to the U.S.A. for treatment." 

A news reporter in Belize quotes on her Facebook page an official source in Belize that after talks were concluded between Belize and the US State Department officials, Belize will not be permitting access of the Dallas hospital worker into the country to fly back to the states. 

So it seems unlikely that this case simply involves a situation where the woman is simply "self quarantining" as Carnival suggests. It appears more likely that efforts were unsuccessfully made to get her off of the cruise ship. 

Carnival Cruise EbolaThe cruise lines need to institute a protocol where they simply ask all passengers whether they have worked around an Ebola patient in the last three weeks. The cruise lines should prohibit them from cruising and refund their cruise fare. 

I have written about Ebola and the safety of the cruising public issue last week: Ebola on the High Seas: Should Cruise Passengers Worry About Becoming Infected?

Update: Carnival sent me a statement this morning which you can read here.  Meanwhile, Mexico bars the cruise ship from disembarking passengers.  Over two weeks ago, I was tweeting and asking why the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) had not issued Ebola-specific protocols. 

ABC News reports that the reaction on the Carnival cruise ships ranges from passengers being completely unfazed sitting by the pool to others being panicked and crying. The news accounts includes a photograph taken by cruise passenger Jeremy Malone who "saw 30 to 40 crew members with buckets of disinfectant who were lined up on along his hallway as they prepared to clean the ship . . . " It looks like these poor crew members not in protective suits were completely unprepared if this was really Ebola.

Carnival Cruise Ebola Scare

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Update: Cruise Industry is Completely Unprepared for Ebola Outbreak

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Thomas Doerfer Creative Commons 3.0 (top); Jeremy Malone via ABC News (bottom) 

Cruise Ship Law: Don't File Suit at the Last Minute in the Wrong Courthouse

Last week, the Third District Court of Appeal in Florida enforced the terms of a Royal Caribbean passenger ticket and dismissed a lawsuit filed at the last minute in the wrong courthouse.

The case was filed on behalf of a passenger against Royal Caribbean for personal injuries sustained in a cruise ship accident. The passenger hired a local law firm which filed suit a few days before the expiration of the one-year limitation period set forth in the ticket. But instead of filing in federal court as required by the terms of the ticket, her attorneys filed in state court in the Miami-Dade courthouse Roya; Caribbeanwhere most negligence cases can be pursued.

Royal Caribbean filed a motion to dismiss the case. The trial court denied the motion, and the cruise line appealed.

The appellate court reversed the trial court. The appellate court ruled that the cruise line had reasonably communicated the important terms and conditions of the ticket to the passenger before she boarded the cruise ship. The ticket stated in bold and capital letters that the ticket contained important terms and conditions, including a one year limitations period to file suit and a forum selection clause indicating that suit must be filed in United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

The appellate court held that it is irrelevant whether the passenger actually received or read the ticket contract, as long as the ticket contained conspicuous terms and conditions.  

The decision was consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc. v. Shute, 499 U.S. 585 (1991).  

The appellate court also ruled that Royal Caribbean had no obligation to remove the case to federal court after the lawsuit was mistakenly filed in the wrong state courthouse. Because of her counsel's error in filing suit in state court rather than federal court, and the running of the one year limitations period in the interim, the passenger was prohibited from filing suit against the cruise line in the right courthouse.

The only lawsuit the passenger can possibly pursue under these circumstances at this time is a legal malpractice claim against her attorneys.

Practice Tips for Passengers:

  • The cruise line must receive a written notice of your intention to seek compensation within six (6) months of your accident. Have your lawyer write the letter.
  • You must file your lawsuit within one (1) year of the accident.
  • The lawsuit must be filed in the location specified in your ticket.  Most cruise lines like Carnival, Celebrity, NCL and Royal Caribbean require that lawsuits be filed in federal court in Miami. 

Read the terms of your ticket!  The terms are legally enforceable.  

Have a comment?  Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Baldwin040 Creative commons 3.0

Ebola on the High Seas: Should Cruise Passengers Worry About Becoming Infected?

I have received a dozen inquiries in the last few days about the chances of contracting Ebola during a cruise. My thought is that the chance is slim that anyone is going to go on a cruise and return home infected with the virus.  But there are some issues that concern me.

For U.S. Travelers, Chances of Infection Are Slim at this Time

From what I have learned, it's very difficult to contract the the virus. A cruise passenger would first have to come into close personal contact with an infected person. The infection could come from contact with the infected victim's bodily fluids (blood, saliva, vomit, feces, urine, or semen) or through contaminated needles. This would first require travel to the affected countries in West Africa (Liberia, Cruise Ship EbolaSierra Leone, and Guinea) and then intimate contact with an Ebola victim.

So far, the only victim in the U.S. is Thomas Duncan who traveled to Dallas from Liberia and since died. There is a chance that the persons who he came into contact with could develop the disease, but the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is carefully monitoring the health of all persons who possibly could have come into contact with Mr. Duncan.  

Cruise lines are prudently avoiding ports in West Africa. Holland America Line, Seabourn Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Fred Olsen are dropping West African ports in Ghana, Gambia and Senegal. Princess Cruises is considering rerouting its 30-day "West Africa Adventure," according to the L.A. Times. 

Royal Caribbean does not call on any ports in West Africa, although ironically Royal Caribbean is incorporated in Liberia to avoid taxes and regulations.

Bloomberg says that the Ebola scare has lowered cruise stocks. Carnival's stock price fell 5.5 percent, NCL was down 2.8 percent, and Royal Caribbean fell 5.9 percent even though it doesn't sail near the affected (infected) area.

To my knowledge, there are no cruise lines which routinely hire from Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea. In fact, I have never met or even heard of crew members from these countries. I anticipate that if there are any crew members from these countries, they will not be be re-hired when they return home on vacation. Miami-based cruise lines enacted such hiring freezes on crew members from affected areas during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in the past.

But I'm Uncertain About the Future

There are some factors, though, that make me nervous about the future.

  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that as many as 1,400.000 people could be infected with Ebola by January 2015.  
  • The virus will get worse in the West African countries.
  • Experts predict the virus to appear in Europe within the month.
  • There are reports that Ebola can survive on surfaces for anywhere from a few hours to several days, depending on the type of surface, the temperature, and the amount of light. 
  • According to the CDC, the average time for symptoms of Ebola to appear is 8-10 days. 
  • Many travelers don't disclose illnesses either before or during their cruises because they don't want to be barred from the ship or confined to their cabin.   
  • Some employees don't report to the ship infirmary because they don't want to lose their tips.

My concern is that the outbreak will continue and expand. It has already reached Spain. Jacquie Kubin writes in her article Ebola: Lessons Learned from SARS, the Flu, and HIV / AIDS that there is a 75% probability that the virus will reach France by the end of October and a 50% chance that Ebola will migrate to the U.K.

If the virus reaches Europe so quickly, future cruise travelers and employees could become infected. If those infected are booked on cruises, it is foreseeable that an infected person will fail to disclose the early symptoms of Ebola (intentionally or simply because they doesn't know they have been infected) when they appear at the airport or terminal and then embark the aircraft or cruise ship.

We already know from noro virus cases, many cruise passengers are ill when they come to the cruise ship. Unfortunately, they sometimes lie to get on the ship, and they won't stay in their cabins even when they are infectious.

We also know from past experiences that some crew members report to work when they are ill, including food handlers. This is documented in the CDC literature.  

Cruise ships are not prepared to handle a situation with an infected Ebola victim aboard. Any crew Cruise Ship Ebolamembers called upon to clean up the vomit and diarrhea and other bodily fluids of a sick passenger would likely become infected. An infected chef or waiter shedding Ebola would be a disaster and could potentially infect hundreds of passengers.  

We have seen that cruise ships can easily be plagued by outbreaks of diseases which include not only gastrointestinal diseases, noro virus and e-coli, but measles & rubella, Legionnaires Disease, SARS and other infectious diseases.

Unlike noro virus which lasts a few days, Ebola is potentially deadly. The victim needs immediate and specialized treatment that a cruise ship can't provide. An Ebola outbreak on a cruise ship could result in deaths as well as a public relations disaster.

Stay Tuned and Hope for the Best

There currently is no vaccine for Ebola. Clinical trials are just starting.

For the next many months, cruise lines will consider West Africa to be a no-man's land. Until the disease is eradicated, the cruise lines must avoid the ports there. Cruise ships will continue sailing wide of West Africa until the coast is clear. Hopefully the virus will not spread to Europe and find its way onto cruise ships. 

October 17 2014 Update: Texas Hospital Worker Who Handled Ebola Samples is on the Carnival Magic

October 18 2014 Update: Cruise Industry is Completely Unprepared for Ebola Outbreak

 

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Read circular letter (No. 3484) about Ebola published by the International Maritime Organization.

Photo Credits: Top - Daily Times; Botton - CDC via AP

Propeller Woes Continue: HAL Cancels Third Consecutive Veendam Cruise

HAL Vendaam Holland America Line announced that it is cancelling the 7 night October 11th cruise of the Veendam from Quebec, Canada to Boston because of problems with one of the cruise ship's propellers. 

HAL has already cancelled the sailings on the Veendam for the September 28th and October 4th cruises to try and fix the propeller. 

The Veendam is going into dry-dock to complete the more extensive work necessary to effect the repairs. The company is not disclosing what exactly is wrong with the propeller except to refer to unspecified "technical problems."

USA TODAY published this statement from HAL:

"Repair work has been in progress to address a technical problem with one of the propellers on ms Veendam. As work has progressed alongside in Quebec, it has been determined that a complete repair can only be made in a dry-dock."

Passengers will receive a full refund and a cruise credit worth equal to the costs of the cruise. 

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Bahnfrend Creative Commons 3.0

California Court Dismisses Costa Concordia Lawsuit

Earlier this week, a federal district judge in California dismissed a lawsuit filed on behalf of two cruise passengers against Carnival arising out of the January 2012 Costa Concordia disaster, ruling that the case must be pursued in Italy where Costa Crociere is located.

The name of the lawsuit is Patricia Sandoval et al. v. Carnival Corporation et al., Case No. 2:12 CV 05517, filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California.

Judge Fernando M. Olguin applied the doctrine of forum non conveniens, where the courts determine Costa Concordia the appropriate location of lawsuits.

The Court concluded that the majority of the physical evidence and witnesses are located in Italy and the passengers can obtain an appropriate remedy in Italy. The decision is not surprising at all.  

The Costa cruise line is based in Italy where the company is incorporated.  Its principal place of business is in Genoa, Italy. It registers its ships like the Concordia in Italy. Much of the crew is Italian, including the captain, and cruise the ship departed from an Italian port and sank in Italian waters.  The Italian Coast Guard responded to the disaster and of course there is an Italian criminal trial which has been ongoing for year. The passenger ticket specifies Italy as the location where litigation must be pursued. 

Our firm advised Concordia passengers long ago not to waste time and money filing suit in the U.S. because their cases would likely be dismissed.  

We advised our clients to proceed directly to Italy and retain Italian lawyers to pursue compensation. Here is one of such articles, published back in January 2010: Are Lawyers Taking Costa Cruise Survivors Into Dangerous Legal Waters?

 

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Jean-Philippe Boulet Creative Commons 3.0

Measles On Alaska-Bound Cruise Ship

According to Alaska Business Monday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Anchorage Quarantine Station notified the Alaska Section of Epidemiology on September 11, 2014 of a "suspected measles (rubeola) case associated with the cruise industry."

The press release stated that "an adult crew member had recent contact with a confirmed measles case abroad, and subsequently developed classic clinical symptoms of measles on September 9 while onboard a ship in Alaska waters."

The patient apparently flew on international and domestic flights as well as cruise travel while infectious. The release says that "all cruise passengers will be informed of possible exposure directly Cruise Ship Measleswhile on board the ship."

The release downplays the chances of the crew member infecting someone who might have disembarked in Alaska. But there remains the possibility that the infected crew member may have infected passengers or other crew members (to the extent that they were not vaccinated) who could get off the ship either in Vancouver or Seattle, assuming this was a cruise which originated in these cities.   

The governmental agencies did not mention the name of the cruise ship, but claims that all cruise passenger who possibly could have been infected "will be" notified.

The report raises troubling issues.

Why would the governmental agencies keep the name of the cruise ship secret, except to avoid embarrassment to the cruise line? 

Have the cruise passengers (and crew) in fact been informed? 

If not, when will the passengers (and crew) be notified?

I'm asking the readers of Cruise Law News the following questions:

Has anyone been notified of the risk of being infected during a cruise to Alaska?

Does anyone know what cruise ships were in Alaskan waters on September 9th?

Measles outbreaks on a cruise are very serious. We reported on such an outbreak earlier this year - Measles Outbreak On Costa Pacifica Cruise Ship.

Have a thought?  Please leave a comment or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

September 16 2014 Update:  We received the following comments on our Facebook page:

"I just returned from a cruise to Alaska I was on the cruise ship the Pearl we were notified on Saturday that we may have been exposed to the measles.

"We were notified - the crew member was removed from the ship while we were at sea." 

NCL Cruise Measles

Graphic (top): www.gmanetwork.com

Cruise Safety: Be Prepared Before Things Go Wrong (Via Travel Channel)

The Travel Channel just posted a cruise safety video as part of it's Travel 911 series (be prepared before things go wrong on a cruise ship).

Its a very friendly sounding video that says that there's nothing better than a cruise, but bad things can happen on cruise ships.  

Here are some tips:

  • Bring anti-bacterial wipes and avoid public bathrooms. And check out which ships have high scores on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.
  • Attend muster station drills. They are mandatory before the ship sails and can be a life-saver.
  • Limit your drinks. The number one reported crime during cruises is sexual assault. The victims are usually intoxicated.
  • Don't flaunt your jewelry, handbags, or money. Yes, there are thefts during cruises.
  • Be extra-safe during shore excursions. Keep your cash and jewelry in the cabin safe and wear a traveler's pouch.   

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page. 

 

Carnival Reimburses Couple for Cruise After Kicking Them Off For Husband's "Minor Alzheimer Moment"

WTSP 10 in Tampa reports on a cruise where Carnival disembarked a couple in Cozumel from the Legend after the husband had a "minor Alzheimer's episode, leaving his stateroom alone at 4 a.m. for a cup of coffee."

Carnival personnel claim that they found the husband disoriented and the ship doctor declared him to be a danger to himself, so the ship disembarked the couple off the ship at the next port.   

But when the news station contacted Carnival, the cruise line "quickly admitted the situation was Carnival Legendmishandled" and reimbursed the cost of the cruise and the airfare home. 

Carnival claims that it initially provided a future credit for the unused days of the couple's cruise. However, given the "specialized circumstances" in this case, Carnival said that it was proceeding with a full refund for the unused days of the cruise as well as reimbursement for their flights home. 

The strange thing about the story is that neither the cruise line nor the passengers explained what the "specialized circumstances" were.

Cruise lines are legally entitled to remove a passenger from a cruise ship if the captain or ship physician determine that they present a risk to their own well-being or that of any other passenger or crew member. 

We have reported on cases similar to this before. It sounds like Carnival handled the situation better than Celebrity Cruises did when it kicked an elderly couple off the Millennium and abandoned them after the wife exhibited signs of dementia. 

Watch the video here.

Have a thought?  Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Robertsrules Creative commons 3.0

Senator Rockefeller: "It's Time to Bring Accountability to Cruise Industry"

Senator Rockefeller - Cruise Ship SafetyOn July 23rd, Senator John (Jay) Rockefeller convened a hearing regarding the “Cruise Passenger Protection Act (S.1340): Improving Consumer Protections for Cruise Passengers." We attended the hearing, together with our friend and former client, Laurie Dishman who testified about the way she was treated after being sexually assaulted during a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Senator Rockefeller released the following statement about the hearing:

"Imagine that you and your family are about to embark on a cruise vacation. Like millions of Americans, you’ve been looking forward to a fun-filled vacation that the cruise line has advertised as a “once in a lifetime experience."

Most of the time, the cruise line meets this expectation with a nice trip and safe return. But once in a while, things can go terribly wrong: ships catch fire, passengers fall overboard or get sick, crew members sexually assault passengers. Incidents like these are unfortunately also part of the cruise experience.

But unlike people who choose to vacation in the U.S., cruise ship passengers do not have immediate access to law enforcement even when they’re victims of crimes aboard ships. And if they should suffer a health emergency on a cruise, they could be hundreds of miles away from a health care facility that operates at U.S. standards. Despite these gaps in access to security and health care aboard cruise ships, the cruise industry has repeatedly assured the public that cruises are safe – though the facts I’ve uncovered as Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee tell a different story.

For many years, I’ve been working to bring more accountability to the cruise industry through rigorous oversight and better access to information for passengers. In March 2012, I held a Commerce Committee hearing on this issue after a series of safety incidents on cruise ships, most notably the Costa Concordia grounding in Italy that killed more than 30 people.

At this hearing, our witnesses raised concerns that the public was receiving incomplete information regarding alleged cruise crimes, which prompted me to launch another investigation into the cruise industry that focused on reporting of crime. In the meantime, I also reached out to the cruise lines again and asked them to explain how their safety procedures and security were effectively protecting passengers.

The results of the Committee’s investigation were alarming. We learned that hundreds of cruise crimes were not being publicly reported and, for those crimes that were being reported, consumers had no easy way of accessing this information. The Committee held another hearing to focus on this report and the challenges facing the cruise industry. At that hearing, I put cruise lines on notice that the safety and Laurie Dishman - Cruise Safety Hearingprotection of passengers must be their number one priority, whether they liked it or not.

Last week, after more months of meeting resistance from an industry reluctant to change its ways, I held another hearing of the Commerce Committee so we could hear first-hand from victims of incidents and crimes on cruise ships about how things have not changed. What they had to say was alarming.

One witness bravely recounted her 2006 rape on a cruise. What should have been a happy celebration of her birthday with her best friend turned into a tragic nightmare when she was raped by a cruise line security officer. Another one of our witnesses, a lawyer representing victims of cruise crime, described a violent attack on one of his clients – a teenage girl – who was raped by two other passengers. We also heard from a woman who told us the heartbreaking story of losing her mother after the mother suffered a medical emergency on a cruise ship. Our witness described in her testimony the horrific experience of desperately trying to seek help and medical attention for her mother, and the lack of access to medical equipment or speedy care. According to our witness, had she been able to access timely, effective medical care, her mother probably would have survived.

In addition, we heard from another victim who was a passenger last year aboard the Carnival Triumph. A fire in the ship’s engine room left passengers without electricity, water or access to a running toilet for days.

These witnesses further described the callous disregard the cruise industry showed after their harrowing experiences – from leaving one family stranded in a foreign country with no assistance during a medical emergency, to not preserving evidence that could have been used to help prosecute a rape victim’s attacker.

Sadly, their horrifying testimony is nothing new. And in spite of the evidence that crimes, fires, mechanical failures, drownings, and mishandled medical emergencies occur with disturbing regularity on cruise ships, the industry continues to deny it has a problem. Instead, the industry has reflexively fought all efforts to provide consumers more information about the risks of cruise ship vacations.

That’s where my legislation comes in. Last year, after witnessing the Costa Concordia tragedy, the Carnival Triumph debacle, and learning about the underreported number of crimes on cruise ships, I introduced the Cruise Passenger Protection Act of 2013.

This legislation would require that cruise lines publicly report all crimes aboard their ships; establish the Department of Transportation (DOT) as the lead agency for cruise passenger consumer protections; and, make it easier for consumers to report complaints about problems on cruise ships. I have also proposed simplifying ticket contracts and establishing an advisory committee at DOT to help give passengers a voice in how the cruise lines operate.

Consumers already have similar protections if they travel in airplanes or by rail, so it only makes sense that these protections are extended to cruise ships and the cruise industry. We also know from the testimony we heard last week that consumers need these protections.

So it is my hope that the cruise industry was paying attention, and that it is finally considering how to improve protections for their customers so no one has to experience what our witnesses experienced. As I said during the hearing, the time to act is now, and I will continue pushing to make cruising safer for all families."

 

Article credit: Independent Herald

Engine Problem Forces Grand Princess to Return to Seattle

KIRO TV reports that the Grand Princess cruise ship experienced a problem with one of its engines and was required to return to port in Seattle for almost four hours.

The U.S. Coast Guard said that a port-side engine "died" on the cruise ship around 4:50 PM after the the ship left Seattle heading on an Alaskan cruise. 

KING 5 news station says that a tug had to assist the ship back to port.

Grand Princess

The cruise ship has two shafts and two fixed propellers.

Princess Cruises spokesperson Julie Benson said in a prepared statement:

“Grand Princess has returned to the Port of Seattle, in consultation with the U.S. Coast Guard, following an earlier issue with one of the ship's motors. At no time was guest safety impacted as the ship had propulsion and steering control. As a precaution the ship is returning to port for a safety check and we hope to depart again later this evening. We will keep passengers fully informed.”

The KIRO television station reports that Ms. Benson also said "several similar incidents" have happened with Grand Princess before.

A passenger, identified as David Meers, was critical of the cruise line's lack of communications. He reportedly said “thirty or forty minutes into the cruise, the ship listed to one side. Shortly after that, we turned around. We started asking the crew members what happened, and nobody seemed to know anything.” 

It was 40 minutes after turning around that the captain announced there was a propulsion alarm that required them to go back to Seattle. For the next 4 hours, the passenger said there was little communication at all, about any possible changes to their itinerary or whether customers would be compensated for the delay. He said “it certainly left a lot of confusion, among the folks that we were asking. And most of the passengers around us were also very confused.” 

To Princess' credit, the cruise line communicated with this passenger via Twitter saying: @DavidMeers Hi David, we apologize for the delayed start to your vacation (1/2) and later @DavidMeers Grand Princess is returning to port for an inspection due to a technical issue, and we hope to depart later this evening (2/2).

After the unspecified repairs, the cruise ship left Seattle around 10 PM. 

The passenger's last tweet?  @PrincessCruises Glad it wasn't more serious. All is well that ends well. Enjoyed the beautiful Seattle skyline again.

The mechanical problem seems to have been fixed with the ship sailing at 22 knots to Alaska.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Ivan T. 

Cruise Ship Safety Hearing: Senator Rockefeller Demands Accountability From Cruise Lines

At the hearing today before Senator John (Jay) Rockefeller regarding the “Cruise Passenger Protection Act (S.1340): Improving Consumer Protections for Cruise Passengers," three women told the committee their horrific experiences on cruise ships.

All of their accounts involve the common theme of a lack of basic consumer protections. Laurie Dishman was a victim of rape, Amanda Butler's mother experienced medical neglect leading to her death, and Kimberly Ware travel led aboard the carnival Triumph that suffered a complete power loss. 

Chairman Rockefeller has explained the purpose of the hearing as follows: “This hearing – along with the other hearings and inquiries I have made into the cruise industry since I have been Chairman of this Committee – are about one thing, accountability. When it comes to the cruise industry, we have been doing our job, while the industry has not. We have held hearings, we have analyzed the data, and we Cruise Ship Safety Hearinghave talked to many different people with experience in this industry. This oversight has led us very clearly to the conclusion that we have to act and pass legislation to better protect consumers. No other passengers should have to suffer when there are basic steps that can and should be taken to protect their safety and health.”

Laurie Dishman (testimony here) was a victim of a violent rape aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship (photo right with her father, Bill Dishman).

Although she was strangled (with ligature marks left around her neck) and the rapist impacted her tampon while assaulting her, the FBI quickly ended its limited investigation the same day that the cruise ship returned to port. The cruise line acted outrageously after the rape, sending officers into the cabin who sat on the bed where the rape occurred and the ship doctor handed her garbage bags and instructed her to return to the crime scene and collect evidence.

Amanda Butler's (testimony here) mother was a victim of medical neglect aboard the Carnival Conquest. It took Carnival 15 minutes to send a nurse to the scene but she arrived without a defibrillator. The medical center was closed and it took additional time to open the infirmary. The Butler family flew Ms. Butler to a trauma center via a private jet but she died two weeks later. You can read an interview with Amanda here

Ms. Butler explained at the hearing that Carnival sued her family for the $1,200 in medical expenses charged for the negligent medical care.

Kim Ware (testimony here) was a passenger aboard the ill-fated Carnival Triumph. Although a long time cruiser, she had no idea of the onerous terms, limitations, and disclaimers buried in the cruise ticket when the engine room ignited and the cruise ship lost power and drifted in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. 

There is evidence that things have gotten worse for crime and medical malpractice victims on cruise ships over the years.  Ms. Dishman's testimony revealed that:

  • There is substantial under-reporting of crimes on cruise ships. For example, in 2011, there were 563 alleged crimes reported by the cruise lines but only 105 publicly disclosed.
  • Few cruise ship crimes are investigated and prosecuted. In 2012, the FBI opened only 18 cases and there were only 4 convictions.
  • The cruise lines do not disclose when a crime involves a minor.  There are sexual predators (both passengers and crew members) on cruise ships. Passengers deserve to know if children have been sexually abused in child daycare centers and in their cabins on prior cruises.
  • The medical care on cruise ships is often substandard. Cruise lines try to isolate themselves when they main or kill passengers through incompetent doctors and bad medical care. Most cruise lines claim that ship doctors are “independent contractors” for whom they are not liable. Few consumers understand this, until it is too late.
  • The cruise ship passenger tickets, drafted by cruise line defense lawyers, are one-sided, unfair and entirely anti-consumer and pro-cruise line.

To address these concerns, Chairman Rockefeller introduced the Cruise Passenger Protection Act. The proposed law will improve consumer protections by establishing the Department of Transportation (DOT) as the lead federal agency for cruise ship passenger protections. The bill will require the DOT to set standards for providing consumers with a clear language describing the passenger's rights in the cruise ticket. The bill will also establish a consumer website, provide the DOT the authority to investigate complaints, and create an advisory committee for passenger consumer protection.

The bill will further help consumers by requiring accurate crime data to be published by cruise lines on an internet database. The cruise line will have to reveal whether the victims is a minor. The legislation will strengthen requirements for surveillance cameras public areas and establish requirements for the retention of surveillance videos. The bill will establish a victim advocate to assist the victim, and help the victim understand her rights. 

It's about time that Congress passed a bill like this. 

Bad Medical Care, Lack of Accountability, Plague Cruise Industry

One of the dangers which cruise passengers face is incompetent medical care provided by non-U.S. doctors and nurses. And when these go wrong in the high seas, most cruise passengers don't realize that the cruise lines are not legally responsible for the malpractice of the cruise ship medical team. 

One of our ten most outrageous cruise stories last year focused on the extraordinary steps the cruise lines take to avoid responsibility when cruise ship doctors maim or kill cruise passengers. I also suggest reading: If The Ship Doctor Kills You, Too Bad.

Tomorrow at the Senate hearing on cruise safety there will testimony that it took 15 minutes before cruise ship medical employees arrived after Armada Butler's 51 year old mother collapsed during a Carnival Conquestcruise aboard the Carnival Conquest. In a NBC Channel 6 interview, Amanda said it took even longer to get inside the closed medical facility on the ship where the defibrillator was located.

The family flew Ms. Butler from the Cayman Islands (where she was medically disembarked) to the Ryder Trauma Center in Miami via private jet, but she died two weeks later

Local cruise celebrity Stewart Chiron defended the industry, telling NBC 6 "It looks like in some cases, persons are upset about certain responses . . . but you see the same types in complaints on shore."

But unlike shore-side cases where doctors commit malpractice, the cruise lines are largely immune from legal liability arising out of the malpractice of the cruise ship doctors. Without legal and financial consequences, cruise lines like Carnival have little incentive to voluntarily invest in better medical facilities or more experienced and trained doctors and nurses.

Tomorrow Amanda Butler will discuss the circumstances surrounding her mother's death at the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing titled “The Cruise Passenger Protection Act (S.1340): Improving Consumer Protections for Cruise Passengers.”

The hearing will take place tomorrow, Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 2:45 p.m. at the 253 Russell Senate Office Building in Washington D.C.

The hearing will be webcast live via the Senate Commerce Committee website. Be sure to click on the link and watch the hearing.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Derek Kastner

 

 

Senator Rockefeller Announces Witness List for Hearing to Examine Cruise Passenger Safety

This afternoon, Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, announced the witness list for its Full Committee hearing this Wednesday, July 23, 2014, at 2:45 p.m. titled “The Cruise Passenger Protection Act (S.1340): Improving Consumer Protections for Cruise Passengers.”

Date: Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Hearing Start Time: 2:45 p.m.
Senator Rockefeller Cruise Hearing Location: 253 Russell Senate Office Building

There are three cruise ship victims who will be testifying Laurie DishmanAmanda Butler and Kimberly Ware.

The hearing will address sexual assaults, unsafe conditions and sub-standard medical care aboard cruise ships. 

The hearing will be webcast live via the Senate Commerce Committee website.

Click on the website 10 minutes prior to the hearing. The comments by Senator Rockefeller and other senators, the victims testimony, and questions and answers will be streaming live.

I will be attending the hearing on Wednesday in support of my friend and former client Laurie Dishman. 

last year I attended the hearing before Senator Rockefeller with my youngest son, John. (See photo). This year I will be attending with my oldest son, Madison. 

Senator Rockefeller Convenes Another Hearing to Protect Cruise Passengers

Senator John D. Rockefeller has scheduled another hearing to address legislation designed to protect cruise passengers. The hearing is scheduled for next week.

The hearing is scheduled for July 23, 2014 at 2:30 PM before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation in 253 Russell Senate Office Building in Washington D.C. (Some media sources erroneously report the hearing is scheduled for July 22nd).  

The hearing is titled “The Cruise Passenger Protection Act: Improving Consumer Protections for Senator Rockefeller Cruise CrimeCruise Passengers.” 

Senator Rockefeller has presided over hearings about the cruise lines in 2012 and 2013 following the Costa Concordia disaster and the Carnival Triumph fiasco. We attended both hearings. You can read our coverage of the hearings in our prior articles:

Senate Hearing on Cruise Industry Accountability Reveals Less Than 3% of Cruise Ship Crimes are Revealed to the Public

Senator Rockefeller Blasts Cruise Industry: "You Are A World Unto Yourselves"

Senator Rockefeller introduced the Cruise Passenger Protection Act on July 23, 2013, in order to involve the Department of Transportation into overseeing the cruise industry and to provide greater protection to cruise consumers. The Senator announced that he intended to “close gaps in cruise industry consumer awareness and crime reporting."

At the last hearing, the cruise lines promised to voluntarily disclose crimes which occur on cruise ships, in response to Senator Rockefeller's request for transparency by the cruise industry. The cruise lines announced this last minute measure to stave off legislation. Unfortunately, Royal Caribbean and other cruise lines has refused to disclose all crimes against its crew members and guests over the course of the last year. 

Carnival has been particularly sneaky. It lumps crimes on all of its cruise ships (Carnival, Cunard, Holland America Line, etc.) into one category.  By doing so, it is impossible for consumers to learn how many crimes occur on which ships or even which brands. This is an effort to trick the public from not realizing that by far most crimes occur on Carnival ships.

The cruise lines have failed to re-write their passenger contracts to provide consumers with certain consumer protections that they promised to Senator Rockefeller that they would provide to the public. There is a big difference between what the cruise lines are telling the Senators at these hearings and what their defense lawyers are trying to enforce in a court of law.

Senator Rockefeller has rightfully pointed out that the cruise lines pay no federal U.S. taxes but rely heavily on the federal agencies to conduct their business.   

Don't forget to read: Senator Rockefeller to Cruise Lines: You Can't Operate for Free in the U.S.

 

Photo Credit:  Jim Walker

Propulsion Problems Plague Celebrity Silhouette

Celebrity Silhouette Cruise Critic reports that a unspecified propulsion problem is slowing the Celebrity Silhouette down, causing it to shorten time spent in certain port of calls.

Celebrity does not specify the nature of the problem or indicate when the problem will be fixed.

A Celebrity Cruises spokeswoman provides this gobbledygook explanation: the "slight restriction" on the ship's top speed "is due to a portion of the propulsion system operating at less than optimal efficiency."

The Celebrity Reflection was recently delayed in Civitavecchia due to unspecified mechanical problems. Celebrity was secret about that problem.

A Celebrity cruise ship was delayed in port was last December when the Celebrity Constellation suffered an engine problem in Key West.  

Anyone know what's the problem with the Silhouette?

 

Photo Credit: Wikepedia / Kyle.died.rich

Celebrity Reflection Delayed in Civitavecchia Due to Unspecified Mechanical Problems

Over the weekend, we received word from a cruise passenger aboard a Celebrity cruise ship, the Reflection, that the ship was forced to stay overnight in Civitavecchia (Rome) due to unspecified mechanical problems.

The cruise line reportedly refused to disclose the nature of the problem to passengers on the ship.

The Reflection was delayed in port overnight in Italy until July 5th at 3 p.m. 

 Celebrity ReflectionThe passengers missed the next port of call in Messina, Italy.

The ship is sailing to Piraeus, Greece, where it is will arrive today. Its sounds like everything is going well at this point. The passengers were scheduled for a 10 day cruise. 

Celebrity reportedly provided a onboard credit of $200 a cabin plus an additional $50 credit for the third and fourth passengers. 

The last time we wrote about a Celebrity cruise ship delayed in port was last December when the Celebrity Constellation suffered an engine problem in Key West

Does anyone know what type of mechanical problem the Reflection was experiencing and what type of repairs took place?

Mega Ship Disasters, Risky Shore Excursions & Other Ways to Become Seriously Injured (or Worse) on a Cruise Ship

Thomas Dickerson Cruise Passenger RightsAnyone and everyone who practices maritime law involving cruise ships knows Judge Thomas Dickerson. 

For years he has written the definitive collection of law cases involving what can go wrong on cruise ships and during international vacations.

My alma mater Tulane School of Law just published one of his amazing articles entitled The Cruise Passenger’s Rights and Remedies 2014: The COSTA CONCORDIA Disaster: One Year Later, Many More Incidents Both on Board Megaships and During Risky Shore Excursions

Our blog is often criticized by cruise fans who claim that we are focusing (unfairly) on all of the bad things that happen on cruise ships on the high seas. Actually, we are just touching upon the tip of the iceberg.

After reading Judge Dickerson's law review article you can begin to understand the extent of what can go wrong on what should be a fun, relaxing family vacation.  

You can also appreciate how the cruise industry has severely limited your rights.  

Near Death Experience Aboard the Independence of the Seas: When Will Royal Caribbean Hire Lifeguards?

Four days ago, we discussed the near drowning of a six year old boy whose heart had stopped when he was found on the bottom of a swimming pool on the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas.

People contacting us say the boy slipped and struck his head. Other children reportedly pulled the unconscious boy from the pool. Royal Caribbean was not supervising the Royal Caribbean pool. 

Royal Caribbean, like Carnival and NCL, has no lifeguards assigned to its pools. Only Disney takes the responsible step of employing lifeguards on cruise ships.

Independence of the Seas Pool - LifeguardI have written at length about these type of situations.

Saving children's lives requires the joint efforts of the parents and the cruise line. Parents must obviously supervise their children, and the cruise line must supervise their pools.  If the pools are intended for adults only, then there must be cruise employees at the pools enforcing that rule as well as any other rules such as "no children," "no running on the pool decks" or "no horseplay." 

Contrary to what many people believe, a "no lifeguard" or "swim at your own risk" sign, without more, is legally insufficient to exculpate the cruise ship from liability.

Disney used to rely on "no lifeguard" signs, but after the near drowning death last year of a child who was rendered severely brain damaged and needs expensive lifetime care, the Magical Cruise Line now employees lifeguards throughout its fleet. It took only one prior incident for Disney to throw away the "no lifeguard" signs and do the right thing by assigning ship employees to the pools.

Today we were notified that a similar incident occurred previously on the Independence of the Seas. A concerned parents told us: 

"The same happened to my daughter, six years ago, who was age six at the time, on the Independence of the Seas. We had gone with large group of family and friends and it was our first full day at sea. All the kids were so excited and it was our first cruise so we didn't really know the rules or anything about the ship. The kids were running around on the children's area where the water fountains were, this area was a water area for kids, however, in the same area was a pool, which was really deep water, we had no idea and this is where my daughter jumped in, after following her cousin, who was eight months older than her and could swim a little. The pool was six feet deep, we checked afterwards and this was the deepest pool on the ship, even deeper than the adults pool, why this was put next to the kids area, I have no idea. My daughter could not swim and panicked, she tried alerting her cousin who tried to help but as she was so small too, she nearly pulled her down.

It was only by chance that my sister was walking past to go back to her room that she spotted them and had to jump in fully clothed to save her. We were only yards away but as this pool was right in the middle of area we couldn't see them."

It's easy to blame parents whenever they let their guard down for a minute. But its entirely foreseeable and predictable that parents, especially parents on vacation, will make mistakes - perhaps only for a few precious seconds.

Ignoring a prior similar incident when a child nearly drowns is a dangerous proposition for a cruise line. A prior incident provides "notice" of the danger and requires the cruise line to take corrective measures to prevent similar injuries or fatalities from occurring.

Putting away legal issues of liability, the best way to protect kids is to have the parents supervise the kids and the cruise line supervise the pools. 

That's why a responsible cruise line (so far only Disney) employs lifeguard to supervise the pools. 

How many other incidents will it take before Royal Caribbean does the right thing and hires lifeguards?

Near Drowning Aboard Independence of the Seas: Six Year Old Boy Fighting for Life in French Hospital

BBC News reports that a six year old boy was pulled from a swimming pool on the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas yesterday. 

The AFP news agency says that the child's heart had stopped when he was found in the cruise ship pool.

BBC says that the cruise ship's doctor was able to re-start the boy's heart. The cruise line then requested that the boy be taken for emergency medical treatment ashore in northwest France by Independence of the Seas Swimming Poolhelicopter. 

A spokesman for a maritime agency in Brest, France said that the "child was found in a state of cardio-respiratory arrest at the bottom of the ship's pool."

This incident will be certain to trigger another debate whether cruise lines should staff their swimming pools with lifeguards. 

In the last year, four children six years of age or younger have drown or nearly drown on the major cruise lines, Disney, Carnival and Norwegian Cruise Lines. None of these ships had lifeguards assigned to their pools at the time. 

A 4 year child remains brain damaged after he nearly drowned on a Disney cruise ship, the Fantasy, in March of last year.  A 6 year old child is dead after drowning on a Carnival cruise ship, the Victory, in October of last year. A 4 year old is dead and his 6 year old brother is injured after similar tragedies on NCL's Norwegian Breakaway, last February.

In our view, there is no excuse not to assign lifeguards to cruise ship pools. The costs is minimal and the need is substantial.  Yes, parents need to supervise their children but cruise lines need to exercise their corporate responsibility to supervise the pools, enforce pool rules, and be ready to perform CPR if necessary.

Here are two of our many articles on the issue:

Imperfect Parents & Corporate Irresponsibility: Why No Lifeguards?

Dangerous Disney Cruise Ship Swimming Pool: Thoughts from a Concerned Cruiser

Disney is now the only cruise line which employs lifeguards, after the near-fatality last year. 

Have a thought?  Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Jolly Janner

Consumer Reports: Don't Get Sick on a Cruise

Cruise Ship Medical FacilitiesA news station in California KFSN (ABC) channel 30 reports that being ill with norovirus or in a medical emergency presents challenges when you are "days from the nearest port, on a ship without diagnostic equipment like an MRI machine, a blood bank or even specialty doctors."

According to a Consumer affairs medical doctor, although many passengers may believe that they are boarding a "floating hospital," a cruise ship is more like a "floating hotel with a doctor at hand."  

She says "think twice about traveling with a chronic medical condition.

The Coast Guard can't always launch a rescue, if the seas are rough or the ship is too far from land. Next, know that most prescription drugs are not available on a cruise ship. Always travel with an extra supply of all medications."

The Consumer Affairs medical team also warns that medical care aboard a cruise ship costs a premium.

Cruise ships don't accept medical insurance so consider purchasing travel insurance from an independent company. .

Passenger Medevaced From Majesty of the Seas

Majesty of the Seas Injury Accident Local Miami news station WSVN channel 7 reports this morning that Miami Fire Rescue medevaced a Royal Caribbean cruise ship passenger who sustained a serious head injury. The medevaced occurred last night. 

The medical evacuation occurred on the Majesty of the Seas cruise ship. WSVN says that the passenger suffered the injury while the cruise ship was approximately four miles from the port of Miami. 

The video shows the cruise ship passenger being transferred from the Majesty through an open crew entrance into the Miami Fire Rescue rescue vessel. These type of transfers are dangerous. Passengers have been dropped into the sea during the transfers if they are done incorrectly. You can see a terrifying botched passenger rescue here.

The Fire Rescue then returned to port and the passenger was taken for emergency medical treatment at Mercy Hospital. 

The video also shows cruise passengers who witnessed the event cheering and applauding the paramedics.

Update: A local CBS news station reports that the passenger is a 32 year old Swedish citizen. A spokesperson for the cruise line said that the passenger was first treated in the medical facility on the Majesty of the Seas ship on Tuesday but on Wednesday the passenger required “additional and urgent medical attention.” 

 

WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

Costa Deliziosa Loses Power in Valenzia

SeaTrade Insider reports that the Costa Deliziosa cruise ship suffered a power failure and blackout in Valencia, Spain yesterday which shut down the ship's electrical systems. After a few hours, the engineers were able to restore power and essential services. However, the cruise ship will not try to sail back to Italy. Costa stated that the cruise ship will remain in port until the cause of the outage is identified and corrected. 

Costa is apparently arranging for charter flights to return the passengers to Rome. 

Costa Deliziosa Cruise ShipLate today Costa told cruise passengers scheduled to sail on a 13-night Eastern Mediterranean cruise from Civitavecchia (Rome), leaving tomorrow, that the cruise is canceled.

Of course there are thousands of people who are currently flying to Rome thinking that they will board the cruise ship, which remains in Spain.

Cruise Critic mentions that the passengers on the current, abandoned cruise will receive a 50 percent refund on the cruise fare and a 100 euros of onboard credit per passenger as compensation. A couple on the Cruise Critic message board says that for the canceled May 29th cruise, Costa offered either a 50% refund and another cruise or a full refund and 250 euro voucher each to be used before the end of the year.

Although a cruise ship going out of service unexpectedly at the last minute is a major inconvenience for the passengers, it is a real hardship for the crew members who earn tips. They will receive no income for the next two weeks.

The Deliziosa is four years old, and is owned by Carnival Corporation.

May 21 2014 Update: Members of Cruise Critic are saying that: "instead of the 21st, their departure from Savona will be on the 23rd, therefore the cruise will now be instead of 13 days only 11 days
(they will get a new itinerary later). Because of that they will get a refund of 25 % and 100 Euro bord account."

Pullmantur Cruises' Sovereign Suffers Major Engine Problems

Newspapers in Europe are reporting that the former Royal Caribbean Sovereign of the Seas suffered an engine failure on one of its two main engines on May 10th while sailing from Barcelona to Tunis. It then limped instead to Naples for repairs.

Its current owner/operator, Pullmantur Cruises, attempted to repair the cruise ship in Naples but the repair pair attempts were unsuccessful. The ship was re-positioned to Civitavecchia and the cruise was cancelled. 

Sovereign Cruise ShipThe plans are now to undergo repairs at a shipyard in Marseille in the hope that it will be able to cruise under full power at the end of May. 

After leaving the Royal Caribbean fleet, the cruise ship was re-named the Sovereign and it underwent a new, blue paint job of its hull.

According to one news account, the cruise line company said it regretted "deeply" the interruption of the cruise, thanking passengers for "patience and collaboration."  It said that it will return the fare for the cruise, and reimburse passenger expenses related to the problem with the ship. It also offered a 60% discount on the purchase of another Pullmantur cruise.

The Sovereign is a relatively old cruise ship, having been delivered in 1988. 

Update: A reader of our Facebook page stated:

"It has four main engines. Made by Pielstick 9PC 20L and they are a piece of shit engines. Only made 13 totally of them for Sovereign,Majesty and Monarch of the seas.... One of them on Sovereign had a major breakdown many years ago and they got the 13th engine that was a test engine installed in replacement.

They have never been good engines. They run on heavy fuel, mounted on rubber 2+2 on the same gear and they delivered a lot less power then they where supposed to on test run. No problem Pielshit said and mounted a lot bigget turbo chargers on them to boost the power up. And that worked,, but that made them run hotter and we changed exhaust valves on them all the time. So the French guys should stick to eating snails and crock monsieurs and leave the engine building to the Germans." 

Photo Credit: Portal World Cruises

Consumer Reports: Getting Sick at Sea on Cruise Ships

Consumer Reports published a good article about some of the issues cruise passengers will encounter (like norovirus) and has some advice for the traveling public. According to Consumer Reports medical adviser, Dr. Orly Avitzur: 

  • A cruise ship is more like a "floating hotel with a doctor at hand", than a floating hospital. 
  • Think twice about traveling with a chronic medical condition. The Coast Guard can't always launch a rescue, if the seas are rough or the ship is too far from land.
  • Know that most prescription drugs are not available on a cruise ship. Always travel with an extra supply of all medications.
  • Cruise ships don't accept insurance. Get ready to pay a premium, out of pocket, for any on-board care.
  • Buy travel insurance. Avoid policies that are sold by tour operators, travel agents and cruise-lines.

Interested in this issue? We suggest reading: Cruise Ship Bathrooms, Norovirus and Medical Care.

Propulsion Problems: Mis-Adventure of the Seas Limps Back to San Juan

Royal Caribbean Adventure of the SeasLast Wednesday, Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas canceled two port calls after the ship’s cruise ship' "fixipod" propulsion unit device lost oil as the ship headed to port in St. Kitts.

Royal Caribbean says that it placed oil booms around the ship to contain the leaking oil, and its engineers began addressing the problem.

Since then, cruise passengers and family members ashore have expressed concern with what happening with the ship and whether there will be a delay or changes in the itinerary of the cruise which leaves today.  

Their concerns intensified after the cruise ship lost all propulsion last night.

There have been on line discussions whether the "fixipod" will be repaired before the ship goes into dry dock on March 30th. The ship has limped back to San Juan at very low speed this morning. It looks like there have been additional issues which slowed the ship down further. At this point it looks like today's cruise may going forward (still anyone's guess) but it's less than clear how much of a delay there will be in boarding and/or sailing.

As usual, the discussion seem to be only when the ship will sail, not whether it's safe to cruise on a ship with 5 - 6 days of propulsion problems.

Cruise Critic members have expressed frustration over what they perceive as a lack of communication by Royal Caribbean. One member posted:

"They've posted NOTHING on the agent site, consumer site, their FB page, nor either the Public Relations nor regular twitter feeds, and I've asked!

And, no one knows diddly when you call...."

Fixipod Azipod On March 21, Royal Caribbean posted this one tweet:

"Adventure is sailing a modified itinerary due to a delayed departure from St. Kitts for required work on the ship's fixipod."

But nothing since then. It's surprising that a multi-billion dollar corporation which spends literally hundreds of millions a year in a big marketing campaign can't figure out how to utilize Twitter and Facebook (both are free) to communicate with their guests and the public.

I have not heard anything about whether the cruise line intends to compensate the passengers for the missed ports of call. Anyone know?

If you were on the cruise, please leave a comment or join the discussion on Facebook. If you have photos or a video of the tugs bringing the ship into port in San Juan, please send us a copy! 

March 24, 2014 Update: This is the most inept PR handling of a cruise problem I have ever seen. Read about Royal PR #FAIL: Royal Caribbean Keeps Adventure & Navigator Passengers in the Dark.

 

Photo Credit:

Top: CC-BY-SA-3.0/Matt H. Wade at Wikipedia

Bottom: Kvaerner Masa (image of Voyager of the Seas)

Former Norwegian Cruise Line Captain: "Let's Not Wait for a Cruise Line Disaster to Protect Passengers"

Former Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) Safety Manager and and Master Mariner Bill Doherty has prepared an industry paper which has been submitted to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Senator Jay Rockefeller.

Captain Doherty is a principal in the expert maritime consulting firm, Nexus Consulting.

His cruise industry paper is entitled "Let’s Not Wait for a Cruise Line Disaster to Protect Passengers." 

William Doherty Nexus ConsultantsCaptain Doherty has over 45 years of experience in the maritime community and is a veteran of the U.S. Navy. He was the Head of Maritime Affairs for the Chief of Naval Operations during Operation Desert Storm. He previously was the manager of safety at NCL. His industry paper advocates for greater resources to be dedicated toward passenger safety and security.

Captain Doherty states that “cruise lines do not currently have a global plan to address ‘worst case scenarios. Similar to the oil industry’s unpreparedness prior to the ‘Exxon Valdez’ disaster in Alaska, there is no coordinated, global system in place in case of a disaster aboard a cruise line – and here we’re talking about human lives. We’re advocating a plan to preemptively safeguard souls at sea in case of tragedy. Let’s not wait for a cruise line to have an ‘Exxon Valdez moment' before we protect future passengers."

Captain Doherty previously testified before the U.S. Senate regarding cruise ship safety issues following the Costa Concordia disaster. He was featured in a New York Times article about the increasingly gigantic size of the modern cruise ships (and whether it is possible to safely evacuate such a ship). He was recently quoted in the Popular Mechanics article This is How to Prevent Cruise Ship Disasters.

His paper is a must read if you are interested in a true mariner's view of cruising and what must be done to make it safer. Read the paper here.

About Captain Bill Doherty: Captain Doherty is a 1967 graduate of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, a licensed US Coast Guard Master-Unlimited tonnage, and qualified First Class Pilot, Prince William Sound, Valdez, Alaska. Captain Doherty has served on numerous U.S. Navy warships and was the Head of Maritime Affairs for the Chief of Naval Operations during Operation Desert Storm. Over the course of his career, he has commanded tankers, container ships, research vessels, high-speed ferries, and was an instructor at his alma mater. Before retirement, his latest position was as Safety Manager for Norwegian Cruise Lines. Captain Doherty now serves as the director of maritime affairs for Nexus Consulting, and has appeared as a cruise safety expert before the United States Senate.

About Nexus Consulting: Nexus is an ISO 9001:2008 certified Maritime Safety and Security Firm was established in 2005 with a focus on security operations in high-threat theaters and cruise passenger safety. In 2008, Nexus Consulting was the first maritime security firm to advocate for armed security teams embarked on commercial ships. In 2009, in the wake of the Maersk Alabama hijacking (made famous in the acclaimed film “Captain Phillips”), Nexus embarked one of the first armed security teams on commercial vessels to protect US mariners, and has been providing security services to protect merchant mariners ever since.

Correction to headline: Captain Doherty was the former safety manager at Norwegian Cruise Lines. I erroneously referred to him as a former captain at NCL.

Measles Outbreak On Costa Pacifica Cruise Ship

According to the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero a measles outbreak has occurred on the Costa Pacifica cruise ship.

The newspaper says that dozens of cruise passengers were probably infected with the virus that causes measles. The cruise ship called on the port of Civitavecchia.

59 infected crew members were sent ashore for medical treatment.

Costa says, for what it's worth, that there have been no confirmed cases of passengers infected with the measles virus yet.

A measles outbreak is very serious. There is a particular danger to women of childbearing age with measles.  U.S. based cruise lines vaccinate for measles because the virus is so virulent.

Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein was the first in the U.S. / Canada to report on this disturbing outbreak. 

If you have information about this viral outbreak, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on Facebook.

Costa Pacifica Measles

Photo Credit:  Luciano Giobb via Il Messaggero

Cruise Ships Without Lifeguards: Shame On You!

NC: Cruise Shihp DrowningIn the last nine months, four children age 6 or younger have drowned or nearly drowned on cruise ships.

A 4 year child remains brain damaged after he nearly drowned on a Disney cruise ship, the Fantasy.  A 6 year old child is dead after drowning on a Carnival cruise ship, the Victory.  A 4 year old is dead and his 6 year old brother is seriously injured after similar tragedies on NCL's Norwegian Breakaway.  

Cruise passenger Joe Boris, age 39, witnessed the NCL tragedies. He is motivated to convince the cruise industry to provide greater protection to children.

WTSB quotes Mr. Boris saying: "How can this happen? Why was there no lifeguard on board?" Boris said. "These cruise ships are money-making cash cows and to (make you) pay $11 for one drink. There's no reason why they can't supply a lifeguard at the pools."

"They boast on how this is a $900 million vessel holding almost 4,100 passengers, 1,600 crew members and they always say safety is of course their number one priority.  

"I honestly have to say to them, shame on you," Boris said. "Shame on you because there's no reason you cannot have or you shouldn't have a lifeguard present on board those ships."

There is absolutely no excuse for a cruise line, which pays absolutely no U.S. income taxes, not to invest in lifeguards. a dime from every passenger would more than pay for the lifeguards.  Here are some of our recent articles:

Dangerous Disney Cruise Ship Swimming Pool: Thoughts from a Concerned Cruiser

Imperfect Parents & Corporate Irresponsibility: Why No Lifeguards on Disney Cruise Ships?

 

WFSB 3 Connecticut

Passenger Reportedly Falls From Deck 6, Strikes Lifeboat on Deck 4, on Carnival Miracle

Carnival Miracle Cruise ShipThe Cruise Critic message board states that a passenger apparently went over her balcony railing on the Carnival Miracle during the most recent (February 15 - 22) cruise. 

A poster left a message that the cruise ship turned around to begin a search for the passenger. However, it was announced that the passenger was recovered on board. She was taken to the infirmary.

One passengers suggested that "the person was pushed off the balcony and the people responsible were turned over to the authorities in Cabo."

Other people posting on the message board indicate that the passenger may have fallen from deck 6 to deck 4 and struck a lifeboat.

This morning we requested Carnival to provide information regarding this alleged incident. We will post Carnival's response if and when it responds. 

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / HurricaneX31

Celebrity Constellation Loses Power, Again

Celebrity ConstellationCruise Fever reports that a Celebrity cruise ship lost power yesterday morning for about one and one-half hours while the ship was at port in Key West.

Cruise Fever says that the Celebrity Constellation lost power Sunday morning from approximately 7:15 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. A writer for Cruise Fever was aboard and first reported on the power failure.  

Over 7 weeks ago, the same ship experienced a power loss at the same port. You can read about that incident here: Celebrity Constellation Suffers Engine Problems in Key West

If you have information to share, please leave a comment below.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Megadri

Australia Investigates Death of Passenger on Sun Princess

The Courier Mail newspaper reports today on a case involving the death of a 72 year old passenger aboard the Sun Princess cruise ship. The circumstances surrounding the passenger's medical treatment on the ship have led the Attorney General of Queensland to order an inquest into the death.

Australian cruise passenger Betty Virgo was sailing on the Princess cruise ship from Brisbane to New Zealand in November 2012 on a two week cruise.  

Ms. Virgo became ill at dinner on the fifth day of the cruise while the cruise ship was in port in Napier.

Betty VirgoMs. Virgo's daughter, Gayle, was sailing with her. 

Her daughter observed that although all four medical bay beds were empty, the ship's medical staff refused her requests to keep her mother there under observation that night.

The following morning Ms. Virgo's condition continued to deteriorate.

Gayle remained with her mother throughout the day in their cabin, leaving only briefly to eat because she is diabetic. When Gayle returned to the cabin, her mother was gasping for breath. Ms. Virgo was taken by stretcher to the medical center that evening and died soon afterwards as the ship sailed.

The ship doctors diagnosed "angina" as the cause of death. Gayle disputes the diagnosis.  

When Ms. Virgo's body was returned several days later, it had been embalmed without a post mortem examination being conducted or Gayle being consulted. 

To add insult to injury, Carnival Australia, which owns the Sun Princess, offered Gayle a credit of $1,100 towards another cruise. 

Carnival denies that its medical staff neglected Ms. Virgo or provided bad medical care.

We will report on the medical inquest when it become public.

Bad medical care and a lack of responsibility of the cruise lines are issues which we discuss often here on Cruise Law News.  A case involving issues of medical malpractice and a cruise ship doctor evading jurisdiction made our list of the top ten most outrageous cruise ship stories last month.

 

Photo Credit: Adam Head / News Limited via Courier Mail

 

Celebrity Constellation Suffers Engine Problems in Key West

Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein's web site indicates that the Constellation cruise ship was forced to spend an extra day in Key West.

Professor Klein reported yesterday about a passenger's complaint that the "Constellation scheduled to leave Key West yesterday, Dec. 15 @ 5pm. Repair needed and waiting on part(s). At 8:05am, December 16, still no evidence of upcoming departure. Scheduled to be 'at sea' day on the way to Cozumel."

The repairs were needed after the Celebrity cruise ship experienced engine problems.

Cruise line spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez said that the Constellation had "technical issues" with one of its gas turbine engines during its departure from Key West on Sunday afternoon.

The Key West Citizen indicated that the ship's departure was delayed until 10 p.m. Monday while crews made repairs. The ship carries more than 2,160 passengers.

The newspaper explained that because of the mechanical delay, and the time and speed needed, Constellation was unable to make its scheduled port of call into Cozumel, Mexico, on Tuesday. Instead, it will call on Nassau, Bahamas, on Wednesday. 

The Key West newspaper characterized the Celebrity Constellation as an aging member of the Celebrity fleet. It made its initial cruise in May 2002.

Celebrity Constellation Cruise Ship

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Megadri

Rhapsody of the Seas Delayed in South Pacific

A reader of this blog from Australia has informed us that Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas cruise ship is delayed at port in the South Pacific due to unspecified problems with the ship.

AIS tracking systems shows the cruise ship in the port of Port Vila, Efate in the Vanautu islands.

We do not see any news of the situation on line.

There is no indication of the reason for the delayed departure. 

If you are on the cruise ship and have any information to share, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Rhapsody of the Seas - Vanuatu Islands

 

Shell Game: No Justice for Cruise Passenger Who Suffered Sepsis, Multiple Organ Failure & Cerebral Hemorrhage Due to Alleged Misdiagnosis by Royal Caribbean Ship Doctor

The Florida Third District Court of Appeal published a ruling today which is, in a word, shameful.

The case involved allegations by a passenger who sailed on a cruise that she suffered sepsis, multiple organ failure, and a cerebral hemorrhage due to medical malpractice and misrepresentations by a doctor on a Royal Caribbean ship.

According to the allegations in the lawsuit filed in Miami, Ms. Gutierrez and her husband sailed on Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas cruise ship in May 2010 from Port Everglades, Florida for a week long cruise through the Western Caribbean. Ms. Gutierrez experienced intense abdominal pain as the Royal Caribbean - Oasis of the Seas - Ship Doctor Chris Taylorcruise ship approached Labadee, Haiti. She was taken by wheelchair to the ship's medical facility. The ship doctor, Dr. Chris Taylor, diagnosed and treated her for gastritis. However, Ms. Gutierrez was actually suffering from a far more serious abdominal infection.

The lawsuit papers further alleged that Dr. Taylor and the cruise line told Ms. Gutierrez and her husband that they could not be evacuated from the vessel and taken to an on-shore hospital. In truth, emergency evacuation services could have been arranged. Ms. Gutierrez sought emergency medical assistance at the ship’s next port in Mexico where she underwent abdominal surgery. Ultimately, she suffered abdominal sepsis, multiple organ failure, and a cerebral hemorrhage.

Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean have insulated themselves from lawsuits when ship doctors maim cruise passengers by characterizing the doctors as "independent contractors" for whom they are not liable.

Most cruise passengers don't understand that the doctors wearing officer stripes and cruise line uniforms and hats who treat them in the ship infirmary are somehow not ship doctors for legal purposes. Passengers usually don't read the fine print buries in the cruise ticket and are tricked into thinking that big, beautiful cruise ships like the Oasis costing over a billion dollars must hire highly trained, educated and experienced ship employees in the infirmaries and the cruise lines must be responsible for the doctors when they make errors. We have written about this issue many times before. Read: If the Ship Doctor Kills You, Too Bad

So as matters now stand, when passengers are injured or killed due to malpractice of the doctors in the cruise ship infirmary, they can't sue the cruise line in most cases. They are left to try and seek the recovery of medical bills and other compensation from the doctors who are usually not U.S. citizens.  

In Ms. Gutierrez's case, Dr. Taylor was born in the U.K. but for the last nine years he worked on cruise ships sailing from Florida. When Dr. Taylor was sued, the cruise lines hired its usual defense lawyers to defend him. They moved to avoid the lawsuit arguing that Ms. Gutierrez could not establish that Dr. Taylor was subject to personal jurisdiction here. However, Ms. Gutierrez's lawyers did a thorough job establishing a strong connection between Dr. Taylor and the state of Florida:

  • Dr. Taylor entered into employment agreements in Florida with Florida-based cruise lines (Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines) over the course of nine years;
  • Dr. Taylor's employment agreements specified Florida as the required jurisdiction to resolve any disputes with the cruise lines; 
  • Dr. Taylor attended annual medical conferences in Florida;
  • Dr. Taylor received advanced cardiac life support certification in Florida;
  • Dr. Taylor vacationed from time to time in Florida;
  • Dr. Taylor made presentations at medical conferences in Florida;
  • Dr. Taylor maintained two bank accounts in Florida;
  • Dr. Taylor worked aboard cruise ships that embarked/disembarked at a Florida port one day a week;
  • Dr. Taylor was on duty and treated passengers and crew members while the cruise ships were in Florida waters and returning to Miami, docked in Miami, and leaving Miami, weekly, over a course of nine years; and
  • For all intents and purposes, Dr. Taylor worked and resided exclusively on a cruise ship.      

Based on these undisputed facts, the trial court ruled that the ship doctor was clearly subject to jurisdiction in Florida and could be sued in the courts in Florida.  The judge ruled that Dr. Taylor not only Oasis of the Seasintentionally played a “shell game" to thwart jurisdiction in Florida, but he engaged in a "nefarious scheme" to avoid being sued in any court. 

On appeal, in a 2-1 decision the Third District Court of Appeal reversed the trial court holding that the factors discussed above were insufficient to establish jurisdiction over Dr. Taylor.  In my view, the appellate court nitpicked the lower court's findings and ignored the continuous and substantial relationship between the ship doctor and the state of Florida.    

You can read the order here.

The result of this decision is cruise passengers' rights are further limited. This is exactly how the cruise industry wants it.

Ms. Gurierrez, a mother of young children, is left with permanent brain injury, huge medical bills and no compensation. 

Royal Caribbean may boast that its 1.2 billion dollar mega-ship Oasis of the Seas is the largest and most technologically advanced cruise ship in the world. But as far as the treatment of gravely ill guests is concerned, the cruise line is sailing in Medieval times.     

Have a thought? Leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

Coincidence or a sign of mischief to come? The Wall Street Journal published an article in March 2010 about the Oasis of the Seas which mentioned Dr. Taylor talking about rarely medevacing passengers back to the U.S. This was two months before Ms. Gutierrez sailed on the Oasis:

The ship has three doctors on board. It also has its own intensive care unit and can keep one person at a time on life support. Every few weeks a passenger has a heart attack so thrombolytic drugs are kept on-hand, says Chris Taylor, the ship's senior doctor.

If there's a serious illness, the ship's doctors and captain can decide to divert to a port early, but rarely is anyone airlifted back to the U.S., says Dr. Taylor, who has been a doctor on cruise ships for seven years. "Many people have the belief that the U.S. coast guard is always going to come to the rescue if there is any emergency at sea. The actual truth of the matter is that most of the time the ship is well out of range of the coast guard," he says.
  

Photo credit: Dr. Chris Taylor - LinkedIn;  Oasis of the Seas - Wikipedia / Baldwin 040. 

Lawsuit Allegations: Carnival Security Guard Roughs Up 14 Year Old

Carnival Cruise Lawsuit A local news station WSVN - 7 reports on a lawsuit filed by a South Florida family after their son was allegedly beaten up by a security guard on board an unidentified Carnival cruise ship.

The lawsuit contends that a 14 year-old boy snuck into a nightclub on the cruise ship with his friends. When spotted by security, the boy ran out of the club and into a stairwell where he claims that the security guard roughed him up. He says the guard "grabs me by the shirt, slams me like really heard against the wall." 

The family's lawyer, Spencer Aronfeld, sued Carnival because the family wants the security guard fired and to prevent another family from going through a similar experience.  Aronfeld is seeking damages for what he claims are serious neurological and psychological damages suffered by the boy. 

Expect a vigorous defense by Carnival.

Have a thought? Leave a comment below, or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

Photo Credit: 7 - News / WSVN

 

The "Wild West:" California Congressional Leaders Introduce New Cruise Consumer Legislation

Cruise Vessel Consumer Confidence ActA congressman and congresswoman in California have introduced proposed legislation which will provide rights to cruise passengers.

Congressman John Garamendi (D-Walnut Grove CA) has introduced a bill designed to protect cruise consumers following repeated poor treatment of passengers on cruises this year. Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-Sacremento) co-sponsored the bill.

The proposed new law is called the "Cruise Vessel Consumer Confidence Act." If enacted, it will grant authority to the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) to investigate unfair and deceptive practices by the cruise lines. The FMC can impose a maximum civil penalty of $25,000 per violation. 

The bill also requires the cruise lines to disclose complaints of crimes, incidents of overboard passengers, and gastro-intestinal illness outbreaks prior to the cruise.  

Congressman Garamendi issued a press release stating: “Reviewing the many horror stories from cruise ships in recent years, it is clear that proper oversight of the industry and consumer protections for passengers are desperately lacking. At times, it is the Wild West on the high seas . . . Consumer protection requires tough and fair regulations that hold industries accountable and responsible.”

You can read about the proposed new cruise law here.

Allure of the Seas Finally Scheduled for Dry Dock

Allure of the SeasRoyal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world, will enter dry dock in the Bahamas in February 2014 to undergo repairs to its propulsion system.

The decision was finally announced after the cruise line had been under criticism for not disclosing the Allure was unable to cruise any faster than around 17 knots rather than its top of over 22 knots. 

Several newspapers are saying that the cruise ship had a problem with one of its three propulsion "pods." The ship has been arriving late and leaving early from its ports of call and cancelling some excursions.

The Allure will undergo repairs during the week of Feb. 24, 2014. The cruise scheduled for that week will be cancelled and the cruise fare refunded. 

 

Dry Dock Cure for Allure of the Seas?

Tom Stieghorst of Travel Weekly reports that Royal Caribbean may send the Allure of the Seas, which has been plagued by problems with its propulsion system, to an early drydock in order to fix the problem.

The article says the scheduled drydock is not until in 2015, but the cruise line may take the giant ship out of service earlier.

Travel Weekly quotes cruise chairman Richard Rain as the source of the information. 

Allure of the SeasRoyal Caribbean has been criticized for not being transparent in telling the public of the problem before cruising. Passengers aboard the Allure began noticing that the cruise ship was shortening its stay in Nassau and then arriving late in St. Thomas. Some excursions have been cancelled.

USA TODAY also weighs in on the issue with its article "World's Largest Cruise Ship May Need Repairs." The newspaper explains that the Allure is just the latest in a series of ships that have experienced problems with pod propulsion systems. Three months ago, sister cruise line Celebrity Cruises' Millennium suffered a pod problem resulting in the cancellation of several cruises. 

We have been contacted by cruisers who are booked on the Allure over the next several months, wondering whether the propulsion problems will be fixed by the time of their cruise.  

This news will create only more speculation and worry, as it now seems probable that the Allure will be taken out of service for a week or two sometime in the next few months. Exactly when is anyone's guess.   

 

Photo Credit:  Wikipedia (Daniel Christensen)

Two Cruise Passengers Seriously Injured on the Norwegian Breakaway

Norwegian Breakaway Cruise ShipA local CBS news station is reporting that two cruise passengers were seriously injured on a cruise ship that has docked at Port Canaveral, Florida.

The news station says that a man suffered a neck injury and a woman in her 70s suffered some type of fracture while aboard the Norwegian Breakaway.

The Orlando Sentinel also reports that the Brevard County Fire Rescue is involved responding to the injuries.  Crews responded to terminal six at Port Canaveral for a man with a neck injury around noon, according to the Fire Rescue's Twitter page. Twenty minutes later, officials issued a trauma alert for another patient – a woman in her 70's with a fracture. 

It is believed that both men are passengers.

The Breakaway is home ported in Manhattan and makes includes Port Canaveral as a port. 

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia (Dickelbers)

U.S. Customs & Border Agents Terrorize Cruise Passenger

Norwegian Jewel Cruise ShipWGNO in New Orleans reports a NCL cruise passenger was enjoying the end of her birthday cruise when four armed U.S. Customs and Border agents with a canine "barged into her cabin, handcuffed and detained her for no reason." They then led her in handcuffs through the crowded cruise ship. Passenger Kristen Schroeder told WGNO: 

“It was horrible. It was the most mortifying experience of my whole life.”

The incident occurred on NCL's Norwegian Jewel when the cruise ship returned to port in New Orleans. 

Ms. Schroeder had a warrant for a misdemeanor.  But she had resolved and paid the fine, even though the federal agency had no record of it.  You can watch a video of the story here.

We have reported before on the federal government running cruise ship manifests through computer databases looking for people to arrest after the cruises are over. Read our article: Are You Cruising with a Wanted Felon? Five Passengers Arrested on Carnival Magic in Galveston.  

It's a sloppy process. Sometimes innocent people get arrested or unnecessarily harassed, like this poor woman: Passenger Wrongfully Arrested On A Carnival Cruise Ship.   

Propulsion Problems Plague Allure of the Seas

Over the past six weeks, we have received emails from Royal Caribbean crew members saying that the Allure of the Seas has suffered propulsion problems. The crew members have been told by their supervisors to tell the cruise passengers that nothing is wrong.

Well this evening the story broke on Cruise Critic that Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas Suffers Propulsion Issues.

According to Cruise Critic, Royal Caribbean has admitted that it has experienced a significant reduction in the cruise ship's speed which has caused delays and shortened calls during its cruises. A Royal Allure of the Seas Cruise ShipCaribbean spokesperson said:

"Allure of the Seas currently has a small restriction on her top speed. All equipment is fully operational, and there is no impact on the maneuverability of the ship or on the safety of our guests and crew."

A Cruise Critic member said: "When we were checking in the day before, they handed us a sheet of paper indicating that the Nassau short stay will now be shorter by one hour, on top of a delayed arrival in St. Thomas two days later. The reason stated was technical issues with the ship's top speed. I was also told while on board that they want to slow down a bit to save fuel."

The cruise line changed recent itineraries by shortening stays in Nassau by one hour and St. Thomas  by three hours. The Royal Caribbean spokesperson told Cruise Critic:

"I won't be able to provide you with additional details. But yes, the plan is to get Allure back up to top speed."

Can you imagine owning the world's largest and most expensive cruise ship that already has problems maintaining the speed advertised when sold? 

Are you a crew member or have you sailed recently on the Allure of the Seas? Do you have information about the propulsion issues?  Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

Photo Credit:  Wikipedia (Zache)

"Strip Search" Lawsuit: Court Denies Carnival's Motion to Sanction Teenager for Telling Lies

A federal judge denied Carnival Cruise Lines' motion to punish a teenager who admitted that she lied when claiming that the cruise ship's security personnel forced her to remove her tampon in a search for marijuana.  

Courthouse News Service reports that one of Carnival's security officers noticed that a 17-year-old passenger on Sensation cruise ship dropped a container of what he believed to be marijuana in an elevator.

The chief security officer subsequently ordered a search of the girl's cabin. This is when the girl claimed that a female security officer strip-searched her and made her remove her underwear and tampon. The search apparently took place without the girl's mother present.

The minor and her mother were removed from the cruise ship. The girl spent the night and most of the next day in jail in the Bahamas until the U.S. Embassy intervened and the girl was released.

A lawsuit followed and the case headed to trial. But during trial, the girl testified that although she felt like she "had to" take off her underwear and remove her tampon, she admitted that she voluntarily did so that the search "would be over with."

After a jury found for Carnival, the cruise line sought to punish the girl by forcing her to pay all of the the cruise line's attorney fees. The federal court refused to impose the sanctions sought by Carnival, citing her young age and her efforts to set the record straight. The judge also found that the girl was under the influence of her mother who encouraged her to pursue the legal claim in the first place.

The court also took into consideration that the young woman, now 19, is unemployed and is a student on financial aid at a small college. The court already taxed costs of $4,364.06 against her out of the $9,305.14 sought by Carnival.  The court concluded that fining her additional money for the cruise giant's attorney fees would be meaningless.    

You can read the order here

 

Photo Credit: Wknight94 via Wikipedia

"Technical Issues" Delay Sun Princess' Departure from Sydney

A reader of our Facebook page "Cruise Law News" informs us that the Sun Princess was delayed ten (10) hours departing Sydney last tonight.

The cruise ship's captain, Andrew Froude, issued a letter which was distributed to passengers informing them that the ship was experiencing technical issues which have prevent our ability to operate at full speed."

Passenger were informed that the cruise ship would be missing the Bay of Islands.

You can see a copy of the captain's letter below.

If you have additional information regarding what is happening on the Sun Princess, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page

Sun Princess Cruise Ship

6 Year Old Drowns on Carnival Victory Cruise Ship

Carnival VictoryThe AP reports that a 6-year-old boy drowned in a pool on Carnival Victory cruise ship on Sunday. 

Carnival said that this was the first time a child drowned on one of its ships.  

But just last month a 41 year-old passenger drowned in one of the hot tubs on the Carnival Dream. 

We reported the last time a major cruise line experienced such an incident.  The Disney Fantasy has a small boy rendered brain damaged when he nearly drown.  You can read our articles:

Imperfect Parents & Corporate Irresponsibility: Why No Lifeguards on Disney Cruise Ships?

Dangerous Disney Cruise Ship Swimming Pool: Thoughts from a Concerned Cruiser

I was quoted by the AP about this latest fatality:

"There is a great deal of debate on whether cruise lines should have lifeguards, according to Jim Walker, a Miami maritime attorney . . . " 

"This involves the debate between personal responsibility and corporate responsibility," he wrote in an email to the Associated Press. "Yes, parents should have responsibility for watching their children but at the same time cruise corporations have a duty to watch over the parents and children and provide a reasonably safe place for them to have a family vacation."

Passengers Injured Aboard Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas

A reader of Cruise Law News sent us photographs of the Oasis of the Seas arriving in port in Cozumel.

Two ambulances arrived next to the Oasis of the Seas at the dock in Cozumel and took injured passengers away to the hospital. 

The photos show the ambulance lights next to the Oasis of the Seas. There is some indication that passengers may have been injured due to rough weather associated with Tropical Storm Karen.

You can see a set of photo on our Facebook page.

Oasis of the Seas - Cozumel
 

 

FlowRider: Royal Caribbean Opts for Excitement Over Safety - Expect More Injuries

Royal Caribbean President Adam Goldstein has a strange article this past week on his Sea Views blog. It's about his cruise line's "FlowRider" attraction, where passengers attempt to boogie board or surf on a thin water streaming at a high speed across the surface of the attraction.

We have written a number of articles about the FlowRider and the numerous serious injuries (and one death) which have occurred on Royal Caribbean cruise ships. Read: Wipeout! Liability of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line for FlowRider Accidents.

Notwithstanding the danger, CEO Goldstein writes that Royal Caribbean "recently loosened the reins a Royal Caribbean Cruise FlowRiderbit as it relates to the tricks guests are permitted to perform on our FlowRider® surf simulators."

Goldstein explains that in 2012, "in an effort to find the right balance between excitement and safety we had tightened up our rules in 2012. Maybe a little too much . . . " But it seems that the cruise line has now opted for a bit less safety and more fun. The cruise executive writes: 

"As of this summer, guests are able to try various types of fun tricks such as sitting, 180 degree turn, facing opposite direction, lazy boy, drop knee, drop knee 360, layback, boogie shuvit, baseball catcher, 360, skiing, show pony, rail slide, basic ollie, pop shuvit, heel side stall and the toe side stall . . ."

Expect more injuries and more lawsuits. And you'll never see a photo of Goldstein risking breaking his neck on the FlowRider.

President Goldstein spins the surfing attraction by telling the story of a young ten year old cruise passenger who learned to surf on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship and is now the "World Flowboard" champion.  Good for her.

But here is where the story gets weird. The letter that Goldstein posts on his blog, and supposedly was written by the child, states that an officer on the ship "called me over and asked if I had completed my activities waiver."  (Do children really write like this?) The officer then allegedly checks the child in and she starts to FlowRide!

The troubling thing is that children can't execute waivers, an officer can't complete the waiver on behalf of a child, and the waiver is illegal in the first place.

Our firm handled the case where the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal struck the cruise line's "activities waiver" down, holding that it is unlawful and cannot be used against injured FlowRider participants on the high seas.

There are also design defects in the FlowRider, we allege, which most participants don't realize.

It's a sad spectacle watching a cruise CEO hawk FlowRider cruises by mentioning children signing activity waivers that the courts have ruled to be void and unenforceable.

 

Photo Credit: Jim Walker

After a Series of Power Outages, is the Royal Princess Really Ready to Cruise?

On Sunday we reported on the 3 - 4 hour power failure aboard the Royal Princess when it was sailing in the Mediterranean between Greece and Italy.

The Princess cruise ship finally limped into Naples (where it remains today, see Princess Cruises web cam) and the cruise line canceled the remainder of the cruise.  Several thousands of passengers were flown home from Naples.  

The BBC reports that the Royal Princess next cruise is scheduled for Friday, September 27th from Barcelona, but that cruise was in doubt given the power failure and need for repairs.

Today, Princess released a press statement indicating that the Royal Princess will be starting its Royal Princess Web Camnext cruise this Friday from Barcelona and that the cruise is scheduled to be a 12 day event ending in Venice. The cruise line said that the necessary (although unspecified) repairs would take place as the ship sailed from Naples to Barcelona. 

Princess finally disclosed today that the cause of the power outage may have been an electrical breaker. 

Several readers of this blog brought to my attention that the power failure this weekend is not the first power outage the Royal Princess has suffered since its inaugural cruise in June. A Cruise Critic member posted a review of the Royal Princess indicating that the new ship had a power failure last month. Here's what the member posted:  

The new Royal Princess cruise is full of technology, state of the art entertainment facilities, an amazing showroom, a breath-taking sea bridge, and a service level that reflects Princess fleet of large cruises. However, I was surprised that when we sailed out of Athens on August 20 at around 9:30pm that the power went out on Black Out twice in a row in the cruise ship which on the second time caused the ship to stop or halt completely offshore for at least 30 minutes until power was restored.

On the second black-out we heard an announcement "Assessment Team to Bridge" however passengers were not fully informed of what happened and why the standby generators failed to bring power up for the first time which probably caused engines to over heat and thus open decks 4 and 5 for ventilation especially that the ventilation and A/C systems did not work and kitchen fumes came out.

Next morning the Captain gave us assurances that all systems were restored and that the ship had an emergency reserve system to sail safely to the nearest port. I guess this was an embarrassment to the manufacturers of the boat and electrical systems especially that the boat is brand new!

Professor Ross Klein's website has a similar post about a power outage from a cruise passenger which you can read under an entry on August 23.

There is no indication regarding the cause of the power outage last month or whether the cause was the same for both outages.

The 12 day cruise starting this Friday is also the start of a thirty day cruise. On October 9th the Royal Princess will begin to head west for a cruise across the Atlantic to Fort Lauderdale.

Let's hope that the proper repairs to the problems are made and that there are no power outages during the transatlantic cruise in October.

NCL Passenger Falls Two Decks on Norwegian Breakaway, Receives Medical Treatment in Bermuda

NCL Norwegian BreakawayThe Bermuda Sun reports that on September 17th a NCL cruise passenger was taken to a hospital in Bermuda after she fell two decks and was seriously injured. The woman was aboard the Norwegian Breakaway.

The newspaper states that "it is unclear where exactly on the mega-ship that the accident took place or how it happened."

As a result, the NCL cruise ship made an early emergency stop so that the injured passenger could be taken to hospital for treatment. The Norwegian Breakaway was met with a pilot boat and the passenger was stretchered off the ship and eventually to King Edward VII Memorial Hospital by ambulance.

Cruise Critic reports that NCL stated that "the guest accidentally fell from her balcony on Deck 10 to Deck 8 and was disembarked in Bermuda for medical treatment . . ." 

Following this incident, a second passenger, a 72 year old man, was taken from the cruise ship at port to the same hospital in Bermuda for a heart condition.

 

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Dickelbers

Lawsuit: Cruise Line Abandons Passenger with Head Injury in Fiji

A newspaper in Australia reports that a cruise aboard the Dawn Princess for passenger Graham Welsh was suppose to be a vacation of a lifetime.  But things began to go wrong when he sustained an injury after roof panels and lights fell on his head in a hallway on the cruise ship.  The cruise line then left him stranded in a foreign hospital in Fiji without his passport or wallet.

According to a lawsuit filed on his behalf, Mr. Mr Welsh alleges that shortly after his accident he began to vomit and suffered headaches. The cruise ship's doctor disembarked him at the next port, Suva, Fiji, to go to the hospital for a brain scan. The newspaper article quotes him saying: "They took me down the gang-plank and stuck me in a cab. I was surprised because no one accompanied me (to hospital). No one was assisting me and I didn't know what to do."  He basically had only his credit card which paid for the medical visit and scan.

Mr Welsh is suing Carnival Cruises Australia (as the owner of the Princess operated cruise ship) for the injuries and for the subsequent abandonment in Fiji.

The article explains that the cruise line is not denying that the passenger was injured but is contesting his claim that he is entitled to $750,000 in compensation. Dawn Princess Cruise Ship

The defense lawyer for the cruise line suggested that the lawsuit was less about the passenger's head injury and more about seeking revenge for the way he felt he had been mistreated by the cruise line.

"You (were bitter) that you hadn't got what you had bargained for, or paid for, and that was an enjoyable cruise," the defense lawyer suggested.

This is the second highly publicized case where an injured passenger alleges that the cruise line dumped them in a foreign port and and then forgot about them.  

Earlier we discussed the case of 89 year-old cruise passenger Dodge Melkonian who was abandoned in Turkey by Azamara after he broke his hip.  

 

Photo Credit:  Wikipedia / Bahnfrend

Florida Couple Stranded By Azamara in Turkey Returns to U.S.

WFTS ABC Action News reports on the case of Dodge Melkonian who fell and broke his hip on the Azamara Journey cruise ship. It's a story we have mentioned several times here on Cruise Law News. 

After the cruise line (Royal Caribbean owns Azamara) left Dodge and his wife, Jill, in a non-English speaking hospital in Turkey, the Melkonians turned to their travel agent, Elite Travel agency owner Tammy Levent, for assistance.  

Travel agent Levent contacted ABC Action News which reached out to U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, who Dodge Melkonian - Azamara Cruise Shipworked with the U.S. Embassy.

Now, the Melkonians are back in the U.S. where Dodge immediately went to the hospital. 

Mr. Melkonian needs weeks of therapy and their bills are mounting, but there is still no clear answers from Royal Caribbean.  

Ms. Melkonian said she wasn't getting the help she needed from the cruise line and they bought the cruise insurance. She told ABC Action News that, despite having insurance, the cruise line wanted them to pay out of pocket first and then file a claim.

The cruise line, which succumbed to bad press and eventually made an initial down payment on the Turkish hospital bill, claims that it is assisting the Melkoniians. In a statement, Royal Caribbean said "our focus continues to be on Mr. & Mrs. Melkonian's well-being and we continue to work closely with them to provide the assistance they need."

But Ms. Melkonians isn't so sure about that, saying "the rest of the hospital bill is still not decided. So there's a lot if confusion."  

The incident comes at a time when Congress is watching the cruise lines with a skeptical eye.   

"I just hope they change some of the policies," Ms. Melkonian said.

The Melkonian's travel agent, Tammy Levent, said that she has received calls from Washington to discuss the issues surrounding the Melkonian's case.


Story Credit: WFTS ABC Action News / Photo Credit: CBS News

Are Royal Caribbean FlowRiders Defectively Designed?

FlowRider - Royal Caribbean  When Royal Caribbean decided to be the only cruise line in the world with FlowRiders installed on its cruise ships, the cruise line had to have the FlowRider designed to fit on a ship.

Unlike some surfing simulators on land with long wash-out zones (the space between the top of the ridge and the back wall) where the participant will lose speed and come safely to a rest, the FlowRiders on Royal Caribbean cruise ships have a wash-out zone of only around eleven feet. This creates a danger where the participant will crash into the back wall at high speed.

The problem is compounded by a lack of sufficient padding of the wall. 

For example, watch this link and see this passenger wipe out. Although he is not a skinny fellow, he still crashes into the back wall.  Watch the last few seconds and you can see his arms and legs fly into the air upon hitting the wall.

You can also get an idea of the force of the water by watching the video below.

Are these FlowRiders defectively designed?  Should there be longer wash-out zones and thicker padding on the end wall?

 

Danger on the High Seas - Royal Caribbean's Deadly FlowRider

Watch the video of the FlowRider at the top.  Looks like fun doesn't it?  The rider surfs on the water and never wipe-outs. Easy right?

Not at all. The person in the video is a skilled and experienced Royal Caribbean employee who has spent many hours riding the FlowRider.

Now take a look at the second video at the bottom when a novice tries to surf on the FlowRider. Beware, don't look if you can't stomach a gruesome accident. It's serious. "Ouch" is an understatement. 

The FlowRider is exceedingly dangerous. It has caused at least one death on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship and many broken bones.  

Royal Caribbean uses experienced, athletic crew members like the one on the video at top to ride the FlowRider while the passengers first embark on the Allure of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas and other cruise ships. This attracts the passengers to come back and make reservations for private lessons which can cost up to $480 an hour.  The FlowRider is a major money maker for the cruise line. 

Read about the FlowRider and holding Royal Caribbean responsible when cruise passengers are seriously injured on the cruise line's money making attraction:

Wipeout! Liability of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line for FlowRider Accidents     

  

Azamara PR Disaster Continues: Is a Law Required to Prevent Cruise Lines from Abandoning Injured Passengers?

The fall-out over Azamara's abandonment of an elderly couple from Clearwater Florida continues.

The luxury cruise line Azamara, a subsidiary of Miami based Royal Caribbean Cruises, has been accused of abandoning its guest Dodge Melkonian, an 89-year-old World War II veteran, and his wife at a "rural" hospital in Turkey after Mr. Melkonian broke his hip on the Azamara Journey last week.   

The story has been extensively covered, first by a local ABC news station, and later by the U.S. national press like CBS, CNN, and ABC as well as the New York Daily News. The international press has shown interest in the plight of the Melkonian couple. The regular cruise bloggers, like Cruise Critic and Travel Dodge Melkonian - Tampa Bay TimesAgent Central, have also added their perspective.  

Azamara's CEO has made matters worst by gratuitously tweeting comments on his Twitter account stating that 89 year old dodge Melkonian should contact his travel agent and the insurance company and essentially leave the cruise line alone.

Florida Senator Bill Nelson called the cruise line's conduct "outrageous."

The South Florida Business Journal published an article Move Over Carnival, Royal Caribbean Takes Shot at Ruining Industry's Image.

The Tampa Bay Times is the latest news organization to cover the story. Its article Couple Stranded by Cruise in Turkey Receives Outpouring of Support is highly critical of the cruise line's indifference to the Melkonians.

So who are the winners and losers in this story? And what are the lessons to be learned?

The Winners: Mr. Melkonian's surgery was a success because of the couple's persistent travel agents who sprang into action when the insurance company (sold through the cruise line) refused to act responsibly in assisting Mr. Melkonian. And a Turkish tour guide, involved by the hard-working travel agents, not only assisted the couple in reaching a quality hospital but even donated his blood which was needed for Mr. Melkonian's surgery.  

The Losers: "The health & safety of cruise passengers are the cruise industry's highest priorities?" Hardly.  Azamara, Royal Caribbean and the cruise industry prove, again, that talk is cheap. 

Lessons Learned: Even luxury cruise lines can treat their guests shabbily. The case demonstrates the "cut and run" strategy of the cruise industry. When a passenger (or crew member) becomes ill or seriously injured during a cruise, the cruise lines' usual response to to get them off the cruise ship as soon as possible and then wash their hands of the problem.  

This is hardly the first time a cruise line abandoned a passenger ashore and sailed off.  We have seen this exact situation play out numerous times, particularly in ports of call in the Caribbean and Mexico. Read our article British Passenger Stuck In Mexican Hospital Following Heart Attack on Princess Cruise Ship.

Legislation Needed: The Melkonian's travel agents are communicating with Senator Nelson's office about drafting a law that "would ban cruise lines from leaving people stranded." The Melkonian's travel agent was quoted saying: "Where is the humanity in that?  There is no accountability, and that has to change."

 

Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Times

U.S. Appellate Court Affirms Dismissal of Another Costa Concordia Case

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal has affirmed an order of dismissal on forum non conveniens grounds of a case filed by an Italian citizen and Italian business for damages as a result of the Costa Concordia disaster. 

In a case styled Giglio Sub, S.N.C. and Francesco Onida versus Carnival Corporation et al., the Eleventh Circuit held that the federal district court did not abuse its discretion in granting the cruise line's motion to dismiss the case. The appellate court held that the trial court did not err in holding that Italy was an adequate and available forum for lawsuits surrounding the cruise ship capsizing to be filed.

The first sentence summed up the court's finding, referring to the dispute as a lawsuit filed by an Italian citizen and Italian business seeking damages suffered in Italy as a result of an Italian cruise ship which ran aground off the coast of Italy.

I predicted long ago that although the Concordia was owned by Miami-based Carnival, this would be an issue resolved in the Italian court system.

Costa Concordia Disaster

Photo Credit: Telegraph 

  

 

Azamara Abandons 89 Year Old Passenger in Turkey with Broken Hip

Melkonian - Azamara CruisesWFTS, an ABC affiliate in Tampa, Florida, reports on a story that we hear about all too often - an elderly passenger is injured during a cruise and ends up alone in a foreign hospital where no one speaks English. The cruise ship then sails off.

In a case which has received attention from Florida Senator Bill Nelson, Jill and her husband, Dodge Melkonian, age 89, were sailing aboard the Royal Caribbean luxury brand Azamara Cruises. Mr. Melkonian fell and broke his hip and ended up in a Turkish hospital which Mrs. Melkonian described as dirty, where no one spoke English, and was not equipped or qualified to perform the emergency surgery.

The news station quotes Mrs. Melkonian stating that "I think Royal Caribbean needs to be held accountable. They have to revamp policies for international accounts."

She bought insurance through the cruise line and tried to get her husband transferred. But the cruise line reportedly would not cooperate and told her to file an insurance claim first.

Mrs. Melkonian reached out to her travel agent who was helpful and summed up the situation saying: "The man could be dying. He is 89 years old with a broken hip, You have insurance, shouldn't it cover you? They drop you in a hospital that's not capable of even doing the surgery."

The travel agent contacted an English speaking tour guide who, in turn, contacted the U.S. embassy which helped transfer Mr. Melkonian to Istanbul, a six-hour trip. The cruise line reportedly ignored the couple once they were off of the ship and the insurance company tried to cancel the transportation.

Senator Bill Nelson said he is working to bring the couple home safely:

"Royal Caribbean has a responsibility to take care of their passengers, even when they have to put them in a foreign hospital," said Nelson. 

Photo & story credit: WFTS (ABC Action News) Tampa Florida

August 21 2013 Update: ABC News picked up the story. Its quotes Florida Senator Bill Nelson saying: "It's outrageous that they would leave an elderly couple in a foreign country without adequate support."

August 22 2013 Update: CNN's Headline News picked up the story this afternoon. "Couple Stranded Abroad After Cruise Injury."

  

 

Lawsuit Filed Against Royal Caribbean After Injury to Child

Today local NBC affiliate channel 6 aired a story today about a 9 year old boy who underwent emergency brain surgery after being injured during a cruise sponsored game on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

The incident occurred on the Monarch of the Seas. 

The child's family say that they trusted Royal Caribbean to organize safe activities for their son during the cruise. The family claims that two staff members threw balls at the boy who ran to avoid getting hit.  The boy collided with another child and then struck his head on a hard object. 

Monarch of the SeasaThe child then underwent emergency brain surgery in Nassau.

The family is now suing Royal Caribbean claiming that the activity designed by the cruise line was unreasonably dangerous for the child. 

Royal Caribbean responded with the following statement:

“We regret that a young guest that sailed onboard Monarch of the Seas was injured. A vacation is supposed to be filled with fun, rejuvenation and relaxation, and it is regrettable that this family's vacation was interrupted by their son's injury, However, Royal Caribbean believes that while this unfortunate incident happened on board a cruise ship, it is not unique to a cruise ship, and could happen at any school, playground, or daycare.”

It should be interesting to see if Royal Caribbean releases the true number of injuries caused by the game - or whether it hides the ball so to speak. 

The child and his family are represented by Miami lawyer Spencer Aronfeld.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia / Sparrowman980

  

Sun Princess Joins Ranks of Disabled Cruise Ships

USA TODAY and the Mirror newspaper in the U.K. report that Princess Cruises has canceled today's sailing of the Sun Princess, citing a power problem.

The Sun Princess is an 18 year-old cruise ship which just had a $30 million make-over. It was scheduled to sail a 14-night voyage from Singapore to Freemantle, Australia.

The power failure limited the cruise ship's ability to operate cabin lighting, air conditioning, vacuum toilet systems, and galley.

Sun Princess Cruise ShipPrincess Cruises said: "While Sun Princess was alongside at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre in Singapore, there was a malfunction to the ship’s switchboard resulting in limited onboard power hindering our ability to run all hotel operations."

"Regretfully, we've made the decision to cancel the cruise scheduled to depart today in order to carry out the necessary repairs."

The cruise ship will now resume service on September 3, 2013. 

The Sun Princess is the second vessel just this week that has been disabled by mechanical problems. Celebrity Cruises' Millennium is currently disabled in Ketchikan, Alaska due to propulsion issues. 

The problems come during a year when major lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean experienced a rash of fires and mishaps which disabled their cruise ships. Many cruisers, particularly first time cruisers, are raising concerns regarding the safety of cruise ships.

The passengers will receive a full refund and a credit on a future cruise.

 

Photo Credit: Wikimedia / Lemeki Lenoa
 

Celebrity Cruises' Millennium Strands Passengers Again

Celebrity Cruises Millennium cruise ship that was grounded in Alaska last week is having trouble again.

Celebrity Cruises said in a statement:

Due to a mechanical problem in one of Celebrity Millennium's two propulsion units, the ship returned to Ketchikan last night, The ship is capable of sailing without the affected unit. However, in an abundance of caution, the captain decided the safer and more prudent action was to return to port to evaluate the issue."

Millennium Cruise Ship ProblemsPropulsion issues stopped the cruise ship last week. 

As USA TODAY reports, this is the third straight sailing of the ship that has been affected by mechanical problems. The cruise ship limped into the port of Seward, Alaska on August 9th several hours behind schedule after experiencing an electrical problem with one of its two propulsion motors. It underwent three days of emergency repairs, resulting in the cancellation of every port call on the ship's subsequent sailing.

Passengers on that voyage received complete refunds and a credit toward a future cruise.

The Celebrity Millennium currently is on a seven-night Alaska cruise that began Friday in Vancouver, B.C.

The Millennium is a 13 year old cruise ship - one year newer than the infamous poop cruise ship, the Carnival Triumph. The propulsion issues come at a time when many cruisers are questioning the reliability of cruise ships.

KRBD reports: Mechanical trouble sends Millennium back to port.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Captain Tucke

30 Years Later, Miami Cruise Ship Lawyer Looks Back

Miami Cruise Ship LawyerOver thirty years ago, I graduated from Tulane School of Law which had, and still has, one of the best maritime law curriculum programs in the U.S. 

In law school, I took courses as a second and third year law school student in Maritime Personal Injury & Death, Maritime Jurisdiction, Maritime Insurance and Carriage of Goods by Sea. One of my favorite courses was called "Offshore Operations," which was essentially an advanced course in maritime personal injury dealing with accidents and injury in the oil & gas industry in the Gulf of Mexico.

That was back in New Orleans in 1983. Now over thirty years later in Miami, my law practice is 100% maritime personal injury and death lawsuits against the Miami based cruise lines.

The cruise lines have increasingly been in the news over the last ten years. And we have been in the news as well.  I have been referred to as a "Top Maritime Lawyer" by the ABA Journal; a "Top Cruise Lawyer" by USA Today; a "Prominent Private Practice Maritime Attorney" by Fox News; a "Premier Lawyer for Cruise Passengers" by Reuters; and a "Leading Miami Attorney" by Newsweek Magazine.

Stories about cruise ships are in the media every week. This year alone, I've appeared on CNN, ABC News, and NBC and quoted in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and the Miami Herald, to name just a few. 

The cases we handle are mostly against Carnival and its subsidiary brands (Carnival Cruise Lines, Cunard, Princess Cruises, Holland America Lines), Royal Caribbean Cruises (Royal Caribbean Miami Cruise Ship Lawyer Jim WalkerInternational, Celebrity Cruises & Azamara), Norwegian Cruise Lines, and Disney Cruises.

We represent both cruise passengers and crew members against the cruise lines. We handle cases involving serious injuries to passengers and crew on the high seas. Most of the injury cases involve bad medical care following the shipboard injury. Crew members are often sent home without receiving adequate medical treatment.

A focus of our law practice involves representing victims of cruise ship crimes, especially sexual assaults against women and children.

Many cruise ship passengers do not realize that they must file suit in the location specified in the cruise ticket, usually Miami. There is also a very short limitations period to file a lawsuit, typically only one year.

Fifteen years ago, I was interviewed about practicing cruise ship law. The issues raised 15 years ago still remain true today: Cruise Passenger Rights and Wrongs - Interview With Maritime Lawyer Jim Walker

New Lawsuits Filed Against Carnival for Triumph "Poop Cruise"

Yesterday we mentioned that the first case filed in Galveston by a passenger following the infamous Triumph "poop cruise" was voluntarily dismissed. But today there is news that additional lawsuits were just filed in southeast Texas for damages alleged by passengers who sailed aboard the ill-fated Carnival cruise. 

The Southeast Texas Record reports that twenty passengers filed suit in federal court for the eastern district of Texas (Beaumont Division) for compensation due to the February 11, 2013 engine room fire which caused the cruise ship to drift for five days in the Gulf of Mexico. 

The lawsuit alleges facts well known to the public at this point: passengers claim that they were Carnival Triumph Poop Cruise"exposed to urine and feces, along with odors of raw sewage, which spilled and leaked through the ceilings, walls, and floors". In addition, the passengers allege that they were exposed to extreme heat and cold temperatures, and waited in long lines for hours for inadequate and rationed water and food.

The passengers allege theories of negligence, breach of maritime contract, negligent misrepresentation, fraud by non-disclosure, and fraud.

The newspaper indicates that the lawsuit seeks damages for discomfort, medical expenses, mental anguish, emotional distress, lost earnings, lost vacation time, pecuniary and out-of pocket damages, including cost of cruise, transportation, additional food and lodging and incidentals costs, punitive damages, interest and court costs.

A separate lawsuit was also filed in the same courthouse in Beaumont by a passenger and his eye care clinic claiming that business was lost because employees were stranded at sea on a the disabled Cruise ship.

According to allegations in the lawsuit reported by the Southeast Texas Record, Carnival was aware of the mechanical problems on board the cruise ship and knew the vessel was not “sufficiently seaworthy” to provide a safe, sanitary and enjoyable voyage.

The lawsuit alleges theories of unconscionability, misrepresentation, fraudulent inducement, negligence and fraud.

You can read more about the claim from the Houston Chronicle: Beaumont Man Sues After Entire Staff Stuck on Carnival Cruise

The typical Carnival ticket requires that lawsuits of this type must be filed in federal court in Miami. 

Cruise Ship Law - Lawsuits Against Royal Caribbean Cruise Line in Miami, Florida

Our law firm handles cases on behalf of injured passengers and crew members against cruise lines.  Other law firms handle auto accidents, dog bite cases and whatever may walk in the door.  Our firm sues only cruise lines in cases involving serious injuries. That’s all that we do.

One of the cruise lines that we file lawsuits against on a regular basis is Royal Caribbean.

Types of Royal Caribbean Lawsuits:  The type of cases we handle against Royal Caribbean can be divided into two general categories – personal injury cases and crime cases.

Crime Lawsuits:  Most of the crime cases we have handled over the years involve sexual assaults on Royal Caribbean cruise ships.  We have represented women who have been sexually assaulted on cruises by cruise line ship doctors, security guards, waiters, bar tenders and cleaners. The rapes have occurred in the passenger cabins, utility closets, and crew bathrooms. 

The crimes are not limited to the cruise ships. Crimes against passengers have occurred during cruise sponsored excursions such as diving and snorkeling trips, sailing and catamaran outings, and in and around bars at the cruise port in the Caribbean and Mexico. We have represented parents whose minor children have been molested by Royal Caribbean crew members and teenagers who have been sexually assaulted by older passengers.

Injury Lawsuits:  Passengers on Royal Caribbean cruise ships have been seriously injured in a wide FlowRider Danger - Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship variety of cases.  Passengers occasionally slip and fall on slippery decks and floors and sustain serious injuries such as fractured ankles, knees and hips. Injuries on the cruise line’s wide variety of recreational attractions are common, including skating rinks and rock climbing attractions.  Injuries on the Royal Caribbean FlowRider surfing simulator are frequent.  Royal Caribbean passengers have sustained serious, permanent and debilitating injuries, and have even been killed, on the highly dangerous FlowRider. 

The FlowRider is a major money making attraction for Royal Caribbean, but it's unreasonably dangerous in my opinion.

You can read about FlowRider accidents and injuries here.

Types of Clients:  We represent cruise ship passengers and crew members. Most of the passengers we represent are from the United States. We have represented clients literally from across the United States. 

Our crew member clients, who sustain back, neck and wrist injuries due to the long hours and repetitive nature of their work, are typically from Jamaica, St. Vincent, India, Argentina, Venezuela, Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia, among other countries. 

If you or a family member have been seriously injured due to the negligence of Royal Caribbean, consider hiring a law firm which focuses its experience and resources on cruise ship lawsuits – not auto accident or dog bite cases.

Call our office at (305) 995 5300 or email me at jim@cruiselaw.com. 

 

Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean FlowRider Sign - Jim Walker

Triumph Poop Cruise Lawsuit Abandoned

A legal journal in Texas is reporting that the first and only lawsuit filed in Galveston County regarding the disabled Carnival Triumph cruise ship has ended with a voluntary dismissal. 

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Kathy Marie Armstrong who was among the 3,000 or so passengers who sailed from Galveston on February 7 2013.  The Carnival cruise ship became stranded in the Gulf of Mexico after a fire in the ship's engine room knocked out power. 

The Southeast Texas Record explains that Ms. Armstrong lawsuit alleged that  she endured what she described as deplorable, unsafe and unsanitary conditions, including “sweltering temperatures, lack of power and air conditioning, lack of hot or running water and lack of working toilets.” Ms. Armstrong Carnival Triumph Poop Cruiseclaimed that she “feared for her life and safety, under constant threat of contracting serious illness by the raw sewage filling the vessel, and suffering actual or some bodily injury” as the cruise ship was towed back to the U.S. 

The lawsuit further alleged “the vessel listed sharply several times, causing human waste to spill out of non-functioning toilets, flood across the vessel’s floors and halls and drip down the vessel’s walls.”

Ms. Armstrong labeled “a floating toilet, a floating Petri dish . . . a floating Hell.” 

The Carnival passenger ticket requires that all claims involving Carnival must be filed in federal court here in Miami. Carnival did not file a response to the lawsuit. The probable outcome was either a nominal settlement or Ms. Armstrong's lawyers agreed to a request to voluntarily dismiss the case.  

Still pending in Miami is a lawsuit filed by passengers seeking to assert a class action against Carnival for the cruise in question.  

Engine Problems Disable Celebrity Millennium in Alaska

Millennium Cruise ShipA newspaper in Alaska is reporting that the Celebrity Millennium cruise ship, which was suppose to have sailed on Friday from Seward, will be stuck in port until at least Tuesday due to engine problems.

The cruise ship arrived four hours late to Seward on Friday after experiencing an electrical problem with one of the ship’s two propulsion systems while at sea. 

The newspaper says that over 2,000 passengers are stranded. Many people were left scrambling to find a way back to Anchorage. Rental cars are scarce and buses dedicated to pre-booked excursions are not available to the majority of the passengers. The scheduled port stops in Juneau, Ketchikan and Skagway will be missed.

Celebrity is saying that it will refund the passengers' ticket fares plus provide a credit toward another cruise in the future. 

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Captain-Tucker

Story Credit: Professor Ross Klein's website CruiseJunkie.com

Celebrity Cruise Passenger Robbed of Rolex Ashore in Naples

A British cruise passenger from the Celebrity Reflection was robbed ashore on July 28th while the ship was docked in Naples

An Italian newspaper Il Mattino reports that the robbery was committed by two brothers who targeted the British cruise ship passenger.  The unidentified passenger was wearing a Rolex watch, worth around 12,000 euros, while she was walking in the center of the city.

The two men, Mirko Candida age 36 and Luciano age 24, were on a motor scooter at the time of the Celebrity Cruises Reflection Cruise Shiorobbery.

The Italian police apprehended the brothers and the watch was returned to the tourist. The woman was injured and received medical treatment when she returned to the cruise ship. 

This is not the first time that a cruise passenger wearing a Rolex while ashore in Naples was targeted to be robbed by thieves on a scooter.

In May of 2011, an American tourist from the Celebrity Solstice died in Naples after thieves assaulted him while trying to steal his Rolex.

Oscar Antonio Mendoza, age 66, and his wife cruised to Naples on the Celebrity Solstice. After they disembarked the cruise ship to tour the city, two men approached them on a scooter, grabbed Mr. Mendoza's arm and tried to take his Rolex.

Mr. Mendoza struggled with the men and was thrown to the ground, hitting his head. He was taken to the hospital where he was operated on; however, he did not regain consciousness and died nine days later.

As we have stated before on this blog, Naples is an interesting place to visit, but it has a reputation for pick pockets, purse snatchers, and drive-by-scooter robberies..  

 

Story Credit: Crew Center

Photo Credit: Celebrity Cruises

Senate Hearing on Cruise Industry Accountability Reveals Less Than 3% of Cruise Ship Crimes are Revealed to the Public

Yesterday I spent the afternoon in Washington DC. attending the hearing before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation titled "Recent Incidents Show Need for Stronger Focus on Consumer Protection."  

I have attended seven Congressional hearings on cruise ship safety issues from December 2005 through March 2012. This is my eight hearing.  For the past eight and one-half years, the cruise lines which attended these hearings have vigorously fought to keep the full extent of crimes which occur on cruise ships secret.  

Senator Rockefeller has now introduced legislation which will require the cruise lines to disclose all crimes on a on line database which will be available to the public. The previous database was grossly incomplete after the cruise industry and the FBI watered the last cruise crime disclose down such that only closed files were disclosed (it seems like the FBI always says that most files are "open" even if it is not conducting an investigation).  This incomplete and misleading database was a great disservice to the American public.   

Senator Rockefeller released a comprehensive report which reveals that 959 crimes were alleged to have occurred on cruise ships and reported to the Cruise Lines Senate HearingFBI since 2011, yet the U.S. public was informed of only 31 such crimes. That's less than 3% of the total number of actual crimes.

You can read the report here.

The proposed legislation is called the "Cruise Passenger Protection Act of 2013." It would:

Give consumers a clear upfront summary of the restrictive terms and conditions in cruise contracts. The Secretary of Transportation would develop standards for the cruise lines to provide prospective passengers with a short summary of the key terms in the contract. Consumers would be able to read a plain language summary of the key rights and limitations that passengers have during their cruise so they are fully aware of what rights they have, and don’t have, before they book their tickets.

Give the federal government more authority to protect cruise ship passengers. The Department of Transportation would be the lead federal agency for cruise ship consumer protection, similar to the role it has in aviation consumer protection. Passengers would also have additional protections in the event of a problem by giving the Department the authority to investigate consumer complaints.

Help passengers who encounter problems on cruise ships. Create a toll-free hot line for consumer complaints. An Advisory Committee for Passenger Vessel Consumer Protection would be created to make recommendations to improve existing consumer protection programs and services.

Make all crimes alleged on cruise ships publicly available information. The FBI currently only reports crimes that are no longer under investigation. This causes the number of alleged crimes to be severely under reported and does not give potential passengers accurate information about the safety of cruises. Cruise lines would also be required to place video cameras in public areas and would set requirements for cruise lines to keep the video footage.

Help passengers who have been a victim of a crime on the cruise ship, since they have limited access to law enforcement. The Department of Transportation would establish a victim advocate who can provide assistance to victims on board a cruise ship, make sure the victim is aware of his or her rights in international waters, and get access to appropriate law enforcement officers.

Senator Rockefeller released crime data on line under a series of reports and appendices entitled Cruise Ship Crime: Consumers Have Incomplete Access to Cruise Crime Data

Adam Goldstein, President and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, attended the hearing and promised that his cruise line would begin to voluntarily post crime data on the Royal Caribbean website. He announced that Carnival and Norwegian Cruise Line would do the same.

This decision by the top three cruise lines comes only after an eighth Congressional hearing.  Let's see if these three cruise lines will live up to their promises for a change. So far there is no word that any of the other 25 or so CLIA cruise line members will voluntarily release crime data.

Its too bad that Royal Caribbean and the others did not agree to voluntarily release crime data eight Congressional hearings ago.

 

Photo of Senate Hearing - Photo Credit: Jim Walker - I attended the hearing with my youngest son, John, who got to sit in the first row. That's him standing in the photo.

"Cruise Junkie" to Testify Before Senate Committee on Cruise Safety Issues

Whenever a news reporter covers a cruise ship fire, or a collision or sinking, or a sexual crime, or the disappearance of a cruise passenger or crew member from a ship, the reporter will ask how often these types of thing happen.

Cruise lines and the cruise trade group "Cruise Line International Association" (CLIA) will inevitably state that they don't keep such statistics. They will quickly claim that such incidents are "rare." They will always say something grandiose like "the safety of our cruise passengers is our highest priority." You can interrogate a CLIA or cruise line spokesperson for hours but they will never provide cruise accident or crime statistics.

Cruise Expert Ross KleinBut there is one person who has a good idea how often cruise ship rapes, fires, and overboards occur. He is Professor Ross Klein. He operates a website called, humorously enough, "Cruise Junkie."

Dr. Klein is a sociologist at Memorial University in Canada. The Telegram newspaper states that professor Klein is "recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on the cruise ship industry."

For example, If you want to know how many people have disappeared from cruise ships in the last ten years, he has the startling information here. Or you can read that around 50,000 people on cruise ships reported sick due to illness outbreaks (norovirus, e-coli, etc.) in the last ten years. 

Dr. Klein has been invited to attend a hearing before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. EST titled, "Cruise Industry Oversight: Recent Incidents Show Need for Stronger Focus on Consumer Protection."

He will testify as an expert witness about cruise ship practices and the frequency of fires, groundings, collisions, engine failures, and sanitation issues. Dr. Klein's appearance was requested by the committee’s chairman, Senator Jay Rockefeller.

Dr. Klein has been a regular expert witness before Congress on the issue of cruise ship dangers. He appeared before the U.S. Senate in March 2012 after the Costa Concordia disaster last year. You can read his comprehensive written testimony before the Senate last year here

Dr. Klein also testified before the Senate committee in 2008 and before a House of Representatives committee in 2007 on cruise ship issues. 

I have attended the last seven Congressional cruise hearings. have watched Dr. Klein testify in person three times before Congress on important issues regarding passenger safety.

While the cruise lines are quick to always say that mishaps are "rare" and make happy talk that the cruise industry is dedicated to the health and safety of its passengers, Dr. Klein is the one person who will bring actual facts to the hearing. Senator Rockefeller trusts him to provide a comprehensive and accurate assessment of the cruise industry.

The testimony will be broadcast live via streaming video. You can locate the website info for the live video here.   

 

Photo by Jim Walker

Senator Rockefeller Schedules Another Hearing on Cruise Passenger Safety

A year ago, following the Costa Concordia disaster, Senator Rockefeller convened a Senate hearing of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation to inquire into the safety and security of cruise ship passengers and environmental practices of the cruise ship industry.  

I attended the hearing where Senator Rockefeller asked appropriately tough questions to the CEO of the cruise industry's trade organization, Christine Duffy. You can read about the hearing in my article Senator Rockefeller Blasts Cruise Industry: You Are A World Unto Yourselves

You can watch a video of the hearing here.

The cruise industry promised that it was taking steps to protect the cruising public, but a series of highly publicized fires aboard Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruise ships caught the Senator's Carnival Splendor Fire attention. The most notorious event was the "poop cruise" after an engine room fire aboard the Carnival Triumph which disabled the ship. The Triumph had to be towed to Mobile Alabama from the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. 4 days of coverage on CNN exposed a side of cruising which embarassed the cruise industry.

Senator Rockefeller wrote a letter to Carnival's CEO, in which Senator Rockefeller asked questions about Carnival's safety record and its non-payment of taxes. Senator Rockefeller characterized Carnival's response as "shameful."

Senator Rockefeller was later interviewed on NBC about the cruise industry's record of cruise ship accidents.     

Senator Rockefeller has now scheduled another hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation for July 24, 2013. The hearing is titled “Cruise Industry Oversight: Recent Incidents Show Need for Stronger Focus on Consumer Protection.” Senator stated: 

“I’ve been told time and again that cruise lines will change, that things will get better for passengers. But according to our investigation, it doesn’t seem like things have changed. I’m coming to this hearing with an open mind, but so far the cruise lines haven’t been willing to make enough changes that matter on their own. I expect straightforward answers from our witnesses, not more empty promises about how things will get better after the next safety review.”

The hearing will start at 2:30 P.M. on Wednesday, July 24, 2013 at the 253 Russell Senate Office Building in Washington DC.

We will be attending the hearing and will report here on what happens.

12 Year Old Child Medevaced from Carnival Sensation

Carnival SensationNews stations in Orlando are reporting that a 12 year old child was airlifted from a Carnival cruise ship after falling on the ship.  

Port Canaveral authorities state that the child fell on the cruise ship on Wednesday while aboard the Carnival Sensation and was medevaced to Arnold Palmer Hospital in Orlando this morning in stable condition. 

The last time that a child was medevaced from a cruise ship in Port Canaveral was in March of this year when a 4 year old boy nearly drowned on the Disney Fantasy cruise ship.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Wknight94

Costa Concordia Lawsuits Remain in Florida, But What's Next?

Costa Concordia LawsuitIn an opinion released yesterday, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed a ruling from a federal district court which held that two lawsuits filed after the Costa Concordia disaster, involving 104 cruise passengers, should remain in state court in Miami.

The cases are Abeid-Saba, et al., v. Carnival Corporation and Scimone, et al. v. Carnival Corporation. The cruise line removed the cases to federal court under the Class Act Fairness Act ("CAFA") which establishes federal jurisdiction of "mass actions."

The district court held that CAFA did not apply because neither case involved more than 100 individuals. The lawyers for the passengers were careful to divide the 104 passengers into two different cases which each had less than 100 individuals involved. You can read our article about the district court's ruling here: Costa Concordia Litigation: Tactical Blunder By Carnival Opens Door for Lawsuits in Miami.

Yesterday, the circuit court affirmed the lower court. The court held that CAFA permitted pleading cases in this manner and a defendant could not consolidate cases for the purpose of meeting that threshold standard of a mass action with 100 or more individuals. 

You can read the 11th Circuit's opinion here. The press release by the passengers' lawyers is here.

The federal court decision involves a technical argument and does not address the merits of the case or the issue of forum non conveniens (whether the case should be filed in Italy versus the U.S.). Carnival's next step is probably to file a motion to dismiss the cases based on the argument that the terms of the Costa passenger tickets require that the lawsuit be filed in Genoa, Italy and that Italy is a more convenient location to pursue the litigation.  

There are many hundreds of cases proceeding in Italy. I have written articles stating that the chances of keeping a Costa Concordia lawsuit here in state court in Miami are slim. I hope it turns out that I'm wrong. 

July 5 2013 Update: A reader of this blog brought to my attention that Carnival and the other defendants in these cases have already filed motions to dismiss based on the forum selection clause in the passenger tickets (specifying Italy as the location where the cases must be filed) and the doctrine of "forum non conveniens" which is a doctrine where the court determines the most convenient location to hear the lawsuit.  There have been no rulings on these motions yet.  A recent case from the Florida Supreme Court, Cortez v. Palace Resorts, reinforced the legal proposition that there is a strong presumption in favor of not disturbing the chosen forum of a U.S. litigant. Hopefully, this will assist the passengers in keeping their lawsuits here in state court in Miami.

Photo Credit: Giglio News

Who's Keeping Cruise Passengers Safe?

AC 360 Keeping Them Honest - Cruise Ship SafetyAnderson Cooper's show AC 360 "Keeping Them Honest" aired a special program last night "Who's Keeping Cruise Passengers Safe?"

The program follows a string of cruise ship mishaps dating back to the Costa Concordia disaster last year up to the fire aboard the Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas last week. 

Where are cruise lines incorporated? Where do cruise lines register their cruise ships? Is there any international authority with legal authority to enforce safety regulations?

CNN interviewed me and Senator Rockefeller who has convened safety hearings into the cruise industry.

The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) and Royal Caribbean declined to be interviewed.

  

Miami Cruise Ship Injury Lawyer - Jim Walker

Injured on a cruise ship and looking to retain an experienced maritime lawyer? Consider Miami lawyer Jim Walker.  

Jim studied maritime case in law school in the early 1980's and has practiced maritime law for the past thirty years.  For the last fifteen years, Jim has focused his law practice exclusively on representing passengers and crew members injured on cruise ships. He has handled many hundreds of cases against cruise lines such as Carnival Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, and Royal Caribbean Cruises. 

There are lots of lawyers who advertise themselves as "cruise ship lawyers" on the internet, but who Jim Walker Cruise Ship Injury Lawyerhandle only a claim or two against a cruise line a year.

Jim handles only cases involving injuries on cruise ships sailing the high seas.  

Jim is a well known cruise ship safety advocate. He has attended seven hearings before the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives regarding issues of cruise passenger safety, sexual assault, disappearances of passengers at sea, crime, and cruise ship fires and collisions.  

The major press outlets routinely ask Jim for his perspective on cruise ship mishaps. This year alone, Jim has appeared in over 75 television, cable news & radio shows, newspaper articles, special programs & documentaries regarding cruise ship accidents, crimes and controversies.

This year CNN asked Jim to write an editorial about the state of the cruise industry: "What Cruise Lines Don't Want You to Know." 

Here's what people are saying about Jim:

"Top Maritime Lawyer" - ABA Journal.

"Top Cruise Lawyer" - USA Today.

"Prominent Private Practice Maritime Attorney" - Fox News.

"A Premier Lawyer for Cruise Passengers" - Reuters.

"Prominent Cruise Plaintiff Attorney" - Law.com (America Law Media).

"Leading Miami Attorney" - Newsweek Magazine

"Leading Maritime Lawyer in Miami" - Arizona Republic / USA Today

"An Outspoken and Candid Maritime Attorney Who has Represented Some of the Highest Profile Cruise Plaintiffs in History" - CruiseMates

"Internationally Renowned Maritime Lawyer and Cruise Safety Advocate" - Times of Malta

"Man For the Other Team" - International Shipping Publication Tradewinds.   

"Prominent Florida-Based Lawyer for Cruise Ship Passenger" - Staten Island Live.

"Leading U.S. Based Cruise Lawyer" - eTravel Blackboard (Australia)

If you were inured or assaulted on a cruise ship, don't hesitate to contact Jim:

jim@cruiselaw.com

305 995 5300

1 (800) 256-1518 (U.S. Toll Free)

Jim Walker Cruise Ship Injury Lawyer

Cruise Passenger Bill of Rights: A Step in the Wrong Direction?

Late yesterday afternoon the cruise industry's trade organization, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), announced in a press release that it was adopting a cruise passenger "Bill of Rights."

The "Bill of Rights" is primarily a reaction to the adverse publicity following the Triumph "cruise from hell" stories where passengers were stuck on the disabled and sewage filled Carnival cruise ship without electricity, running water or operational toilets.   

The "Bill of Rights" is being largely praised as a step in the right direction, but there are a number of problems that most people in the media are missing. 

First, the "rights" actually contain limitations of liability. In disasters like the Carnival Triumph, a Cruise Passenger Bill of Rightspassenger would have very limited recourse. The "Bill of Rights" provide only for "a partial refund for voyages that are terminated early" due to mechanical failures.

After the Triumph fiasco, Carnival not only fully reimbursed the passengers their cruise fare, but provided them with a free voucher for a future cruise, waived all on board purchases and reimbursed the passengers' travel expenses. Carnival also gave each passenger $500. Ironically, the proposed passenger Bill of Rights actually provides substantially less compensation than Carnival previously provided to the passengers voluntarily.

CLIA representative David Peikin is quoted in the Miami Herald saying that "the rights will become part of passengers’ contracts of carriage and will be legally enforceable."  This means that the very limited compensation of only a "partial refund" in a "cruise from hell" situation can be legally enforced by the cruise lines against the passenger!  In Triumph-like poop cruises, passengers will not be entitled to a full refund, or a free cruise voucher, or a waiver of onboard charges, or cash compensation. The bill is actually taking rights away from the passengers. 

The cruise Bill of Rights is a strategic move to preempt Sen. Charles Schumer from introducing a more stringent bill before the U.S. Senate and to avoid a bill which may be enacted into law with penalties and fines.

The Bill of Rights is entirely voluntary and there will be no financial consequences or punitive measures if the cruise lines violate the enumerated rights of the passengers.

It is nothing more or less than a promise to treat the cruise passengers right.

Historically, there may be cause to question the cruise lines' sincerity. A number of years ago, Crystal Cruises promised to never dump wastewater in the Monterey Marine Sanctuary. Later, the cruise line was caught dumping over 35,000 gallons of waste and sewage into the protected waters. As cruise expert Ross Klein pointed out in his testimony before Congress, the cruise line responded by stating that we did not break the law, merely our promise.

If the cruise lines are serious about extending rights to the passengers, then they should propose that the Bill of Rights be enacted into statutory law with certain penalties to be imposed against them if they violate their guests rights.

There are also some parts of the "Bill of Rights" which are misleading.

For example, one of the rights is "the right to have available on board ships… professional emergency medical attention…"

This sounds great. However, passenger tickets of all cruise lines state that ship doctors and nurses are independent contractors for whom the cruise lines are not responsible. In cases where the cruise passengers are seriously injured or killed due to the absence of appropriately trained and experienced medical providers on cruise ships, the cruise lines refer to the language in the passenger tickets and argue that they are not responsible. A cruise ship is the only place in the world where you can be a victim of medical malpractice and have no recourse whatsoever.

Will the cruise lines remove this exculpatory language in the passenger tickets? I am sure that they won't. As such, this provision in the Bill of Rights is not only meaningless but it is misleading and potentially fraudulent.

If the cruise industry wanted to be transparent and agree to extend meaningful rights to cruise passengers, it would state clearly that passengers have the right to seek relief when they are maimed or killed by incompetent ship doctors. It should also agree that there are no limitations of liability that the cruise lines can legally enforce.  

The biggest problem with the Bill of Rights is that it primarily addresses inconveniences and nuisances which cruise passengers may face from time to time. It includes no rights regarding more important matters, such as when the cruise passenger is a victim of a crime.

The cruise news recently has been dominated by a controversy involving a 33 year old Disney crew member who molested an eleven year girl on the Disney Dream cruise ship. It is alleged that the cruise line refused to timely report the incident, which occurred in U.S. waters in Port Canaveral, to the local police. The cruise ship then left the jurisdiction and sailed to the Bahamas where it was impossible to obtain a criminal prosecution. The crew member is now free at home in India and the victim and her family are left with no justice.

In order to deal with outrageous situations like this, the proposed cruise passenger Bill of Rights should contain rights which require the cruise line to immediately report crimes to the local authorities, require the disclosure of surveillance videos and statements that may assist in the prosecution of crew ship criminals, and include significant penalties when the cruise lines do not behave appropriately.

May 24 2013 Updates

Schumer Not Satisfied with Cruise Industry "Passenger Bill of Rights"

What can cruise passengers expect from their own Bill of Rights?

Carnival Ecstasy Briefly Loses Engine Power

Carnival Ecstasy Power OutageThe popular cruise fan site Cruise Critic is reporting that the Carnival Ecstasy's return to Port Canaveral this morning was delayed due to a brief power failure last evening.  

Cruise Critic states that the Ecstasy lost power for around 12 minutes while sailing back to Port Canaveral at the end of a five-night Bahamas cruise. 

Carnival released a statement, saying that  "All hotel services and propulsion were quickly restored and the ship is currently underway on its way back to its homeport."

Carnival attributed the power outage to a "mechanical failure."

The Ecstasy is an old Fantasy class cruise ship launched in 1991. Carnival has been under criticism for neglecting maintenance on its ships.

Leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

Photo Credit:  Wikipedia / Sparrowman980 

 

Costa Concordia Disaster Continues: Cruise Line Avoids Criminal Liability By Paying Fine of Only One Million Euros

Multiple news sources are reporting that the Italian prosecutors have agreed to drop all criminal charges against Costa Cruises arising out of the Concordia disaster in exchange for a fine of only one million Euro's.  

Just one million Euro's (around $1.31million) for killing 32 people, including children? What a pittance.

I'm sure Carnival-owned Costa is happy to write that check.  All of the big shot cruise executives and senior management officers who knew about the dangerous fly-by salutes can rest assured that they Costa Concordia - Criminal Fine - Italywill remain in their luxurious villas and not spend a second behind bars. 

The fine turns out to be less than $41,000 per dead passenger and dead crew member. Not much of a punishment. 

The deal does not release Captain Schettino of the criminal charges of manslaughter and abandoning ship. And the civil lawsuits in Italy, for what they are worth, are unaffected. 

Newspapers are saying that the the prosecution is satisfied with the fine because it was "close to the maximum allowed by law." So why wasn't it the maximum fine?  And what difference is a million Euro fine to a multi billion Euro corporation?  Isn't the ongoing publicity of a criminal trial and potential jail time against the real decision makers a better deterrent?

 

Photo Credit Giglio News. 

Boy Involved in Near Drowning on Disney Cruise Ship Struggling to Recover

Arnold Palmer Hospital Orlando A number of readers have asked me for information about the little four year old boy who nearly drowned last week aboard the Disney Fantasy cruise ship.

Today there is a short article in the Orlando Sentinel indicating that the child may face "extensive brain damage" but his parents, "helped by their faith, remain optimistic their little 'warrior' will continue to recover." 

The boy, whose first name is "Chase," and his family are identified in the article.

The article makes reference to comments the parents are posting on a site to share personal health news as well as the family's Facebook page. 

Disney Fantasy Cruise Ship Returns to Port with Medical Emergencies

Disney Fantasy Cruise ShipThe Orlando Sentinel is reporting that the Disney Fantasy cruise ship returned to Port Canaveral yesterday night shortly after sailing from the Florida port after 2 passengers experienced medical emergencies. 

The medical emergencies involved a 6 year old child with diabetes and a 77 year old man with a heart condition. 

The Disney cruise ship initially sailed from Port Canaveral around 5 PM but returned at around 8:30 PM to disembark the two passengers for emergency medical treatment at a local hospital.

Readers will recall that the Disney Fantasy was the location of a near-drowning last week when a 4 year old child slipped below the water in the Donald Pool which is not staffed with a lifeguard.  The incident sparked a debate about parental responsibility and whether the pool was safely designed and adequately staffed. You can read about that incident here

 

Photo Credit: Joe Burbank, Orlando Sentinel

Dangerous Disney Cruise Ship Swimming Pool: Thoughts from a Concerned Cruiser

Earlier this week I wrote an article about a 4 year old boy who almost drowned in a pool on the Disney Fantasy cruise ship.

I advocated having a lifeguard at every pool on a cruise ship, especially on Disney ships which cater to families with kids.  Lifeguards are needed because parents are not perfect, and there is a tendency for parents to let their guards down when they are on vacation.  And why shouldn't Disney do it?  Like Carnival, Disney pays no U.S. taxes on its enormous cruise revenues by registering its ship overseas. It has money to burn. 

Disney Cruise Ship PoolDisney also claims that it trains over 1,000 lifeguards each year for its resorts and cruise ships. 

Kids deserve to have their parents and the cruise line working together to keep them safe.

A few people agreed, but most were quick to blame if not condemn the parents of the child who was pulled from the pool. The comments on my Facebook page were harsh.

Today I received a nice email from a concerned cruiser. She makes some good points, which Disney should consider:

"Hi Jim,

My family and I disembarked from the Disney Fantasy in Cape Canaveral on Sat March 30. While we had a terrific time, I was saddened to hear that a 4 year old boy nearly drowned getting on that ship just hours later. That news has pretty much spoiled my good memories because I have trouble bearing to reminisce about my good time in the midst of another’s tragedy. My prayers are with the boy and his family.

While on our 7 day Eastern Caribbean cruise aboard the Fantasy (Mar 23 to 30), I noticed that the pool areas where extremely chaotic and in my opinion an accident just waiting to happen. The design of the “Donald Pool” where the boy nearly drowned is what I would consider unsafe. The pool is over 5 feet deep but has very small width and length. It cannot accommodate the number of kids on the ship safely without kids being jumped on and kicked in the head etc. Also, because of the very small length and width compared to depth, there is not enough room around the edges for parents to adequately supervise the children. When my kids were swimming I had a very difficult time finding any room around the pool to watch them. I tried to get into the pool with my children and the lack of room in the pool resulted in my being jumped on, kicked in the face, etc. Also, the perimeter of the pool has a shallow area that pushes parental seating (and therefore supervision) even further away and obstructs the view of the children in the deep water.

In addition, there is a gigantic screen TV showing Disney movies that easily diverts people’s attentions.

Crowded Disney Swimming PoolThere are a very limited number of deck chairs around the pools but these are inadequate to allow supervision of the children and often only serve to block the view of other adults relocated to being further back away from the pool due to its design. I was very uncomfortable that Disney had no lifeguards at the pool but they had more than one person coming around to the deck chairs asking if you would like an alcoholic drink.

Finally, Disney in most of its show’s encourages adults to relax and allow their kids to roam the ship unattended. In fact one of the comics that they have in their shows makes a joke about parents not letting kids out of their sight and says “it’s a ship, where can they go”!

The design of the pool, the atmosphere of the ship, the easy access to alcohol and the lack of lifeguards are simply drownings waiting to happen, no matter how vigilant the parents. Unless Disney makes some changes to their procedures, and assumes a better level of corporate responsibility, I unfortunately suspect we will see more drownings on the Disney Fantasy in the years to come.

With deep concern and prayers for all . . ." 

 

April 8, 2013 Update:  According to the Orlando Sentinel, the child is struggling with his recovery at the Arnold Palmer Hospital in Orlando.  

Photo Credit: USA TODAY
 

Imperfect Parents & Corporate Irresponsibility: Why No Lifeguards on Disney Cruise Ships?

This weekend, there was a "near drowning" of a 4 year old boy on Disney's Fantasy cruise ship.  

The incident reportedly occurred during the afternoon when a family boarded the Disney cruise ship and before the ship sailed. The boy was pulled from the pool, apparently non-responsive, and had to be taken to an emergency room at the Cape Canaveral Hospital, and then airlifted to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando. Fortunately this happened while the ship was in port so the child could be rushed to receive emergency medical treatment rather than a few hours later on the high Disney Fantasy Cruise Ship Pool Near Drowningseas where no such assistance would have been possible.

The latest word I heard was that the boy had survived, and was stable and recovering.

The parents of the child were reportedly not at the pool but arrived when the boy was rescued. The parents were soundly criticized by cruise fans on the Disney boards and the Cruise Critic on-line community.

People have posted comments on my article on Facebook criticizing the parents. Some say things like there are no lifeguards on any cruise ships, which all parents should know. Others say that the passenger ticket states that the cruise line does not accept any responsibility for liabilities arising out of swimming pools. Still other say that there are signs on cruise ships saying that there are no lifeguards on duty and that swimming is at the passenger's risk.

I understand the concept of personal and parental responsibility, having two boys who my wife and I are raising. But I also understand that the law also demands corporate responsibility as well. It's easy to criticize a parent when a child is injured; we are all perfect parents when it's not our child, aren't we? But I find that those people who are quick to blame parents when kids are injured and who talk incessantly about "personal responsibility" are the first to defend corporate malfeasance and use the term "personal responsibility" as code words for condoning the complete absence of "corporate responsibility."     

Cruise lines like Disney have legal responsibility to parents and children on Disney cruise ships. A "no lifeguard on duty" sign does not legally exonerate a cruise line, or a hotel, or an amusement park.  It simply raises the issue whether the sign was legally conspicuous enough to provide an effective warning to the parents.   

It is inexcusable for Disney not to assign multiple lifeguards around the ship's pools. Is it correct that Disney Cruise Line has no lifeguards at all?  If so, that's reckless. Yes, parents need to be responsible, but they will make errors. Reasonable safety can exist only when there is both personal responsibility and corporate responsibility. 

A friend brought to my attention that Disney advertises that it has well-trained lifeguards on its cruise ships and in its parks.

In a 2008 publication entitled Walt Disney Report on Safety, Disney states that it trains over 1,200 lifeguards a year, including on its cruise ships. Here's what Disney states:   

"Lifeguard Training"

"Together, the Disneyland® Resort, Walt Disney World® Resort and Disney Cruise Line® train more than 1,200 lifeguards a year to monitor activities at these venues."

"Our lifeguards must complete a thorough training program that exceeds most U.S. standards and includes both a water-skills test and up to 24 hours of basic training in water rescue techniques, CPR, basic first aid, oxygen administration and the use of AEDs. After completion of basic training, lifeguards must also perform four hours of in-service training each month, undergo eight hours of recertification Disney Resort Drowning Deathtraining every year and participate in frequent unannounced audits by one of the world's premier aquatic safety service providers."

Is this bait-and-switch?  Does Disney tell the public that its kid-friendly resorts and ships have well trained lifeguards but in reality it does not have any?

Last month, a 13 year-old boy died at a Disney amusement resort near Epcot which had no lifeguard. You can read about that death here.

Disney issued a statement after the dream-vacation turned into a nightmare. The Imperfect Parent quotes Disney saying that it was "saddened" by the death and " . . . our hearts go out to his family, friends and loved ones. We have reached out to his family to offer care and assistance during this difficult time.” 

Families don't need after-the-fact condolences.  They don't need "no lifeguard" signs. They need some of the 1,200 lifeguards who Disney claims it trains each year doing their jobs at the pools in the Disney resorts and on the Disney cruise ships so that no other children are killed or seriously injured when their parents are imperfect.

Have a thought? Join the discussion on our Facebook page about this issue

 

Photo Credits:

Disney Fantasy cruise ship pool - Fodors

Disney resort pool - Wikipedia via Daily Mail 

Swimming Pool Mishap on Disney Fantasy Sends 4 Year Old to Hospital

Disney Fantasy Cruise ShipNewspapers are reporting that a four year-old boy was pulled from a pool on the Disney Fantasy cruise ship, taken to Cape Canaveral Hospital, and then airlifted to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando on Saturday afternoon. 

The incident occurred after the boy's family had boarded the ship and before it had left Port Canaveral in Brevard County,

Brevard County medical personnel arrived on the cruise ship to respond to the incident which occurred around 3:30 p.m. The incident was describes as a "potential drowning" at the family pool. The articles on line indicate the boy had a pulse when taken from the cruise ship.

Comments are being made on the on-line Disney message boards that the child’s parents were not in the pool when the accident happened but ran over while emergency rescuers worked on the boy. There was no lifeguard at this particular swimming pool although the cruise line positions lifeguards near the water-slides some cruisers are saying. 

April 1, 2013 Update: Imperfect Parents & Corporate Irresponsibility: Why No Lifeguards on Disney Cruise Ships? 

Photo Credit: Fodors

Book Cruises Carefully Travel Agent Suggests

WWBT NBC12 in Richmond aired a consumer video today about the types of questions which consumers should ask before selecting a cruise. 

The video was produced in response to the recent troubles at sea with the stranded Carnival Triumph cruise ship, and the recent "suspicious death" aboard Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas cruise ship earlier this week which have left some passengers thinking twice about taking a cruise.

A travel agent from Richmond explains that all cruise lines have a passenger contract in effect. She suggests that cheap prices may mean riskier sailing.

 

NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

Regent Seven Seas Voyager Experiencing Propulsion Problems

A passenger aboard the Regent Seven Seas Voyager cruise ship is stating on Cruise Critic that the ship is experiencing propulsion problems:

"We are trying to make our way to Shanghai and the ship has propulsion issues again. Our arrival is delayed 6 hours due to the propulsion issue and because we have missed high tide. We personally have lost 1 of our tours due to conflicting times, unfortunately it is one that was a big motivator for this trip. They have not mentioned to anyone on board that this is the 2nd time in the past couple of months the ship has had propulsion issues.

Regent Seven Seas VoyagerNot too impressed with the situation.

As well we are now missing 1 of our ports. Sounds vaguely similar to a couple of months ago on this ship."

There is also a comment on Twitter by a person who apparently communicated with a family member on the Voyager:

"Just talked to family onboard RSSC Voyager. 6 hrs late into Shanghai-propulsion problem. Skipping stop in Xiamen to get to HK."

If this information is accurate, then this is the sixth cruise ship which has experienced a engine / propulsion problem in the last two month.  Five of Carnival Corporation's cruise ships have suffered engine / propulsion problems: the Carnival Triumph, Dream, Legend & Elation and the Carnival-owner P&O Ventura.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia (GroszekGroszek)

Carnival Cruise Strip Search Trial Continues

The case of a young girl strip searched by Carnival Cruise employees is expected to reach the jury early this week. 

The case involves allegations that over-zealous Carnival officers strip searched a 17 year old passenger suspected of possessing pot while aboard the Sensation cruise ship.

The search allegedly included a cavity inspection and the girl was told to remove her tampon in front of Carnival Sensation Cruise Shiptwo male ship officers.

Carnival usually does not comment on pending litigation but went out of its way to tell newspapers that the claims were "far-fetched" and to basically call the girl a liar.

We have written a couple of articles about the outrageous allegations in the case:

Lawsuit: Carnival Cruise Lines Strip Searches Girl Looking For Pot

Court Permits Teenager Strip Searched on Carnival Cruise Ship to Seek Punitive Damages

The jury's verdict, pro or con, will come at a particularly bad time for the cruise line. The media has Carnival under a microscope with fires and engine problems plaguing the Carnival Triumph, Dream, Legend and Elation over the past two months and revelations that Carnival does not pay U.S. taxes or reimburse the U.S. for the services of federal agencies such as the U.S. Coast Guard.  

The jury trial, which began last week, is before U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenbaum down here in South Florida.

We will report on the verdict as soon as it is announced. 

March 18 2013 Update: Defense verdict for Carnival.  The case was defended by Miami defense lawyers Curtis Mase and Lauren DeFabio. We will update this once we obtain a copy of the verdict form and obtain additional information.. 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia (Wknight94)

New York Senator Calls for Cruise Ship Bill of Rights

Cruise Ship Bill of RightsThe AP is reporting that New York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer is calling on the cruise ship industry to adopt a "bill of rights" to guarantee passengers certain protections while cruising. 

Senator Schumer says that he will be asking the cruise lines to voluntarily adopt certain guidelines which include guarantees that cruise ships have what the AP describes as "sanitary conditions, back-up power, medical staff and other standard procedures."

Passengers would be entitled to a full refund if a trip is abruptly canceled due to mechanical problems.

"Wild West of Travel Industry"

A newspaper quotes Senator Schumer stating: "Cruise ships, in large part operating outside the bounds of United States enforcement, have become the wild west of the travel industry, and it's time to rein them in before anyone else gets hurt. This bill of rights, based on work we've done with the airline industry, will ensure that passengers aren't forced to live in third world conditions or put their lives at risk when they go on vacation."

This news comes just a day after another Democratic Senator, Jay Rockefeller, wrote a letter to Carnival CEO Micky Arison complaining about Carnival Corporation's shoddy safety record and chastising the cruise tycoon for not paying taxes and not reimbursing the U.S. government for Coast Guard services. 

A cruise ship bill of rights is long overdue.  As matters now stand, the cruise lines have drafted one-sided cruise tickets which form the legal contract between the cruise line and passenger and protect the cruise industry from virtually every type of situation.  

Expect major push back by the cruise industry which wants to keep everything just the way it is.

Have a thought? Join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Yet Another Carnival Cruise Ship Flounders - P&O Ventura Suffers Propulsion Problems

On the heels of power and propulsion difficulties facing Carnival Cruise Line cruise ships Triumph, Dream, Legend and Elation, it is now being reported that another cruise ship operated by a Carnival Corporation brand, P&O Cruises, is suffering propulsion problems.

Passengers are reporting that the P&O Ventura has broken down several times over the past three days and is having major problems with one of its two propulsion units.  The situation sounds similar to the problems which the Carnival Legend as it limps back from a Caribbean cruise to Tampa with only one of its propulsion system working. (Its has been pointed out to us that the Legend has two Azipod systems, whereas the Ventura has conventional diesel engines).  

I first heard of the Ventura's problems in an article by U.K. cruise blogger John Honeywell (Captain Carnival P&O Ventura Cruise ShipGreybeard) who writes:

"P&O's Ventura continues to make its way across the Atlantic at reduced speed thanks to a fault with the power to its starboard propeller, is expected to reach Southampton on schedule next Saturday, after missing a visit to Madeira scheduled for Tuesday.."   

Several people are leaving comments on the popular Cruise Critic forum:

The Ventura is ". . . broken down and just drifting!"

".  .  . they are now moving again but have been given no explanation."

P&O commented ". . .  We are currently working with the manufacturers and shore support to identify and rectify an issue with the starboard propulsion motor on Ventura. We can assure everyone that power and services on the ship are unaffected."

" . . .  looks like still having problems, the person on board has now said that as they were floating around so long and now cant seem to get over 18kts they now cant go to Madeira but will be diverting to Ponta delgada." 

The media is in a frenzy reporting on all of Carnival's problems. But, so far, no one is reporting on the problems facing Carnival Corporation's P&O Ventura.  

Carnival Corporation is the world's largest cruise owner and operator in the world. It operates: Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and Seabourn in North America; P&O Cruises (UK), and Cunard in the United Kingdom; AIDA Cruises in Germany; Costa Cruises in Southern Europe; Iberocruceros in Spain; and P&O Cruises (Australia) in Australia.

The Ventura was built in Italy and is owned by Carnival Corporation. It is flagged in Bermuda and was launched in 2007.

Photo credit: Telegraph

Carnival Booze Cruise Disaster Ends Up In Court

Courthouse News Service reports on a disturbing story of Carnival allegedly over-serving alcohol to a passenger who fell off the cruise ship and then not taking reasonable steps to rescue the overboard woman.

The case involves cruise passenger "Sarah."  As Courthouse News explains: 

"After Carnival cruises got her so drunk she fell overboard, and eyewitnesses reported it, the captain refused to turn around the ship for 90 minutes, then refused to airlift her to hospital to treat her fractured bones." 

The incident occurred aboard the Carnival Destiny in October of last year. Sarah was cruising to Jamaica with her fiancé and her friend Rebecca. We wrote about the incident when it happened: Why Carnival Destiny Passenger RescueDid Carnival Delay Rescuing An Overboard Passenger From The Destiny?

The lawsuit alleges that a bartender kept pushing drinks on her. To encourage more alcohol sales, the Carnival bartender offered them free $5 coupons for the ship's casino. As a result, Sarah became "extremely intoxicated" and fell into the ocean but not before first striking a life boat during her 100 foot fall.

Her injuries included what is describes as "fractured orbital bones, lung contusions, hypothermia, fractured ribs, dissection of the carotid artery, heart arrhythmia, broken optical shelves, blood clots in her eyes, arms, and legs, as well as extreme hematomas all over her body."

Sarah's friend, fiance and others on the ship saw and/or heard her fall into the ocean and immediately notified several Carnival staff members.  Carnival refused and delayed before they turned the ship to cruise ship around and eventually found her nearly two hours in the ocean, severely injured and without a life vest. 

But the woman's ordeal was not over. Carnival refused to airlift her to a hospital, but diverted the cruise to Key West, where "doctors explained that they did not have the equipment to handle the severe trauma that plaintiff had suffered. They also stated that the plaintiff should have been air evacuated from the cruise ship directly to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami."

The story was also covered by Cruise Critic, and the members of that on-line cruise site are blaming Sarah for not exercising "personal responsibility."

Bur cruise lines are considered to be persons under the law. Cruise lines have responsibility to their guests. There is case law in Florida that cruise lines face liability when they over-serve passengers past the point of intoxication which appears to be the case if the allegations are true.  Plus it's inexcusable to delay a couple of hours before trying to rescue an overboard passenger, whether they are drunk or not.

People may scoff at the case but Carnival earns hundreds of millions of dollars pushing alcohol on its huge fleet of cruise ships. It faces a multi-million dollar exposure in a case with such egregious allegations.   

Is Carnival Dream Turning Into the Carnival Nightmare?

CNN reports this morning that passengers aboard the Dream contacted the news channel, stating that there are power outages and overflowing toilets on the cruise ship which is in port at Philipsburg, St. Maarten, in the eastern Caribbean. The ship was supposed to leave port yesterday at 5:00 PM.

CNN quotes a passenger from North Carolina saying:

"We are not allowed off of the boat despite the fact that we have no way to use the restrooms on board . . . The cruise director is giving passengers very limited information and tons of empty promises. What was supposed to take a hour has turned into 7-plus hours."

Another passenger tells CNN: "There's human waste all over the floor in some of the bathrooms and they're overflowing -- and in the state rooms. The elevators have not been working. They've been turning them on and off, on and off." 

CNN quotes the U.S. Coast Guard saying that Carnival notified it that the Dream is experiencing "generator issues." 

The incident occurs while the cruise industry is conducting its annual convention, "Cruise Shipping Miami." Carnival President Gerry Cahill told the convention audience that disabled cruise ships are "very rare."

Early this morning Carnival released a statement saying: "At no time did the ship lose power but there were periodic interruptions to elevators and toilets for a few hours last night . . . At present the ship has full power and all hotel systems are functioning normally and have been functional since approximately 12.30 a.m."

If the ship never lost power why is it still in port 16 hours past schedule? 

A webcam link posted by a Cruise Critic member shows the Dream still in port as of 9:00 AM this morning.

The Dream's webcam is here.

Reuters quotes Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Ryan Doss in Miami saying “Right now the passengers are being kept on board the ship for accountability reasons.  They were scheduled to leave today so the captain has decided to have everybody remain on board at this time.”

If you are on the ship or have information to share, please leave a message or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons (Kuloskulos)

Court Permits Teenager Strip Searched on Carnival Cruise Ship to Seek Punitive Damages

A year ago I wrote an article about an over-zealous Carnival security officer who allegedly strip searched a 17 year old passenger suspected of possessing pot while aboard the Sensation cruise ship.

The search included a cavity inspection and the girl was told to remove her tampon in front of two male ship officers.  "Lawsuit: Carnival Cruise Lines Strip Searches Girl Looking For Pot

Carnival PR representatives were dismissive of the lawsuit, characterizing the claims as "far-fetched." The cruise line basically called the teenager a liar.

Carnival Sensation Strip SearchThe case has been litigated for the past 11 months. Carnival recently argued that punitive damages should not be permitted because none of the employees involved in the incident were working in a "managerial capacity." Carnival essentially argued that they were just low level employees and any wrongful conduct was not part of any type of policy or procedure condoned by the cruise line.

The federal court disagreed, holding that "the fact that these officers follow directives and protocol from their supervisors does not necessarily mean that they could not also possess the discretion to ultimately determine Carnival's strip search policy." 

The case is now heading toward trial.

Read lawsuit here.

Story credit: Courthouse News Service

Photo credit: Huffington Post

Costa Concordia Litigation: Tactical Blunder By Carnival Opens Door For Lawsuits in Miami

A couple of weeks ago (February 4th), Carnival won a major victory in defending the personal injury cases arising out of the Costa Concordia disaster when a federal judge in South Florida granted Carnival's motion to dismiss and ordered that the case must be filed in Italy if the passengers wish to proceed. 

In the case of Wilhelmina Warrick v. Carnival Corporation, Judge William P. Dimitrouleas held that he was "thoroughly convinced that dismissal in favor of an Italian forum is proper."  The order states that the Court carefully considered the matter and concluded that every single factor weighed in favor of dismissing the passengers' case from Florida. 

Costa ConcordiaYou can read the opinion here courtesy of another maritime law firm's website. I considered the decision to be essentially a final nail in the coffin regarding attempts to hold Carnival or Costa responsible here in U.S. courts.

But on February 15th, the same federal court judge reached an opposite result in two other cases involving 104 Costa cruise passengers claiming compensation arising out of the Concordia capsizing.  Denise Abeid-Saba et al., vs. Carnival Corporation (companion case is Scimone v. Carnival Corporation). 

These cases were filed in state court here in Miami.  Carnival removed the cases to federal court pursuant to the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA)  of 2005 which permits defendants to remove cases which involve monetary relief sought by 100 or more persons.  However, there is an exclusion where there are 100 plaintiffs because the defendant seeks to consolidate the cases.  

The Court noted that the Abeid-Saba case involved 57 persona and the Simone cases involved 47 persons. Therefore, because neither case involved 100 or more person, there was no basis for removal of the cases from state court.

The Court further held that there was no foreign interest or foreign policies sufficient to create federal court jurisdiction.  Judge Dimitrouleas ordered that the cases should be remanded back to state court.

But then the judge went further. He held:

"There is no indication that the Italian government owned or ran the vessel. There is no evidence of the importance of the Costa Concordia or cruising to the Italian economy. Italy has not taken a position in this lawsuit. Put simply, there is a dearth of evidence to show that Italy has a strong foreign interest in this case. This case is about international and U.S. passengers injured on a pleasure cruise run by a private corporation and whether that corporation properly adhered to safety standards or was otherwise negligent. U.S. - Italian relationships will not be rocked if a Florida state court judge awards money damages because and Italian corporation was negligent."

The decision is surprising in so far as Judge Dimitrouleas essentially reached a completely different result in his orders just 11 days apart.  The lawyers for the 104 Concordia victims were understandably pleased with the outcome and issued a press release earlier this week.     

Judge Dimitrouleas' strongly worded opinion is hard to reconcile with his earlier opinion that he was "thoroughly convinved" that the cases should be filed in Italy.

But there are two things that all lawyers learn in law school: first, federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and in practical terms are always looking for a way to get rid of a civil personal injury case; and secondly, federal judges decide only those issues squarely before the court.   

Costa Concordia SimoneThe issue of forum non conveniens (whether the case should be filed in Italy versus the U.S.) was not before Judge Dimitrouleas. The only issue before him was whether the case belonged in federal court (as Carnival wanted) versus in state court (as the plaintiff wanted). The court did not conduct the same forum non conveniens analysis as in the earlier Warrick case. The court reached a decision solely addressing the issue whether federal jurisdiction was properly invoked.

Rather than moving to dismiss the state court cases based on the argument that the only proper location was in Italy, Carnival preferred to try and take the cases into the federal courts. This was a clever technical argument that turned out to be a bad idea. Carnival gambled with a removal argument based on CAFA. It lost and received some bad language from the federal court in the process.   

But the Concordia victims can't count their chickens yet.  Carnival will still have an opportunity to raise the forum non conveniens argument in the state court proceedings.  Carnival will argue that the language in the judge's order is just dicta, and is not binding on the state court in any event. The cruise victims will argue that the rationale in the court's latest ruling is correct and the cases should remain in Florida state court. 

I met the lead plaintiff in the Scimone case (photo above right) while attending the Congressional hearings last year. These families have experienced quite an ordeal and deserve a trial in Miami. I hope they are successful in keeping the cases here.  

Is Cruising Safe? Depends On Who You Ask.

I read a tweet this evening which caught my eye:

"Is Cruising Safe?"  

I noticed that it was by Jane Wooldridge who many of you know as the business editor of the Miami Herald. I have been critical of the Miami Herald and its reporters who, like Ms. Wooldridge, are careful not to criticize the Miami-based cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean which contribute substantially to their newspaper's advertising revenues.

Actually the tweet did not refer to an article in the Herald at all. Instead it linked to an article in Travel + Cruise Ship SafetyLeisure where Ms. Wooldridge answers her own question by assuring us that cruise ships accidents resulting in death are "very rare" and that the Concordia shipwreck was an "anomaly."  These are exactly the talking points that the cruise industry sent to its friends in the travel industry immediately after the Concordia hit the rocks a year ago. 

Ms. Wooldridge goes so far as to suggest that the recent safety proposals of having safety drills before cruising, keeping strangers out of the bridge and other long overdue basic practices may "eliminate such incidents altogether."

Now I am accustomed to delusional puff pieces like this from travel publication editors (Mr. Woolridge is also editor of Travel + Leisure). The most notorious pro-cruise puff pieces come from cruise cheerleader Carolyn Spencer-Brown, who is editor of the Expedia/Travel Advisor owned Cruise Critic publication. She loves to say that cruising is "absolutely safe."

The truth is that there have been far more deaths on cruise ships over the course of the past five years than other forms of major transportation. The U.S. based commercial aviation industry is remarkably safe.  The airlines had strict pre-flight checklists and safety procedures 50 years ago. And needless to say, the aviation industry never let the pilot's girlfriends hang out in the cockpit or permit jets to buzz towns for fun.  

Cruise lines also have a major problem with crimes committed by employees and drunk passengers against women and children. The chance of being raped on a cruise is twice that of being raped ashore. Airlines, railroads and buses simply do not have these types of problems.

Do you really think that public relations inspired proposals promoted in a travel magazine will prevent the next deadly cruise ship collision or shipboard fire?  Do you think that the new rules will Cruise Ship Safety protect your little girl from a pedophile male cabin attendant with a key card to your cabin?    

If you want sunshine blown up your caboose, then rely on Ms. Wooldridge or Ms. Spencer-Brown for an answer to the question "is cruising is safe?"  I guarantee that you will receive no real facts but lots of wonderful adjectives that accidents are "rare" and cruising is "absolutely" safe.

But if you want facts upon which base your own conclusions, check around for information from sources like Sociology Professor Ross Klein's informative website, or check out the website of the non-profit  International Cruise Victims, or read some of our articles about cruise ship accidents, deaths, sexual assault of women and molestation of children which the cruise lines and travel writers would prefer you not know.

Since 2005 I have been to seven Congressional hearings regarding cruise ship safety, including the last two hearings following the Costa Concordia disaster (photo above right). A half-dozen of my clients testified about the issue of whether cruise ships are safe.

I have not seen Ms. Wooldridge or Ms. Spencer-Brown at any of the hearings. 

Cruising, "Eh!" to Z! What Canadians Should Know Before Getting On-Board . . .

Danielle Gauer, JD Candidate 2013 University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law, joins us for another guest blog.  You can read about Danielle's background and read her first guest blog here. This blog is an interesting inside look at cruising for our friends north of the border:

More and more Canadians are looking for a way to escape the cold and snow during the winter months and instead catch some sun. Cruise ships seem like the perfect way to spend a family vacation offering passengers an experience similar to that of a five star all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean. With luxury travel, activities catered to the entire family, world class-cuisine and entertainment, and Canada Cruise Shipssome of the most fascinating ports of call, Canadians are hopping on-board these monster ships to enjoy the family vacation of their lives. However, with the move towards accommodating more passengers and offering more “risky” activities, such as rock-climbing and surf simulators, there is inevitably an increased possibility of catastrophe occurring.

When serious personal injury arises as a result of negligence on the part of the cruise line, it is imperative that Canadian cruise ship passengers know how to assert their rights and obtain compensation for their damages. Being injured on-board a cruise ship is frustrating. Injured passengers also experience physical, emotional and financial loss. In many situations, Canadians fear that taking legal action in the U.S. will be pointless. They can feel defeated at the outset. The choice not to advance their rights can stem simply from the perception that retaining a U.S. attorney can be expensive and time consuming. The thought of “competing” against a large corporate enterprise, that has equipped itself with a team of lawyers that have unlimited resources at their disposal, can be intimidating.

When Canadians pay for a vacation on a cruise ship, they also agree to certain contractual terms and conditions. Cruise ticket contracts generally include a “forum selection clause” stating where a lawsuit can be brought. This informs the passenger where they can file documents to commence legal action against the cruise line. Most cruise ship companies have inserted an exclusive foreign selection clause in their cruise ticket contract. What this means is that when signed, passengers have submitted to the jurisdiction chosen by the defendant cruise line, whether it is the State of Florida (Carnival and Royal Caribbean), California (Princess), or Washington (Holland America Line). This limits the plaintiff’s choice in selecting a location to file a lawsuit that is more convenient and close to home (i.e. in Canada).

Sometimes these ticket contracts may include clauses that place a limit on the types of lawsuits that a plaintiff can bring. Some of these conditions are valid and legally enforceable; other conditions are illegal and unenforceable. For example, Norwegian Cruise Lines has inserted a clause to limit its liability for injuries or damages resulting from participating in specific activities on-board (i.e. rock Canada Cruise Ship Passengersclimbing wall, ice skating, onboard water-slides). Royal Caribbean has similar conditions which attempt to protect the cruise line from lawsuits arising out of injuries from participating in flow-riding or zip-lining. These types of conditions have been struck down in Florida although the cruise lines still insert the illegal language in their passengers contracts.

Before commencing an action against a cruise line, Canadians must be aware of any clauses in the passenger ticket contract that can limit their claims. Canadian laws make it difficult to challenge forum selection clauses in cruise ship contracts, so Canadian plaintiffs should be fully aware of those challenges before contemplating litigation in Canada instead of the United States. Contacting a US attorney who specializes in cruise ship litigation will helpful as they will be fully equipped with the resources and knowledge to assert their client’s rights and allow a Canadian plaintiff to obtain the most accurate information regarding their claim.

Canadians should also realize that passengers have only one year to file suit, and most cruise lines require that the passenger notify them in writing of their intention to file suit within six months.  

Cruises can be very enjoyable, but Canadian passengers should be aware of their rights before getting on-board!

 

Photo credit: "Winter in Ottawa" - Danielle Gauer

No Arrest After Cruise Passenger with Service Dog is Attacked Aboard Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas

The popular online community Cruise Critic reports today on a disturbing incident where a 59-year-old passenger attacked another passenger who had a service dog with him aboard Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas on December 20th. 

The article is based primarily on comments by Cruise Critic member "Bloemerl" who posted:

"My heart goes out to our new found friend and his service dog Freedom. He was viciously attacked late at nite while getting a pizza in the Solarium. He was beaten because a man could not respect service dogs and felt Freedom should not be on board." (The photo to the right is not of Freedom).

Service Dog - Disabled - Cruise ShipAlthough Royal Caribbean confirmed the incident occurred, the cruise line disembarked the passenger in Antigua rather than detaining him to be arrested by the FBI when the cruise ship returned to port in Fort Lauderdale.

A spokesperson for Royal Caribbean told Cruise Critic that the attacker was disembarked for being in violation of the line's "guest conduct policy."  

Royal Caribbean claims that it reported the assault and battery to local law enforcement in Antigua "as well as to the Broward Sheriff's Office in Florida." Remarkably, there is no mention of a report to the FBI which has jurisdiction over crimes on the high seas involving U.S. citizens. The FBI can make an arrest where the victim and/or the assailant is a U.S. citizen. The failure of the cruise line to report the incident to the FBI violates the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act.

A spokesperson for cruise line said "ship crew would have detained the man had a law enforcement agency asked them to hold him, but no such request was received."  This statement begs the question why the FBI was not notified.

Royal Caribbean also characterized the victim as sustaining only "minor injuries and was treated in the ship's medical facility."  But according to Cruise Critic member "Bloemerl," the man was transferred to a Fort Lauderdale hospital at the conclusion of the sailing to be checked for broken ribs and possible internal injuries.

Unfortunately, this is often the way that cruise lines handle shipboard crimes. If the incident had occurred say at the Dadeland Mall here in Miami, the local police would certainly make an arrest and the case would be prosecuted. But on the high seas, the cruise lines just dump the criminal off at the next port and wash their hands of the situation. Often they refuse to notify the FBI. Prosecutions are then virtually impossible.

 

Photo credit: Royal Caribbean - a service dog is defined by Royal Caribbean as "any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability."

Family Won't Cruise Until Real Improvements to Cruising are Made

The Times Union newspaper has an interesting article today, about a family who survived the Costa Concordia disaster, entitled "Survivors Shun Ships After Duel with Death."  Written by Cathleen Crowley, the article explains that a family from Duanesburg, New York previously enjoyed cruising having vacationed on a dozen prior cruises. But on January 13 2012, their cruise aboard the Concordia quickly turned into a near death experience.

The story involves Joan Fleser, her husband Brian Aho, and their daughter, Alana, The family feels fortunate to have survived the ordeal which took the lives of 32 passengers and crew members, but "the chaos on the ship and the memory of the massive cruise liner leaning toward their tiny lifeboat still Cruise Ship Safetyinvades the family's thoughts daily."

Earlier this year, Joan and Brian attended Congressional hearings in Washington, D.C. which were convened to study issues on cruise safety following the Concordia debacle.  Joan told the Times Union: "It was very interesting and very upsetting seeing that the House Committee was stacked with representatives from cruise states and they were so pro-cruise industry." This is the same conclusion I reached when I attended the hearing.

I took a photo of the family at the hearing (together with Mississippi lawyer, John Eaves Jr.)

The family itemized a number of well-reasoned proposed safety improvements which you can read in the article here.  

The article also quotes Captain Bill Doherty who is director of maritime affairs for Nexus Consulting Group, a maritime consulting and security firm based in Virginia. Captain Doherty is a former naval officer and was the safety manager for Norwegian Cruise Lines. He is critical of the cruise lines inspection systems and lack of enforcement of existing safety rules.

Captain Doherty points out that the U.S. Coast Guard and government enforcement bodies in other nations outsource inspection duties to third parties, many of which are society groups funded by the cruise ship owners.

Cruise Passenger Rights and Wrongs - Interview With Maritime Lawyer Jim Walker

Over 14 years ago, I was interviewed by Linda Coffman who has a very nice and exceedingly polite blog called CruiseDiva. Ms. Coffman's Twitter handle is @CruiseDiva

It was my first interview by anyone as best as I recall, long before I was interviewed on Larry King Live and Greta Van Sustern and the endless cable news talking heads.  I was a heck of a lot skinnier and had a nice head of hair 15 years ago. What the heck, 1,000 or so cases later, I certainly know a lot more now than I did then.

I have always felt a great appreciation to Ms. Coffman for the thoughtful interview well over a decade ago. I have added a few newer photographs, but the article is re-printed verbatim below:

CRUISES . . .  LIKE NO OTHER VACATION IN THE WORLD

Things that go bump in the night happen. And when they happen on a ship, the horror of the possibilities are heightened. Who would have paid to see the movie Titanic if the ship hadn't sunk? No one embarks on a cruise expecting the worst and no major cruise line purposely puts their guest and ships in danger, but the unexpected and unavoidable can occur during any voyage. In my travels, I've been rousted in the middle of the night by a fire alarm, spent the day at a Red Cross evacuation center, and suffered the indignity of Norovirus--all on dry land.

Cruise divaPerhaps the idyllic and carefree perception of cruise vacations is as much to blame as anything for passenger discontent when the slightest out-of-the-ordinary incident crops up. Cruise lines tout their products as 'simply the best' and 'like no other vacation on earth.' Are they telling the truth? Absolutely. It's true--the worst day on a cruise is better than any day on land. Unless, of course, your ship is on fire, the plumbing doesn't work, or you're dead in the water with a tropical storm fast approaching.  

No cruise line or ship's officers would purposely put their passengers and vessels in harms way. That simply wouldn't make sense. Often decisions to change course and skip a port are beyond their control, particularly when Mother Nature is calling the shots. And there are accidents. However, "unavoidable" is not much consolation to a cruising couple celebrating twenty-five years of marriage on the second honeymoon of a lifetime. 

Distracted by glamorous photos or dreams of moonlit walks on deck and midnight buffets, few passengers take the time to read the fine print, either in the cruise brochure or their ticket. Even if they do read it, the legal language can intimidate the average person.  

For an explanation of passengers' rights and assistance in translating the "contract of carriage" (cruise ticket), I turned to James M. Walker.  A specialist in maritime law, Mr. Walker is a member of the Miami Cruise Ship Lawyer - Miami Florida Maritime Law Association and serves on the Admiralty Law Committee of the Florida Bar. In addition to having the unique perspective of representing both cruise lines and passengers, he has handled cases for clients throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and South America.  

Mr. Walker graciously answered my questions, providing insight into passenger rights and what to do if things go terribly wrong on your vacation. 

How did you become involved in maritime law involving cruise ships? 

I grew up in a port city and our family traveled a lot. Our vacations seemed to revolve around the water - a trip down the Rhine, vacation in Malta, sailing in the Mediterranean Sea, and so on. I have always had an interest in the water. This turned into an interest in maritime law once I started law school at Tulane University, which has a pretty good maritime curriculum. Once I moved to Miami, rightfully called the “cruise ship capital of the world,” I joined a large firm which defended some of the larger cruise lines.  

Now that I am exclusively representing passengers and crew employees, I find myself traveling again on a regular basis. My practice provides me with the opportunity to travel to beautiful places like Vancouver and London, as well as small towns across the heartland of the United States, to meet with our clients.

What are your thoughts as a maritime lawyer regarding the collision involving the Norwegian Dream in the English Channel and the fire aboard Carnival’s Tropicale in the Gulf of Mexico some time back? 

These incidents raise important questions whether the cruise lines are devoting sufficient resources to protect passengers’ health and personal safety. Unfortunately, these mishaps are not isolated incidents. 

Cruise ship fireTake the fire aboard the Tropicale. Despite wide spread media coverage, few major news organizations reported the Tropicale’s prior problems which could be traced back to 1982 when a fire broke out during its inaugural cruise. 

Before the Tropicale fire, Carnival’s Ecstasy caught fire the previous year. Between those two incidents, the Sun Vista ignited off of the coast of Malaysia and 1,000 passengers found themselves in lifeboats in the Straits of Malacca. The video images of the Ecstasy on fire off of Miami Beach are hard to forget, but few people remember that the Ecstasy caught fire in 1996 as well. Carnival‘s experience with ship fires is not limited to the Tropicale or the Ecstasy. Remember the fire aboard Carnival’s Celebration in 1995 which forced 1,700 passengers to evacuate? All of this, and more, occurred in just four years.

Cruise ship fireAfter each incident of this type, the cruise lines immediately offer a reimbursement of some type and, perhaps, a free cruise. Inevitably, the story becomes old and everyone - including the cruise line - forgets about what happened, until the next collision, fire, or other mishap occurs.

A LOOK AT COMPENSATION

What do you think of the practice of some cruise lines offering free cruises to “compensate” for these type of mishaps?

It’s a good start, but is it adequate compensation? Lets look at the “cruise from hell” stories from the Tropicale. These passengers included families who brought their minor children aboard, couples honeymooning, or elderly citizens who used their limited savings for a relaxing vacation. Through no fault of their own, these nice people quickly found themselves in a nightmare - drifting in the Gulf of Mexico, nauseated, with a tropical storm approaching. Carnival’s offer of a full refund and a free cruise is a good idea, but is it adequate remuneration for their experiences? Does this reflect a greater commitment to safety, or just a more savvy public relations department?

The cruise lines are more likely to offer free cruises now than just a few years ago. Compare Carnival’s approach today with its attitude just a few years ago. In 1996, hundreds of passengers became sick and frightened when highs seas rocked the Tropicale as Hurricane Roxanne approached. 600 passengers signed a petition for a full refund. They believed that the captain threatened their safety by taking the cruise ship too close to the hurricane. Carnival responded with a $40 shipboard credit to make up for port charges on the missed ports in Grand Cayman and Cozumel. Does anyone really think this was sufficient compensation? Or was this just a public relations nightmare?       

Do you have any feel for how the passengers themselves regard these offers? 

Some passengers appreciate the “full-refund-plus-a-free-cruise” offer. But many people are not satisfied. The last thing they want to do is to step foot on a particular cruise ship again. 

Cruise law Of course, the debate of a “free cruise or not” ignores the real issue of passenger safety. The important question is whether the cruise industry is devoting adequate financial resources to make their fleet as safe as possible for families and their children. Things like state of the art sprinkler systems, sophisticated security monitoring, and vigorous background checks on their employees.

Remember, this industry earns literally billions each year in profits, and pays less than one percent in U.S. taxes by registering their vessels in Liberia and Panama. The notion that the traveling public should be happy with a free cruise and a tote bag trivializes the fundamental issue of protecting the precious lives and personal safety of millions of passengers every year.

What is the most common complaint you hear from a cruise passenger?

There are two general types of complaints. The first is what I call the “disappointed expectation” complaint. A passenger becomes disappointed because he or she feels that the service was poor, the weather was bad, their cabin had too much engine noise, or something like this. These type of complaints generally do not belong in a courtroom.

The second type of problem is when a passenger has been injured aboard the cruise ship, due to an accident, food poisoning, or an assault. The most common situation is when a passenger slips on a deck, trips on an elevated threshold, or falls down a flight of stairs. It happens on every cruise.

The most common complaint we hear is when a passenger writes to the cruise line regarding a particular problem, and does not receive a response after several months. Most passengers who contact us are not the least bit “lawsuit-minded.” Yet, they find themselves frustrated by the cruise line’s lack of response after they return home.

What are some of the interesting cases you have handled?

When we defended several of the cruise lines in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, we saw virtually every imaginable type of claim. Of course, with more than five million people sailing on cruises from U. S. ports each year - and everyone attempting to escape from reality - there are a lot of unrealized dreams which turn into strange lawsuits. Single women sue claiming that there were not enough single men aboard the cruise ship. The next week, single men sue claiming that there were not enough single women.

My favorite story involves an elderly widow from Miami Beach who loved to sail aboard from Miami at least three times a year. Unfortunately, she would trip or slip or fall every other cruise. She would file suit every year in December and then try to settle the case as soon as possible for at least two free cruises - first class no less. She still sends me a holiday greeting card every December. 

You would agree that there is no constitutional or absolute right to a perfect vacation or cruise?

True.

So what are the types of things which go wrong that are not the cruise line’s responsibility?

Most problems which fall into the “disappointed expectation” category are not the cruise maritime lawyerline’s legal responsibility. An example would be when cruise lines change the itinerary and the passengers miss a popular port.

The courts determine whether a cruise line is legally responsible to a passenger by reviewing the terms of the passenger ticket. I saw one judge literally pull out a magnifying glass to read the fine print buried in the ticket. The passenger invariably loses when this occurs, which is not surprising. The cruise lines have spent considerable effort drafting language which protects them from virtually every imaginable situation. The exception is when a passenger has been injured or assaulted - there is a federal statute which prohibits cruise lines from limiting their liability in these circumstances. However, this exception may not apply if the cruise ship does not call on a U.S. port. 

Cruise lines reserve the right to change their itineraries at their discretion. Do passengers have any right to compensation or a refund (other than port charges) if such a change is made?

No, based on the “fine print” in the ticket. For example, Royal Caribbean’s language says that it “may at any time and without prior notice cancel, advance, postpone or deviate from any scheduled sailing or port of call.” As a public relations gesture, some cruise lines offer $100 or so for missing a port. But this is dependent entirely on the cruise line; they hold all of the cards in these type of situations. 

Theft from staterooms is pretty uncommon on cruise ships, but if something disappears mysteriously from my cabin, what recourse do I have?      

Virtually none. Again, most tickets limit the cruise line’s liability for theft. Carnival excludes any liability for money, jewelry, or other valuables “left lying about the vessel or cabin.” This Cruise attorneyseems reasonable enough. But even if the cruise lines is negligent, there is a $100 limit of liability for lost valuables, and a $500 limit if the valuables are deposited in a safe-deposit box in the purser’s office and then lost or stolen. 

One reported case involved a passenger who reported the loss of several hundred thousands of dollars in jewelry. The court dismissed the case based on the language in the passenger’s ticket limiting the cruise line’s liability to $100. My only advice is to leave your priceless jewelry at home, or buy insurance before you sail. 
 
STEPS TO A RESOLUTION
 
Before seeking the assistance of an attorney, what steps should a passenger take to resolve a claim?

First, read your ticket and take steps to protect your rights! Passengers who are injured have to send a letter to the cruise lines within a short period, usually six months, advising the cruise line that they intend to seek compensation. Also, passengers have a very short period - usually only one year - in which to file suit when they have been injured. If they are one day late, they lose their right to seek compensation.    

When a passenger is injured on a cruise ship, what proof should they present to substantiate a claim for personal injury?

Of course, not all injuries are compensable. There are two issues to consider. The first issue is liability - it is the passenger’s burden to prove that the cruise line is legally responsible for the accident. The second issue is damages - medical expenses, lost wages, and other intangible losses caused by an injury. This issue is simple; keep receipts of all of your out-of-pocket expenses, insurance claims, and medical bills. Be sure to request your shipboard medical records before you disembark. The cruise lines will usually try to put you off the ship without them, but remember - these are records of your health, and you are absolutely entitled to obtain a copy before you leave. 

Continue Reading...

Toddler Falls From Balcony on Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas

A cruise leaving yesterday from Port Canaveral Florida quickly turned into a nightmare when a family's one-year-old child fell from a balcony to the balcony below.

According to WFTV, the incident occurred on the Royal Caribbean Monarch of the Seas which left yesterday afternoon from Port Canaveral around 4:30 PM. 

The news station states that a one-year-old child crawled through an 11th floor railing and fell to a balcony one floor below. Other news stations do not refer to a fall from a "balcony" but a fall from one deck to the deck below.

The cruise ship turned around and headed back to port. The child was airlifted to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando, some say at 6:30 PM and others say at 7:30 PM.

There are many images of stateroom balconies of this cruise ship on line. Some of the images show vertical railings and well as a horizontal railing at the bottom of stateroom balconies. But my understanding is that deck 11 contains the pools and sports deck and does not contain staterooms. Anyone with information about the railings on deck 11 or how this could occur, please leave a comment below. 

Royal Caribbean issued a statement:

"On Friday, December 21, a 14 month old guest from India traveling on Monarch of the Seas was Monarch of the Seas Cruise Shipinjured in a fall. The guest was initially treated in our medical facility, but required additional and urgent medical attention that could only be provided in a hospital. Therefore, the ship turned around and returned to Port Canaveral, Florida, where we could debark the guest and their family so that the guest could receive urgent medical care.

Our Care Team is providing support and assistance to the guest’s family. Our thoughts are with their family, and we will continue to do our very best to assist them.

Monarch of the Seas is sailing a three-night itinerary that will call to CocoCay and Nassau, Bahamas."

December 26, 2012 Update: a passengers on the cruise left a comment below, stating that the toddler fell from deck 12 down to deck 11 (the pool deck, photo above).

Cruise Line Safety Panel - Independent Experts or Paid Cheerleaders?

The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) publicity machine has been in full speed this week. As part of its marketing strategy that cruising is "extremely safe," CLIA announced in a press statement that it continues to review cruise ship procedures as part of a safety review which it started after the Costa Concordia disaster.   

Unfortunately, the safety review panel is producing lots of rhetoric and little substantive safety changes.  One of the new policies is that cruise passengers must attend a muster drill before the cruise starts. My reaction when I first heard this was "you mean the cruise lines don't already have a policy in place?" The aviation industry required pre-flight safety instructions to passengers fifty years ago. 

Star Princess Cruise Ship FireI have written about CLIA's much publicized 10 safety policies here and here.

Lots of the rhetoric is coming from CLIA's panel of so-called "independent" safety advisers. There is nothing remotely "independent" about the panel. Take, for example, Mark Rosenker who is always described as a "former NTSB chairman." What the cruise lines don't say is that Rosenker has worked in the private sector after leaving the federal government and has been a paid consultant for the cruise industry for years.

Two years before the Costa Concordia debacle, the World Cruise Industry Review referred to Rosenker as a "cruise industry advisor" and quoted him in 2010 saying "the industry has an outstanding safety record and the most dangerous part of the cruise is undoubtedly the drive to the port. It is very rare that people are injured on a cruise ship.”

Rosenker was a friend of the cruise lines even when he worked at the NTSB. In 2007, CLIA's Board of Directors wined and dined Rosenker during the annual Sea Trade cruise convention here in Miami. He gave a nice speech to CLIA which he began by stating " I am very pleased that your safety record is excellent." This was a rather amazing thing to say given the fact that just a year earlier, Princess Cruises' Star Princess ignited off the coast of Jamaica and burned through 100 cabins and killed the husband of one of our clients. (You can read about the Star Princess fire and many other cruise ships fires here).  

Rosenker even promised CLIA that he would help the cruise lines keep "sensitive" information about maritime accidents away from the public, telling CLIA "there are provisions in the law to keep certain Princess Cruises Star Princess Cruise Ship Firevoluntarily provided safety information confidential."   

This week Rosenker is back extolling on the safety of a cruise industry which puts money in his pocket, telling a travel agent publication that “it is important for consumers to understand that cruise vacations are extremely safe. This industry is highly regulated with tremendous oversight.”  Rosenker tells another cruise industry publication that “every aspect of the cruise industry is heavily monitored and regulated under US, EU and international law.”

An "independent" safety expert would not engage in such hyperbolic cheer-leading. In truth, we all know that the cruise industry is essentially unregulated. The cruise lines goes to extraordinary steps to incorporate their businesses and register their cruise ships in foreign countries to avoid U.S. taxes, wage and labor laws, and safety regulations. 

Rosenker has been cheering for the cruise industry for a long time. The Star Princess and Costa Concordia disasters did not dampen his enthusiasm one bit. That's what got him placed on the cushy job of the cruise line's safety panel where he will continue to cheer for the cruise lines under the guise of being an "independent" expert. 

Have a thought? Join the discussion on our facebook page.

South African Man Sues MSC Cruises for Medical Negligence

A newspaper in South African reports that a man cruising aboard a MSC cruise ship has sued the cruise line, Mediterranean Shipping Company, for damages after experiencing a heart attack last year. The incident took place in April of 2011 while Hilton Curgenven was sailing aboard the MSC Sinfonia.

The gist of the lawsuit is that the cruise line allegedly provided Mr. Curgenven with sub-standard care and then dumped him in a port alone on a stretcher of the wharf. He alleges that the shipboard care consisted only of giving him an injection following which he went into a coma for six weeks.  Instead of airlifting him to a hospital, the cruise ship abandoned him at port in Durban and left a MSC Sinfonia Cruise Shipnote on the stretcher diagnosing him with "severe chest pain and myocardial infarct . . . "  He claims that "thankfully, someone who knew me called an ambulance .  .  ." 

The case highlights some of the issues we have warned about in this blog, namely that the medical care on cruise ships is limited. Cruise lines are spending over a billion dollars building some cruise ships. But instead of investing in medical technology and premier doctors, the lines are paying for skating rinks, rock climbing walls, and flowrider attractions.  

The case also reveals that, as a general proposition, doctors and nurses on cruise ships are considered to be "independent contractors" for whom the cruise lines are not responsible. The ship doctors may appear and act like they are ship employees but they are characterized as independent contractors in the fine print of the cruise ship ticket.    

MSC Cruises responded to the lawsuit saying that Curgenven had entered into a contract knowing the Sinfonia was not equipped as a hospital and that medical personnel were not specialists. The cruise line also points out that Curgenven had failed to purchase his own insurance as well.

 

Photo credit: Wikipedia / Edgar Freitas

Royal Caribbean's Dangerous FlowRider: Is the Cruise Line Drafting a New Liability Waiver?

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.     

 

Who Will Be The First Drag Queen Kicked Off The Carnival Glory?

Carnival Cruise Drag QueenThe America Blog published an article ("Carnival Cruises Bans 'Drag' on Drag Cruise") this evening about Carnival's bizarre decision to threaten to kick any of their guests who dress in drag off of the December 2nd cruise aboard the Carnival Glory cruise ship.

The particularly strange part of the story is that the sailing is a Drag Stars at Sea cruise!

The travel agency organizing the event promises "Drag Stars at Sea: The Largest Gathering in HISTORY! . . . This is the first event of its kind in the world."

Well, if Carnival goes through with its plan to manhandle drag queens down the gangway in their high heels into Caribbean ports of call, the cruise may well be the first and last event of its kind in the world.

The threats came in the form of a letter dated today sent by Carnival to the guests looking to board the Glory in Miami this weekend.  Now, this seems like a rather rude thing for Carnival to do.  Aren't the guests receiving the materially-altered conditions for the cruise a little bit late? After all, the prospective passengers have already packed their dresses and make-up for the trip, not to mention that they booked their now non-refundable cruise tickets months ago. 

The letter was signed by Carnival representative Vicki Ray who our law firm knows as the smiling face of the cruise industry at Congressional crime hearings over the last many years. Her letter starts out upbeat: "Greetings Fun Seekers!" (exclamation in original) but four paragraphs later the real purpose of the letter is revealed:

Carnival Cruise Drag Queen"These functions will be private and only the performers are permitted to dress in drag in the theater. Guests are not allowed to dress in drag for the performances or in public area at any time during the cruise."

Then comes the threat. Anyone violating the edict . . .  "will be disembarked at their own expense and no refunds given."  

Wow, that's some serious chutzpah! Take money from your guests for a drag queen cruise and tell them that, uh, they can't dress like a drag queen.

Can Carnival really enforce this ban as a practical matter?  There are 35 drag queen performers listed for the cruise, like Delta Work, Venus D Lite, and Phi Phi O'Hara (photos).  If someone in drag walks from his cabin to the theater will Carnival security really try to detain him? How can ship security distinguish the audience members in drag from the performers or, for that matter, attractive buxom women dressed up for the night?

How can the dozen or so Carnival security guards think they can possibly handle several hundred men (anyone remember the Stonewall riots of 1969 in New York City?) if they try and arrest everyone in drag who is on the cruise?

The duplicitous aspect of Carnival's conduct is that this cruise line has one of the worst reputations for permitting kids to run wild and drunks to disrupt the cruising experience of guests, all the while looking the other way when fights or sexual violence occurs.  Consider this video about a drunken brawl erupting during a Carnival cruise.  

Carnival Drag CruiseFor years, Carnival and their subsidiary cruise lines have hosted "cougar cruises," "swinger cruises" and "nude cruises" where men and women dress in provocative clothing or no clothing for that matter and engage in sexually promiscuous behavior in and around the cruise ship. What's the beef against drag queens walking around the cruise ship?  Just take a look at the sexually charged and semi-nude advertising for straight "swinger cruises" offered by other cruise lines.  

Is Carnival's intent really to protect children from seeing men dressed in women's clothing?  My kids laughed throughout Robin Williams' performance in Ms. Doubtfire and they somehow managed to survive The Birdcage with Nathan Lane.

America Blog has offered opinions about the basis for a lawsuit against Carnival if the cruise line proceeds with its threats. Although a lawyer, I offer no opinions here about that, except to say that there must be something unlawful about kicking a guest who has paid his full fare off a cruise for dressing in drag on a drag queen cruise.

Let's hope that Carnival comes to its senses.  If not, I'm afraid that next week I will be watching the ugly spectacle on a YouTube video which is eventually shown to a jury in a court of law.

Carnival President Gerry CahillNovember 27 2012 Update:  Under pressure, Carnival claims that there was just a "mistake" in communication, changes course and withdraws ban on dressing in drag.  According to Cruise Critic, the president of Carnival issued the following statement:

"When the group was presented to us we were advised that only the performers would be dressed in drag during the private events," Gerry Cahill, president and CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines, said in an e-mail to passengers booked on the December 2 sailing. "However, we are now aware that this was not clearly communicated to members of the group and therefore anyone who wishes to dress in drag may do so."

Smart move by Carnival, otherwise it would have faced a riot on the high seas. 

The Carnival statement continues:

"At Carnival, we are proud to carry more than 4.5 million guests every year and we welcome them all aboard. We do not practice any form of discrimination against the LGBT or any other community. We sincerely apologize for the miscommunication and for any unintended offense we have caused."

Cahill further stated that anyone booked on the cruise who wants to cancel "for any reason may do so and will receive a full refund of their cruise fare, as well as reimbursement for any non-refundable travel related expenses."

Carnival Letter - Vicki Rey

Who's covering this story?  

Daily Kos: Carnival Cruise Line Bans Drag On Their "Drag Stars At Sea" Cruise

Think Progress: Drag Cruise Refuses To Let Passengers Dress In Drag

America Blog (story # 1): Carnival Cruises Bans “Drag” on Drag Cruise

America Blog (story # 2): Carnival Ban on “Drag” During “Drag Cruise” is not Anti-Gay, it’s Cuz of 9/11

Huffington Post: AlandChuck.Travel: No Drag for Passengers on Drag at Sea Cruise?!   

Queerty: Carnival Cruise Line Bans Drag On Upcoming Drag Cruise

Village Voice: Carnival Bans Drag Patrons From Drag Cruise!

Miami New Times: Carnival Bans Drag Costumes from RuPaul's Drag Race Themed Cruise

USA Today: Carnival's Ban On Drag Costumes Sparks Controversy

Crushable (WTF Blog): Carnival Forbids People From Dressing In Drag On ‘Drag Stars At Sea’ Cruise

SFist: Carnival Cruises Forbids Drag Queens During Drag Cruise

NYMag: Carnival Bans Guests in Drag on RuPaul’s Cruise

Passport Magazine: Carnival Cruise Lines in Hot Water Over Drag Ban on a Drag Cruise!

Advocate: Drag Ban Creates Rough Sailing for Drag Star Cruise

Miami Herald: Carnival Apologizes and Says Cruise Passengers May Dress in Drag

 

 

Story credit: John Aravosis / America Blog

Photos: Al and Chuck Travel

Carnival letter: America Blog  ("Gay - A Great Nation Deserves A Great Debate")

Pregnancy & Cruising: What To Expect If You Are Expecting

The Washington Post published an interesting article about what pregnant women should expect when they go on a cruise. Written by Christopher Elliott, the article is entitled "What to Expect if You're Expecting to Cruise.

Different cruise lines have different policies when it comes to when a pregnant woman is no longer welcome on a cruise ship. Some cruise lines prohibit women who are 24 weeks pregnant to cruise. The theory, I suppose, is that the risk of something going wrong with the pregnancy, such as premature birth, increases once the pregnancy enters her third trimester?

As Mr. Elliott points out, just two weeks a go a pregnant woman aboard a Disney cruise ship had to be Cruise Ship Pregnancy Policymedevaced after developing complications shortly after the ship left Galveston. You can watch the dramatic hoisting of the passenger up to the Coast Guard helicopter here.    

Of course neither cruise lines nor pregnant passengers want to have to summons the Coast Guard to conduct a rescue on the high seas late at night. Once the ship is a few hundred miles away from port, no helicopter will arrive to save the day.

So everyone seems to be on the same page that cruise pregnancy policies are a good idea.  But the problem is - what happens when a pregnant customer does not read the fine print buried in the cruise ticket and is a few days past the cruise line's deadline? What rights does the cruise consumer have in this situation?  

None, it seems.  The Washington Post article correctly points out that the terms of the ticket control. Unfortunately, the cruise line is likely to block a "too pregnant" passenger from boarding while keeping the passenger's cruise fare. No refund. No exceptions. No future credit.

That's a harsh approach, particularly because some people buy cruises up to a eight months to a year in advance. If a baby is conceived after the cruise is purchased, you'd think that the cruise lines would say congratulations and be reasonable. They're not.  Cruise lines seem to take advantage of the situation.   

Mr. Elliott writes that it is almost like the cruise lines want to make an example by barring pregnant women who don't comply with the policy as a motivation for the public to purchase travel insurance which, not coincidentally, is also sold by many of the cruise lines.

The newspaper quoted me, for what that's worth;  Here's my take:

"I don't think it's unreasonable for the cruise lines to adopt pregnancy policies, particularly given the limited nature of the medical facilities on cruise ships and the absence of doctors who are experienced in obstetrics and gynecology," says James Walker . . . specializing in maritime law. "The problem arises when there is a good-faith misunderstanding by the pregnant passenger, and the cruise line takes a rigid attitude and pockets the consumer's money."

 

Photo credit: SheKnows.com 

Four More Years - What President Obama's Re-Election Means For Cruise Passengers & Crew Members

The election yesterday was an important event for U.S. cruise passengers and crew members from around the world.

Whether you know it or not, there is a war being waged by large corporations against consumers and employees. The trend of big business has been to strip consumers of their rights, to take away the constitutional right to a jury trial, to impose one-sided arbitration agreements which favor the cruise lines, and to try and keep crew members from accessing the courthouses in the U.S. even thought the cruise lines are based here.

Federal court judges appointed by Republican presidents have already stripped away many of the rights of crew members to seek compensation under maritime legal doctrines dating back to the early 1800's. Cruise lines see "foreign" crew members from India and the Caribbean islands as cheap labor, nothing more, who are easily exploitable with the tacit approval of politicians like Romney who favor the out-sourcing of jobs to impoverished countries with no laws which protect employees.   

A Republican president and the Republican's let's-trust-the-corporations-to-do-the-right-thing attitude would also have resulted in the peeling back of clean air and water regulations. A Romney in the White House would have permitted the cruise lines to maximize profits at the expense of the environment.

Last night I watched the election returns, flicking between CNN, MSNBC, and FOX News while trying to keep up with the millions of tweets on my computer's Twitter feed. There on FOX were the old guard, Karl Rove, Bill O'Reilly and those referred to collectively as fat, rich, old white men.  Bill O'Reilly bemoaned the election results as the loss of the "white majority." He railed against President Obama's re-election as the result of a large turn-out by "black" and "Hispanic" voters as well as a disproportionate number of "women." It was a nasty, depressing spectacle to watch these tired, old, xenophobic men on FOX.

Four More Years - President ObamaThen the Obama organization tweeted a photo of the President and the First Lady, hugging, with the tweet "Four More Years." The timing was perfect. The photo has been re-tweeted more than anything in the history of Twitter. 

I have a large photograph in my law office of a client, Laurie Dishman.  Laurie was victimized on a cruise ship operated by a Miami based cruise line. It was a terrible crime. But in the photo she is shown smiling with President Obama who has his arm around her, after he signed the 2008 Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act into law. The law was signed into law by President Obama to protect passengers on foreign flagged cruise ships.

I know that President Obama will think of people like Laurie when the billion dollar cruise corporations like Carnival try to enact legislation which promotes their financial interests over the rights of consumers. He will think of everyone, not just the rich, but black and white workers, Hispanics, women, and those who need help the most.      

President Obama brought hope to my client, Laurie. He represents the only real hope to the powerless, and those underdogs like Laurie who choose to fight for justice against giant corporations.   

Meningitis Afflicts U.S. Passenger Aboard Seven Seas Voyager Cruise Ship

A newspaper in Italy is reporting that a U.S. passenger became sick with meningitis and was taken ashore for medical treatment once the ship arrived at port.

The Corriere del Mezzogiorno newspaper reports that when the Seven Seas Voyager cruise ship arrived at the port of Messina, one U.S. passenger was taken from the cruise ship to a hospital in Gaeta. However, no other passengers were allowed to disembark - apparently out of concern that they may also be sick and infect people ashore.

The newspaper account states that the passengers were given prophylactic medications but must wait at least 48 hours to avoid others from being infected. 

Meningitis is a serious disease affecting the mucous membranes surrounding the brain. It can be spread in the air, person to person and through contaminated food or water. It can be deadly.

Last month four crew members were infected with meningitis while working on the MSC Orchestra cruise. They were hospitalized in a medical facility in Italy.  One crew member died. The frightening thing about that case was that two of the crew members worked in the cruise ship's galley which increased the prospects that the passengers could be infected.

Anyone aboard the Seven Seas Voyager with information to share, please leave a comment below.

October 29, 2012 Update: The Cruise Critic message board has a comment that this was a "suspected" case of meningitis and the Italian Health Ministry indicated that the passenger tested negative for the disease. 

First Set of Costa Concordia Lawsuits Dismissed

Costa Concordia Lawsuit - Carnival Cruise LineCarnival won its first step in battling lawsuits filed against it arising our of the January 2012 Costa Concordia disaster when a a federal court judge in Florida dismissed a lawsuit filed by Italian businesses against it.

U.S. District Court judge Robin Rosenbaum held that the lawsuits against Carnival should be filed in Italy. 1,000 businesses on the island of Giglio where the Concordia cruise ship ran aground near the harbor tried to sue Carnival in Florida because it is the parent company for Costa which is based in Genoa, Italy.

Whereas we would like to see Carnival sued here in Florida for the disaster, this is an outcome that we expected. We recently wrote about whether the cruise lines can be sued here in the U.S. - "Will Costa Concordia Passengers Be Able to Sue Costa and Carnival in the U.S.?"

This development does not bode well for the lawsuits filed against Carnival on behalf of passengers and crew members who were aboard the Concordia when it capsized. 

Royal Caribbean Delivers Cruel Blow to Widow of Beloved Captain Tore Myhra

The maritime lawyers here in Miami have been in a state of outrage following a recent decision from an appellate court in the Estate of Tore Myhra v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., Case No. 10-15840 (11th Cir. Sept. 21, 2011).

This case addressed the issue of whether a cruise line could legally enforce a "forum selection clause" transferring the lawsuit to a court outside of the U.S., if the effect of the transfer were to limit the cruise line's liability for personal injury or death occurring on cruises.

There is a federal statute which clearly prohibits cruise lines from doing this. 46 U.S.C. section 30509(a) states that attempts to limit liability by contractual terms in cases where the cruise ship calls on a U.S. port are illegal and unenforceable.

In the Myhra v. Royal Caribbean case, a passenger contracted what is described as a bacterial infection on the Liberty of the Seas cruise ship which led to his death. His widow filed suit in Miami where all lawsuits against this cruise line are filed. But the cruise line moved to dismiss the case, citing terms buried deep in the the passenger ticket which specified the U.K. as the location for the lawsuit.

The lawyers for Mr. Myhra's widow argued that the fine print terms in the passenger ticket were not reasonably communicated to Mr. Myhra, and even if they were, because the U.K. adopted the Athens Convention limiting the liability of cruise lines to a maximum of $75,000 (even including death cases), this clause violated 46 U.S.C. section 30509(a).        

But the Eleventh Circuit held that 46 U.S.C. section 30509(a) was not violated. In a tortuously reasoned opinion, it held that because it was not the cruise line limiting its liability, but rather a foreign country (the U.K.) which provided limited damages, the transfer to the U.K. didn't violate 30509(a). This is a rather circuitous argument. After all, it was Royal Caribbean which inserted the U.K. into the ticket as the chosen forum. It did so because it knew that Britain would afford only limited damages to passengers in cases of injury and death.

The South Florida Lawyers blog covered the story. An anonymous reader commented that the decision was "more intellectual dishonesty from the 11th Circuit." Curiously, in a footnote to the decision, the court held that a different result might be reached if the passengers were a U.S. citizen who bought his ticket in the U.S., as opposed to a Brit who bought his ticket in Britain.

Tore Myhra - Royal Caribbean Cruises - Cruise ShipThe case will be remembered as a result-oriented decision where the xenophobic appellate court's priority was to send the case away from the U.S. based on whatever justification it could scrap together.

But there is more to the story. 

Mr. Myhra was not just an average passenger. He was the former Captain (i.e., Master) of several Royal Caribbean cruise ships. He mastered the Monarch of the Seas and was a captain of one of the cruise line's first cruise ships, the Song of America.

By all accounts, Captain Myhra was a skilled mariner, a dedicated Royal Caribbean employee and a well respected captain who was liked by his fellow officers and crew members on the cruise ships on which he served as Master.

In 1998, Captain Myhra bravely sailed the Monarch of the Seas into the harbor in St. Maarten in the middle of the night to bring a sick passenger ashore for emergency medical treatment. But while the cruise ship was sailing out under the command of another officer, the vessel went off course and ran across a reef. The ship sustained heavy damage to the hull and began to take on water. Captain Myhra took command of the ship and ground it to keep it from sinking.

In 1999, Captain Myhra resigned from Royal Caribbean. Even though he was not at the helm when the ship hit the reef, he took responsibility. Thereafter he began a successful camping business called Rose Farm Touring & Camping Park in England with his wife, Susan, and their daughter.

A decade later, Captain Myhra returned to a Royal Caribbean cruise ship not as the captain but as a passenger with his wife aboard the Liberty of the Seas. Captain Myhra was exposed to Legionnaires Disease along with another passenger due to the negligent manner that the cruise line maintained its water supplies.  Although infected, he was kept aboard the cruise ship until the end of the cruise, only to die in a public hospital the next day.

Captain Myhra ended his career with Royal Caribbean trying to help a sick passenger in the middle of the night by diverting the cruise into port for emergency medical care, but ended his life sickened on a Royal Caribbean ship as a passenger.   

But the irony and injustice does not stop there. Captain Myhra and his wife, Sue, a cruise ship purser herself on Royal Caribbean ships, were "Loyal-to-Royal" friends to the cruise line. They were part of the Royal Caribbean "family."  I'm sure CEO Richard Fain knew them both on a first name basis.

But when Master Myhra died due to exposure to Legionnaires Disease on the Royal Caribbean ship, the cruise line treated his widow and child shabbily.  

Royal Caribbean denied liability and tried to place the blame elsewhere. It could have stepped up to the plate and paid Ms. Myhra and her daughter a reasonable settlement and wished its friends and family members well.  But instead, it paid its defense lawyers in Miami a vast sum of money to try and kick the lawsuit, which Ms. Myhra was forced to file, out of the U.S.

In the end result today, Royal Caribbean beat its former captain's widow and child in a court of law. The appellate court pronounced that their lawsuit for the wrongful-death-by-Legionnaire's-Disease-on-a-Miami-based-cruise-ship is somehow not welcome here in Miami where Royal Caribbean is headquartered.

What a sad spectacle. 

Cruise line CEO Fain and President Adam Goldstein earned over $12,000,000 in 2010 while their cruise ships reduced costs across the fleet, including cost reductions due to fewer tests of its potable water on the Liberty of the Seas and other ships. Meanwhile Ms. Myhra is left to seek compensation in the U.K. for her dead husband and the dead father of her daughter.

After attorney fees and costs, the net compensation will turn into peanuts.

Gross! Holland America Line's Veendam Flunks Health Inspection

Dirty Cruise Ship - CDC - Failed InspectionFlies. Dirty and malfunctioning ice machines, refrigerators & dishwashers. More flies. Dust, dirt, food residue, and debris. Flies and more flies. Flies where food is prepared. Flies where food is stored. Ugh. These unsanitary problems are part of a ridiculously long list that the U.S. Centers for Disease documented during a surprise inspection last month aboard the Holland America Line's Veendam cruise ship.

You can read the gross report here.

The inside word is that most "surprise" inspections are not surprises at all.  Most of the time the cruise lines are tipped off and immense pressure is suddenly applied on the crew to bring the ship up to standards. But here, at least, there was no advance warning. And this is what you get.  

The last cruise ship to fail such an inspection was the Monarch of the Seas last December - Dirty Dishes & Fruit Flies Flourish on Royal Caribbean's Oldest Cruise Ship. That was pretty gross too. 

 

Passenger Seriously Burned in Cruise Ship Bar

Cruise Passenger Burn Victim James BailyNewspapers in the U.K. and Australia are covering a horrific story involving a 28 year old man who was reportedly sailing on an Amsterdam "booze cruise" when he awoke in the ship's bar on fire.

Cruise passenger James Bailey had what he describes as a "few drinks" and fell asleep in the cruise ship's bar on the deck 8.  Most of his cruise mates who were on what is being called a "stag party" cruise were either asleep or back in their cabins.

According to the Daily Mail, Mr. Bailey stated: ‘I suddenly awoke in extreme agony and quickly realized my clothes were on fire. The bartender assisted in removing my shirt and putting out the flames."  His back and hands were severely burned.

There were a group of 20 to 30 people in the bar when the incident occurred.

The cruise staff refused his requests for an air ambulance claiming that his injuries were not deemed serious enough for emergency medical treatment.  

The cruise ship was operated by DFDS Seaways which denies liability for what happened and would not comment. 

Mr. Bailey states that he suffers from first, second and third degree burns, as well as psychological trauma.  He adds that "I have no idea what happened that night. As it stands there is no one to blame, so I can only blame myself right now until other evidence is found."

In the U.S., there is a legal principle called "Res Ipsa Loquitor," which is Latin for "the thing speaks for itself."  This a legal doctrine that a company or person is presumed to be negligent if they had exclusive control of whatever caused the injury even though there is no specific evidence of an act of negligence, and without negligence the accident would not have happened.

Short of spontaneous combustion, Mr. Bailey obviously did not catch himself on fire.

Cruise ships cannot legally serve passengers alcohol until they pass out in the ship bars and then permit other passengers or crew members to catch their guests on fire.  

There are some very gruesome photos of Mr. Bailey on the Daily Mail site, but be warned that they are disturbing.

DFDS Cruise Ship - Cruise Ship Passenger Burned

Photo Credits:

James Baily - Sam Hardie via Daily Mail

DFDS cruise ship - Daily Mail 

Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals: Cruise Lines Have Duty to Warn of Danger of Crime in Ports of Call

Twenty-seven years ago, a state appellate court in Florida held that a cruise line owes its passengers a duty to warn of known dangers beyond the point of debarkation in places where passengers are invited or reasonably expected to visit. Carlisle v. Ulysses Line Ltd., S.A.,475 So. 2d 248, 251 (Fla. 3rd DCA 1985). 

The Carlisle case involved a horrific incident involving four passengers aboard the S.S. Dolphin on a four-day cruise to the Bahamas. They were attracted to this particular cruise by promotional brochures advertising the beautiful beaches of Nassau. Upon arriving in Nassau, the two couples rented a jeep and headed for the beaches. Following the advice of the ship's cruise director, they traveled to a secluded beach and were ambushed by three masked gunmen who opened fire on them with shotguns. All four of them were wounded. Mr. Carlisle later died from a gunshot wound to his head. After the incident, the survivors learned from members of the ship's crew that other tourists and a member of the ship's crew had been victims of violent acts perpetrated in various places on the island. Bahamian police reported that the particular beach where plaintiffs were attacked was "very bad."

The cruise line denied that it had any obligation to passengers off of the cruise ship and further denied that it had a duty to warn of crime in the ports of call where it disembarked its passengers.  The appellate court in Carlisle disagreed, holding that the cruise line's legal duty to its passengers does not end at the gangway and it must warn of dangers where the passenger is invited to, or may reasonably be expected to visit. 

The court drew a distinction between "point to point" travel offered by an airline which clearly has no obligation to its passengers once they leave the airplane, and a cruise vacation where the cruise lines advertise (and profit from) the ports of call.  Cruise lines have an ongoing duty to their passengers throughout the cruise experience.  The decision makes sense.  The cruise lines frequent the ports of call on at least a weekly basis; they have agents in the ports; and accordingly they are in a position to know far more about the ports than a passenger. 

The federal trial courts in this jurisdiction have applied Carlisle, but the cruise lines have been trying to chip away at it for years.  Cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean have been trying to convince the federal judges that cruise lines should have no liability to the passengers once they step foot in port and they don't have to warn of dangers that they know about but their passengers don't.   

Recently, Royal Caribbean was successful in obtaining an order ending a case filed against it after a young woman was sexually assaulted by men in Cozumel.  The passenger alleged the cruise line knew that there Carnival Victory Cruise Ship were rapes and violent crimes against its passengers in this port but failed to warn them. You can read about this case, which is now on appeal, in our article: Royal Caribbean Smears Crime Victim & Gets Cozumel Rape Lawsuit Thrown Out Before Trial.    

Last week, in a case we are handling, the cruise lines received a major set-back when the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the rationale of the Carlisle decision and stated that cruise lines do in fact have an obligation to warn cruise passengers of the danger of crime of off the ships.

The case involved a 15 year old girl who was celebrating her quinceanera with her parents and brother on a Carnival cruise. A gang-related shoot out ended up with the girl being killed in St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Carnival successfully argued at the trial court level that it had no obligation to the young girl or her family, but the federal appellate court reversed the lower court. The pertinent portions of the 11th Circuit's opinion are below:

"Liz Marie and Appellants (her parents and brother) took a vacation aboard a Carnival cruise ship, the M/V VICTORY. Appellants allege that an unidentified Carnival employee encouraged Liz Marie’s father and brother to visit Coki Beach and Coral World upon disembarking the ship in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. On July 12, 2010, Appellants left the ship and traveled to Coki Beach independently of the ship’s sponsored excursions in St. Thomas. On their way back to the ship from Coki Beach, Appellants and Liz Marie rode an open-air bus past a funeral service of a gang member who recently died in a gang-related shooting near Coki Beach. Cars of funeral attendees were parked along the narrow road, blocking the bus’s passage. While stuck in traffic, gang-related, retaliatory violence erupted at the funeral, shots were fired, and Liz Marie was killed on the bus as an innocent passerby.

                                                             *                  *                   *

Appellants’ complaint alleges the following: a Carnival employee encouraged Appellants to visit Coki Beach in St. Thomas; Carnival was familiar with Coki Beach because it sold excursions there; Carnival generally knew of gang violence and public shootings in St. Thomas; Carnival knew of Coki Beach’s reputation for drug sales, theft, and gang violence; Carnival knew or should have known of the gang member’s shooting and funeral taking place near Coki Beach; Carnival failed to warn Appellants of any of these dangers; Carnival knew or should have known of these dangers because Carnival monitors crime in its ports of call; Carnival’s negligence in encouraging its passengers to visit Coki Beach and in failing to warn disembarking passengers of general and specific incidents of crime in St. Thomas and Coki Beach caused Liz Marie’s death; and Appellants have suffered various damages, including the loss of Liz Marie’s life. This negligent failure-to-warn claim is more than a mere recitation of the elements of the cause of action. The facts alleged in the complaint are plausible and raise a reasonable expectation that discovery could supply additional proof of Carnival’s liability. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S. Ct. at 1965. We consequently conclude that the district court erred in dismissing Appellants’ negligence claim under Iqbal."

You can read the entire decision here.

This is a significant decision because crime in the Caribbean islands (as well as Mexico) has been increasing over the years. We have written several dozen articles over the last couple of years about the murder, robbery and rape of cruise passengers ashore in ports of call in the Caribbean. Take a minute and read about the rash of crimes where cruise passengers are targeted: Armed Banditos Rob 22 Carnival Passengers on Excursion in Mexico.   

Our firm retained appellate specialist Phil Parrish to write the winning brief. Carnival was represented by Curtis Mase and Valentina Tejera.  You can read the lawsuit our law firm filed here.

 

The case is receiving national and international coverage:

ABC News: Vacation danger: Is cruise ship liable for perils on shore excursions?

Virgin Islands Daily News: Court rules lawsuit over slain teen tourist should be heard.

 

Photo Carnival Victory cruise ship bajan.wordpress.com

Sun Princess Loses Power

Sun Princess Cruise Ship A reader of Professor Ross Klein's website Cruise Junkie states that the Sun Princess cruise ship lost power for a few hours last week.

The Princess Cruises ship was apparently at the end of a 104 day "world cruise," from Sydney Australia and back.

The Incident allegedly occurred around 4:30 in the morning of Tuesday, August 27, 2012, when the cruise ship was in the Tasman Sea west of the Bay of Islands, New Zealand.  The reader states that the vessel lost all power, after a transformer had blown.  The cruise ship then floated around without any power for around three and one-half hours.  After the transformer was repaired around 8:00, the cruise ship continued sailing back to Sydney. 

Power failures like this have plagued the cruise industry over the last couple of years, with similar incidents affecting Azamara, Carnival, Costa, Cunard and Royal Caribbean ships.

Power failures during calm seas may pose nothing more than an inconvenience to the passengers, but it is a dangerous prospect if a cruise ship loses power during rough seas.

This cruise ship, built in 1995, experienced power failures in 2005 and 2007.

Anyone with more information about what happened, please leave a comment below.

 

Photo credit: Wikipedia / Lemeki Lenoa

Violence on Carnival's Freedom Reveals Need for Independent Law Enforcement

A reader of Cruise Law News brought to my attention today a disturbing story found in a cruise review on Cruise Critic. It's written by the mother of four sons who were sailing with a group of seven on the Carnival Freedom this month. 

The review is titled Anarchy on the Freedom.  Take a moment and read it. Mom's two oldest sons, age 22 and 19, were taunted in a nightclub and then viciously assaulted and beaten while they were trying to leave, by an adult and a group of teenagers. The older boy was "was attacked from behind, his hands held behind his back, struck several times on the head and ribs, kicked and then tossed down a flight of stairs . . . "

But Mom was not just concerned that her children were physically beaten but by the way that Carnival treated them afterward.  She was given the run-around, lied to by security, refused the names of the assailants, denied a copy of the security report and told that there were no surveillance video.  Her Fight Aboard Carnival Freedom Cruise Shipoptions were to either hire a lawyer or contact the FBI - neither particularly attractive options I am sure. 

As outrageous as all of this sounds, this is the usual outcome when there is a brawl on a Carnival cruise ship.    

I have attended seven Congressional hearings in Washington D.C. regarding cruise ship safety issues since December 2005. One of the recurring issues discussed before Congress is crime and the cruise lines' failure to respond to the problem.

Yes, you can have an awful lot of fun on a cruise.  But there is no denying that crime occurs on cruise ships. The difference between land based crimes and shipboard crimes is that there is no sense of accountability on cruise ships. Lawlessness prevails.  

The cruise industry states that the "safety of cruise passengers is its highest priority," but that is not remotely true. If you are a victim of a rape or a violent physical assault and battery during a cruise, there is well over a 95% probability that your assailant will not be arrested or prosecuted.  

This is because there are no police officers or sheriff deputies on the high seas. The FBI technically has jurisdiction to investigate crimes involving Americans on cruise ships, even though the ships fly foreign flags of convenience and even when the crimes occur in international waters. But the truth of the matter is that the FBI is not interested in crimes on cruise ships.  Fewer than 5% of cruise ship crimes are ever prosecuted by our federal government.

This leaves the matter of crimes in the hands of the cruise ship security personnel.  Their job, however, is not to arrest anyone but to try and keep a lid on the problem until the cruise ship returns to port where they can get the warring  parties off the ship and then re-rack for another 7 day drunken cruise to Mexico.  

The International Cruise Victims organization has suggested that a law be passed requiring independent law enforcement officers aboard cruise ships, to investigate crimes and hold the bad guys accountable. The cruise lines have fought this vigorously.

The result is what unfolded this month on the Carnival Freedom.  

 

For other stories like this, consider reading:

More Cruise Ship Violence - A Drunken Brawl On Carnival's Dream

Out of Control Cruise Ship Drinking & Violence

"Dumped in the Caribbean" - Washington Post Takes a Look at What Happens When You Have a Heart Attack on a Cruise Ship

The Travel section of the Washington Post has an article today about what happens if you are unfortunate enough to have a heart attack while sailing on a cruise in the Caribbean.  Things often get worse when the cruise ship wants to limit its liability and dumps you off in a Caribbean port.

No offense to the wonderful people in the Caribbean, but its not the place to be while trying to manage a heart attack.

I'm quoted in the article. I'm sure the cruise line PR people and tourism officials in the islands may have a heart attack reading my quotes.

If so, here's the same advice I give to a sick cruise passenger.  Call the first available medical jet and get your sick heart to see a board certified cardiologist in Miami.  And I hope that you purchased lots of insurance before going on the cruise.

Here is the article, written by consumer advocate Christopher Elliott - The Navigator: When You’re Sick at Sea.     

Cruise Industry's New Safety Initiatives - Too Little, Too Late?

The cruise industry's trade group, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), announced two new safety initiatives last week. I was rather amazed when I read what the new proposals involved.

The first policy is what is being called the "Nationality of Passengers" policy. This policy states that each passenger's nationality should be documented for use by search and rescue personnel in case of an emergency evacuation. 

It surprises me that cruise lines don't already do this.  Airlines have kept such international manifests with passenger nationalities listed for decades.

CLIA claims that this is an effort to enhance passenger safety on board cruise liners. I'm not sure how listing passenger's nationalities leads to safety at all. Perhaps the information helps to Cota Concordia Cruise Ship - Muster Drillidentify the dead after disaster strikes.

A second safety procedure touted by CLIA is a list set of 12 "universal" instructions that should be given to passengers at muster drills.  These include the most basis instructions to passengers to prepare them for an abandon ship situation after a cruise ship fire or collision.

Cruise Critic summarized these instructions in a recent article as follows:

  • When and how to don a lifejacket;
  • Description of emergency signals and appropriate responses in the event of an emergency;
  • Location of lifejackets;
  • Where to muster when the emergency signal is sounded;
  • Method of accounting for passenger attendance at musters both for training and in the event of an actual emergency;
  • How information will be provided in an emergency;
  • What to expect if the Captain orders an evacuation of the ship;
  • What additional safety information is available;
  • Instructions on whether passengers should return to cabins prior to mustering, including specifics regarding medication, clothing and lifejackets;
  • Description of key safety systems and features;
  • Emergency routing systems and recognizing emergency exits; and
  • Who to seek out for additional information.

When I first read this proposal, I couldn't believe that the cruise industry didn't already have an established set of muster station / life vest / life boat instructions.  It's 2012, over 100 years since the Titanic sank!  No wonder there was such deadly confusion on the Concordia.

You may recall that back in April, CLIA announced some other new proposals including limiting visits to the bridge during cruises. I called this the "no bimbos in the bridge" policy because Captain Schettino's girlfriend was reportedly in the bridge after the Concordia hit the rocks.

Is this an industry so far behind the times that it is only now recommending standard muster drill instructions, listing passenger nationalities, and keeping the captain's girlfriends out of the bridge during disasters? 

 

Photo: Carlos Carballa / EFE 

Carnival Sued For Design Defects Alleged in Costa Concordia Cruise Ship

Following the Costa Concordia tragedy, there was considerable debate about where the survivors would file suit and what legal claims against the cruise line would be raised.

As we approach 6 months after the disaster, there is even more confusion. Lawsuits have been filed all over the place.  

A group of New York lawyers filed suit in state court here in Miami. Many Miami lawyers referred cases to Italian lawyers to pursue in Genoa, Italy where Costa is headquartered. Other New York lawyers filed suit in New York.  Lawyers in Illinois filed suit in Chicago. One lawyer filed suit in Galveston and Costa Concordia Cruise Ship - Design Defect Lawsuiteven took the extraordinary step of seizing a Carnival cruise ship to try and get Carnival's attention. 

The latest highly publicized court filing, announced last week, involves a case filed against Carnival Corporation for the defective design of the Costa Concordia.   

Mississippi lawyer John Arthur Eaves filed the lawsuit in California and alleges that the Concordia was designed in a manner that causes the cruise ship to "roll and list" and caused problems safely evacuating the vessel.  He intends to names the designers and architects in the lawsuit.

Mr. Eaves scheduled a press conference in Italy (see video below) and said:  

"We believe that the actions of Carnival were so calculated, to place the profits of their fleet, the ability to sell more space on each boat was so calculated a decision that they intentionally ignored safety concerns and for that we have asked the court for punitive damages in the United States which is the ability of a U.S. court to take away the profits by which Carnival gain. We thought it is not right for Carnival to make huge profits by doing the wrong thing." 

Mr. Eaves was the lawyer who filed suit in Galveston and was criticized for seizing a Carnival cruise ship "as a shot across the bow" to get the cruise line's attention.  I met Mr. Eaves in Washington D.C. during the Congressional hearings into the Concordia disaster. He seems like a bright lawyer and a good fellow who has a passionate interest into cruise ship safety issues. 

His "design defect" filing in California is another creative lawsuit seeking to hold Carnival responsible for the Concordia disaster.  His latest lawsuit has also come under criticism by the cruise industry defenders, but I think it is right on target.

Someone needs to take a look at these taller and taller cruise ships and determine whether they are safely designed.  A couple of months ago I wrote an article Are Cruise Ships Dangerously Top Heavy?  I'm not a naval architect but the cruise ships today seem to have far too much air draft, like a 17 story condominium stuck on a barge.

Cruise ships like this depend on stabilizers. But stabilizers are of no help when the cruise ship loses power.  Ships like this seem likely to tip over.   

It's the last place I would want my family to be if there is a collision, or a fire, or the engines fail in rough water. 

 

 

Photograph: News Pictures / Rex Features

Carnival Forgets the Costa Concordia Dead, and Celebrates a NBA Championship Basketball Team

It's approaching six months since the death of ill fated Costa Concordia.  But it seems like yesterday that the renegade Costa captain crashed the $500 million cruise ship ingloriously into the granite underwater rocks surrounding the little island of Giglio, terrorizing over four thousand passengers and crew and killing innocent souls who were simply trying to enjoy a vacation cruise.   

But the news today is not about the Concordia disaster. Cruise bookings are up for Costa, the travel experts tell us. The reports of the demise of the Costa brand predicted earlier this year, are old and now disregarded. Costa has brought a brand new cruise ship online with great fanfare. Things are looking up for the cruise lines, the cruise lines tell us.

Carnival Cruise Line - Costa Concordia Disaster - Micky Arison The last thing on the mind of CEO Arison of Carnival Cruise Lines, the owner of Costa, is the death, doom and gloom associated with the Concordia disaster.  Arison is a happy camper. He just celebrated his multi-million dollar Miami Heat basketball team winning another NBA championship.

The champagne is still flowing.

Fat cat cruise CEO's like Arison don't lose sleep over disasters. OK, 32 dead. It could have been worse.  Shit happens.  A 500 million dollar cruise line lying on its side in the water. Thank Poseidon, God of the Sea, that we are fully insured for the hull and lost revenues. I'm still worth billions. Let's move on. Is the Heat going to win the championship?  

That's how billionaire Arison thinks.  He misses no sleep worrying about dead customers.  

But there are people who haven't forgotten the terror of January 13th.  There are passengers and crew members who can't sleep because of the terror of that night.  There are parents, spouses and children who grieve their dead children, soul mates and parents.         

What do the families of the Concordia victims think watching the spectacle of Arison on TV laughing and holding his NBA championship trophy over his head?  

Do the the families of the dead awake in the middle of the night triggered by the thought that those responsible for killing their family members care not an iota for their loves ones' suffering while holding NBA trophies and drinking champagne? 

More Problems for the Problem Prone Saga Sapphire - It's a Smoker!

A Cruise Law News reader has alerted us to a major engine problem for the Saga Sapphire cruise ship which has broken down during a cruise through Norway.  A passenger aboard the stricken cruise ship writes:

"The Saga Sapphire is currently struck with motor-problems again - this time whilst on a Norwegian Cruise - and has been unable to leave Trömso Fjord for the last two days. Efforts to repair the ship succeeded - after a further 4 miles the ship has broken down again."

Newspaper accounts in Norway corroborate the passenger's account.

Nordlys newspaper in Norway confirms that the cruise ship's generators failed and repairs were Saga Sapphire Cruise Ship - Engine Failure - Norwayattempted in Trömso, without success.

You can see, from a photograph from the Norwegian newspaper, the Saga Sapphire smoking heavily. Something's definitely not right with this ship.

The Norwegian newspaper contains a rather humorous account of the situation where several of the 600 passengers asked the cruise ship's agent about the heavy diesel smoke pouring from the ship's engines and wondered: is it was normal to have such large emissions? The agent said "no it's not the worst thing I have ever seen."  To which a passenger responded, "what is the worst thing you've seen?"

Of course, the situation is not humorous to the passengers who paid for a nice vacation cruise.  They have been sailing part of the time in a tender vessel. 

The cruise ship's captain has a blog  - called the Saga Sapphire Captain's Blog - which has remained silent for the past 5 days.  A lesson for any cruise line:  If you have a cruise ship blog, be sure to write about the good times and the bad times in an equally transparent manner.  Otherwise, it makes matters worse.  It appears that you are covering things up.  (please note that Captain Philip Rentell has since updated his blog, and seems to have a good nature approach in his assessment of the delays).

The last entry from the Captain in the ship's blog five days ago mentions "even worse weather, high winds, driving rain and temperature forecast to feel like only 1 degree Celsius."  Yikes.  I don't want to be on a cruise ship in crappy weather with crappy generators.  That may take the situation from not funny to dangerous.

This is not the first time that the Saga Sapphire has encountered engine problems.

In April, we reported on problems during its maiden voyage which was cut short due to the failure of one of its engines.  

As you can see in the video below, the Saga Sapphire was smoking heavily two months ago, during its maiden voyage.

Hopefully the cruise ship can get the generators running.  But if so, it looks like a smokey cruise. Gas masks anyone? 

 

 

June 30, 2012 Update:  As you can see from the comments below, some of the passengers are upset with the botched cruise, the general condition and state of affair of the Saga Sapphire and the compensation offered by the cruise line.  One passenger sent me the photograph below of the cruise ship leaving Tromso - I'm not sure I have ever seen any ship smoking like this! 

Saga Sapphire Cruise Ship Smoking

August 10, 2012 Update: The Telegraph in the U.K. has an article today Saga Reassures Customers Over Newest Vessel.  Not much substance to the article but this is what the company is saying. 

 

Photo credits

Top:  Northern Lights-tipping via Nordlys

Bottom: Saga Sapphire cruise passenger

Cruise Industry "Safety Tool Kit" Lacks An Important Tool - Honesty

Yesterday I read a press release by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) touting a "Cruise Industry Safety Tool Kit."

The kit is designed by CLIA to "educate and reassure" prospective cruise clients about safety at sea.

The materials contain brochures which can be customized with the travel agency's name on the front and includes questions and proposed answers to provide to customers who may be skittish about cruising following the Costa Concordia disaster and highly publicized cruise ship fires on the Royal CLIA Safety Tool Kit - Cruise Ship DangersCaribbean / Azamara Quest and the Costa Allegra.

Unfortunately the CLIA materials are incomplete and misleading. Consider this proposed question and answer:

Q: Is cruising safe?

A: Absolutely. Cruising is extremely safe, and incidents are rare . . .

If you are a travel agent and tell your clients that cruising is "absolutely safe" in order to make a sale, and one of their kids is victimized by a crewmember, you can be sued for fraud.  

CLIA also suggests that travel agents tell prospective cruisers that "as ships have grown larger, cruises have become safer than at any time in history." Considering the 32 deaths in the Costa Concordia just a few months ago (which CLIA is careful to omit), this may be another whopper that you may want to skip too. To make matters worse, CLIA's casualty statistics end as of 2011 and do not include the Concordia victims. 

The greatest omission from CLIA's safety kit is there is absolutely no mention of crime.  The greatest risk to a passenger is not the cruise ship catching on fire or sinking, it's sexual assault - like a cruise employee molesting your child or your teenage daughters being sexually assaulted by a crewmember or older passengers.  

Earlier this year we reported on a child supervisor who worked for many years on Cunard cruise ships who admitted to abusing at least 13 boys in and around the cruise ships' play zones.  We suspect that there are more victims than this.  

There has been a vigorous debate in our U.S. Congress for the past six years about the frequency of crime on cruise ships. One cruise expert who testified several times before Congress stated that the chance of being a victim of rape on a cruise ship is twice that of being sexually assaulted in your home town.  

Azamara Quest Cruise Ship FireThe safety kit also has a section where CLIA recommends certain messages for travel agents to post on Facebook and "tweets" to post on Twitter under #cruisesafety.  So far I have not seen any travel agents posting the CLIA info under this hashtag.

When interacting with your clients, the smartest thing a travel agent or cruise specialist can do is to disregard the CLIA propaganda. Here's my safety tip to travel agents:

Be honest with your clients.  

Anyone can Google "cruise ship crime" or "cruise ship fire" and read many hundreds of articles and see all types of disturbing images about all types of crimes and mishaps on cruise ships. Why tell a lie and lose your credibility, when your customers can find the truth about the dangers of cruising by a simple Google search?

 

"Cruise Safety Kit Logo" - Cruise Line International Association

Photo of Injured crewmember following Azamara Quest fire - IBN Live 

Injured On A Cruise Ship? Call Cruise Law in Miami.

Walker & O'Neill maritime lawyers in Miami handle cases exclusively cases against cruise lines.

Our firm has handled many high profile cases involving cruise ship fires, sexual assaults against women and children, and disappearances of passengers and crew around the world. We routinely represent passengers across the United States in serious injury cases, against Carnival, Celebrity, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian, Princess and Royal Caribbean cruise lines.

Jim Walker and Lisa O'Neill are both cum laude graduates from Duke University where they met 34 years ago.  Jim attended Tulane Law School in New Orleans and has practiced maritime law since 1983.  Lisa was a member of law review at the University of Florida Law School and has practiced law since 1985.

In the last couple months alone, the firm has appeared on numerous international television program and Walker and O'Neill Maritime Lawyers - Cruise Law Miami Floirda cruise documentaries.  Jim was featured on ABC's 20/20 special on the Costa Concordia disaster. He appeared on Australia's Dateline program "Lost at Sea" about passengers and crew members disappearing from cruise ships. Last month, Jim was featured on PBS's documentary "Disasters at Sea: Why Ships Sink" which looked at cruise disasters from the Titanic's sinking in 1912 to the current date.  Here are what people are saying about Jim: 

"Top Maritime Lawyer" - ABA Journal.

"Top Cruise Lawyer" - USA Today.

"Prominent Private Practice Maritime Attorney" - Fox News.

"Prominent Cruise Plaintiff Attorney" - Law.com (America Law Media)

In addition to a full time trial practice against cruise lines, the firm publishes this cruise law blog, which is the most popular maritime law and personal injury blog in the world (per AVVO / Alexa rankings). Cruise Law News ("Everything the Cruise Lines Don't Want You to Know") has been described as a "Hard-Hitting Blog" by Miami's Daily Business Review.  

If you or your family suffered a serious injury during a cruise, don't hire a lawyer who practices "cruise law" on a part time basis.  Contact the Cruise Law attorneys in Miami and let us be your advocates.  

If you have a situation to discuss, email us right away: jim@cruiselaw.com   

Cruise Insurance Scam: Travel Guard Denies Claim of U.S. Soldier in Afghanistan for Missed Cruise

Last year I published a couple of articles entitled And the Cruise Industry Wonders Why It Has an Image Problem.  One of the stories we covered involved a NCL passenger who had to cancel his cruise because his brother died and was being buried on the day of the cruise.  NCL refused to permit him to cancel without paying the entire fare.  He then suggested that he be permitted to donate the cruise to a child with cancer.  NCL said no, and then sold the cabin to other passengers.  That's right, the cruise line made a double profit off of the death of a customer's brother.  Really sick.

But after I published the article, a number of readers emailed me and said that the passenger should have protected himself by buying travel insurance.  Although they seemed to be rather heartless about the matter, the readers were probably right.  Cruise lines have carefully drafted their passenger tickets over the years to protect themselves against claims arising out of all last minute cancellations, so its prudent to always buy insurance for your cruise.

But what happens when the insurance companies try to weasel out from paying a claim for a missed cruise?

You can hire a lawyer, but insurance companies aren't scared of lawyers.  Insurance companies have lots and lots of lawyers who sole purpose is to screw the policyholders out of their claims.

Travel Insurance Scam - Cruise Insurance The best bet is to contact your Congressman or Congresswoman and go to the press.  Insurance companies hate bad press and government scrutiny, which brings us to this story.

A soldier in war zone Afghanistan, Jeremy Radtke, and his wife Jamie purchased a cruise with Princess Cruises.  Jamie's mom is a travel agent who convinced them to buy insurance, which was a smart move because a rocket attack caused soldier Radtke's flight home to be canceled.

Jamie them made a claim for the missed cruise with the insurance company, which advertises specifically to active duty military.  In response, she received a voice mail message for her husband (then back in the war zone) stating:

"Hi this message is for Jeremy. Jeremy, this is Shane and I'm calling in regards to travel insurance claim that was filed and we were finally able to do a review of that claim. Unfortunately we were not able to extend benefits on the claim." 

Understandably upset, Jamie had the foresight to complain to her Senator in Florida, Mike Fasano, who wrote a letter to the insurance company, stating in part:

"It is important for you to know that Mr. Radtke is active-duty military and is stationed in Afghanistan. This soldier, whose life is on the line each and every day to protect the freedoms that you and I enjoy, planned the cruise during a scheduled two week leave period. This leave is the only time he was able to come home and spend time with his wife.

I find it unconscionable that your company would deny a claim by anyone with a legitimate claim, especially active duty service members who frequently have to deal with changes in leave time . . ." 

Jamie also took her story to Channel 10 Investigators in Tampa who contacted Travel Guard.  The insurance company claimed that it never denied the claim and was allegedly just waiting on some paperwork.  It offered no explanation for the voice message.  Once confronted by the Senator and the TV crew, Travel Guard said that it would go ahead and cover the claim.  Jamie then received a check for $3,600.

If a travel insurance company will play games with a member of the U.S. military who puts his life on the line fighting the Taliban, do you think that it will treat your family any better?

If you have been taken advantage by a cruise line or cruise insurance company, don't get mad.  Get even. Lawyers can't always help.  Call your elected officials.  Call a team of action investigators at a local television station. Tell the company that's trying to steal your money to explain themselves to a TV camera.      

      

 

Video and photo credit:  News 10 Tampa Bay / WTSP

Miami Lawyers Represent Cruise Passengers Sailing From Florida

The Miami Herald reports today that Florida's cruise ports are booming.

A report from the Florida Ports Council shows that Florida leads the nation in cruise operations.  13.5 million passengers embarked on cruises leaving Florida in 2011.  This figure accounts for 60 percent of all U.S. cruise embarkations. 

The combination of the Port of Miami, Port Everglades and Port Canaveral lead the nation in cruise passengers.  Cruise passengers also cruise from Tampa and Jacksonville.

The majority of these cruise are with Carnival, Celebrity, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean cruises lines. All of these cruise lines require that any lawsuits or sexual assaults which occur on cruise ships be filed in Miami Florida.  All cruise lines have what are called "forum selection" clauses in the passenger tickets. The Miami based cruise lines like Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean list United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida as the only location where a lawsuit must be filed.    

The United States Supreme Court addressed this issue and held that forum clauses in Miami are enforceable. In Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc. v. Shute, 499 U.S. 585, 593-96, 111 S. Ct. 1522, l527-28, 113 L. Ed. 2d 622, 631-33 (1991), a passenger from Oregon was injured during a Carnival cruise which left a port in California which sailed to Mexico. The Supreme Court upheld the dismissal of the case which the passenger filed in Oregon.  

This year there have been several well publicized lawsuits filed against Carnival, Costa and Royal Caribbean filed in either Houston / Galveston or New York.  All of these lawsuits will be dismissed Jim Walker - Lisa O'Neill - Walker & O'Neill - Maritime Law Firm Miami Floridabecause they were filed in the wrong courthouse. Carnival and Royal Caribbean must be filed in federal court in Miami, and Costa cases (sailing from the US) must be filed in federal court in Ft. Lauderdale.

Our firm is one of the best known firms in the world representing passengers and crew members injured or the victims of crime on cruise ships sailing from Florida or other ports around the world.

Walker & O'Neill and their cruise clients have appeared in documentaries, television and radio programs and in newspapers about cruise accidents and crimes well over 100 times. Jim Walker and Lisa O'Neill are both cum laude graduates of Duke University. Jim graduated from Tulane law school in New Orleans. Lisa is a cum laude graduate from law school at the University of Florida where she was a member of law review.   They have combined experience of over 56 years.     

Carnival Changes Course, Offers Cruise Credit After Customer Stabbed in the Head

Carnival Cruise Line - Cruise Credit - InsuranceA family in Kentucky is going to enjoy a family vacation after Carnival reconsidered its cancellation penalty following a vicious attack on young Troy Walter.  The teenage was coming to the defense of his friend who was attacked by a knife yielding man now in jail on attempted murder charges.

The family was scheduled to take a Caribbean cruise vacation but Troy was stabbed in the head and neck two weeks earlier.  Troy's mother called Carnival and informed customer service representatives of the attack which resulted in her son's hospitalization for two months.  She says that the Carnival customer representative promised her over the telephone that her family would receive a cruise credit of $2,000 so that they could take a cruise later.  

But when she later contacted Carnival to re-book the cruise, Carnival informed her that it had no record that anyone at Carnival promised a future cruise credit.  This was significant because the family had not purchased insurance and would forfeit the entire cruise fare.  Carnival would not reconsider its cancellation penalty which Carnival explained was a "standard industry practice."  

The Walter family contacted a local television station and spoke to the "troubleshooter" department who contacted Carnival and, eventually obtained a cruise credit good for the next year.

The local newspaper ran the story (see video below) which sparked a debate about whether the family should have been penalized for not buying insurance.  We recommend to everyone to always buy insurance because you never know what will happen right before or during a cruise.    

Cruise lines have received a lot of bad press recently.  Read this article about another cruise line, NCL, which would not alter its cancellation after one of its customer's brother died right before the cruise. The customer had to attend his brother's funeral and asked NCL to refund the cruise fare or provide a credit.  NCL refused. The customer asked NCL at least to let the aggrieved passenger donate his cruise vacation to a sick child as part of the Make-A-Wish charity. NCL would not budge.  Then came the sick part.  NCL sold the cabin to another customer.

Yes, NCL received a double profit due to a death in the customer's family.  Talk about bad karma. I wrote an article And You Wonder Why the Cruise Industry Has an Image Problem.    

Unlike NCL, in this case Carnival did the right thing.  Yes passengers should always buy insurance, but its nice to see cruise lines act human once in a while.  

 

Safety Deficiencies, Engine Problems Mar Saga Sapphire Cruise Debut

My favorite London cruise blogger - John Honeywell a/k/a @CaptGreybeard - penned a couple of excellent blogs this weekend explaining that the maiden voyage of the Saga Sapphire cruise ship, already delayed due to refurbishment over-runs and striking workers, has cut its maiden voyage short due to the failure of one of its engines.

It tuns out that the new flagship for Saga Cruises is stuck in Valencia, Spain waiting for engine repairs. Not an impressive start.  

Engine problems, can you imagine that on a cruise ship? Add the Sapphire to the club of recent engine failure cruise ships: Splendor, Celebration, Caribbean PrincessQueen Mary 2, Allegra, Quest. & Plancius.  But Captain Greybeard doesn't stop there. He reports that:

"It has also emerged that Sapphire's week in Southampton was not without incident.

An inspection by officials from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency uncovered a total of 55 "deficiencies" on board, ranging from lack of training in fire drills, to an incomplete lifeboat inventory. The faults were not considered serious enough for the MCA to detain the ship.

The Marine Accident Investigation Bureau is also holding an inquiry into an incident in which two crewmembers went overboard from a lifeboat during a drill on March 29."

More bad news for the bad news cruise industry.  Watch the smoky cruise ship's debut below.  Ah, the smell of bunker fuel:

 

M/V Plancius Adventure Cruise Ship Stranded in South Atlantic

Plancius Cruise Ship - Antarctica Adventure CruiseThis was not the type of adventure the cruise passengers were looking for,

A cruise ship operated by an "adventure" travel operator was stranded in the South Atlantic on April 9th. The cruise ship experienced what is being described as either an engine failure or "propulsion difficulties" which reduced its speed to a capacity less than 5 knots in calm weather.  

The M/V Plancius, is operated by a Netherlands -based adventure cruise company, Oceanwide Expeditions, which advertises itself as the "World's Leading Polar Expedition Operator."  The cruise ship departed from Ushusia in Southern Argentina and was sailing on a 32 day itinerary which involved visiting islands in the South Atlantic / Antarctica region and ending up in the Ascension Islands.  You can read a nice article about this type of cruising here

The cruise ship is now alongside the Kind Edward Point Research facility on the South Georgia island. It was carrying 73 passengers and 42 crew members, including the expedition team.  The cruise line issued a press release, which is below, which states that the passengers and crew are uninjured and safe.  There are no indications of the weather conditions which existed when the ship lost most of its power, other than the statement that the weather is unpredictable given the approaching winter period.

A number of cruise ships have recently experienced serious engine and propulsion issues.  The Azamara Quest lost power in an engine room fire last month as it sailed from the Philippines.  The Costa Allegra found itself adrift off the coast of South East Africa in February after an engine room fire. The Bahamas Celebration lost all power sailing to the Bahamas last October in a similar incident.  The best known recent power failure occurred in November 2010 and involved the Carnival Splendor which Clelia II - Expedition Cruise Ship - Antarcticalost all propulsion with 3,500 passengers aboard while off of Mexico.  The U.S.had to send an aircraft carrier to the scene while the cruise ship was eventually towed to port in San Diego.

Power failures to small "adventure" cruise ships present particular dangers to the cruise passengers and crew.  The waters in the South Atlantic are treacherous.   The Clelia II (photo right) caught the world's attention in December 2010 which it lost most of its power after a wave smashed windows and disabled its communications system and impaired its propulsion while it was trying to return to Argentina from Antarctica. The video of the little expedition ship bouncing helplessly on high waves into howling winds is a must see.  It made my list of the Top Five Worst Cruise Ship Disaster Videos

The Clelia II had previously been disabled in December 2009 when it ran into rocks in Antarctica with 100 passengers aboard, and had to be taken out of service.

The most serious incident involved the Explorer expedition cruise ship which sank in 2007 after it scrapped its hull and sank in frigid water in Antarctica.  Fortunately, the weather conditions were calm and all passengers and crew were rescued. 

If you have photographs or video of the Plancius, please consider leaving a comment below.     

 

Cruise Operator Press Statement:

"Reduced propulsion power of m/v Plancius interrupts Atlantic Odyssey voyage. All passengers and crew are safe and sound. The Atlantic Odyssey voyage onboard m/v Plancius is interrupted since 09 April 2012 due to the vessel experiencing an incapacitation caused by mechanical dysfunction of the main propulsion system causing a reduced propulsion power. The ship is sheltered in safe position resting alongside the jetty of King Edward Point Research Station in Grytviken/Cumberland East Bay/South Georgia (54°17′S, 36°30′W).

Passengers, crew and expedition staff are safe. There is no threat to life or the environment
The spirit on board is - given the circumstances - good and passengers indulge in local walks and excursion program organized by expedition staff.

Oceanwide Expeditions takes precautions in the sake of passenger safety. As a result of the propulsion failure the ship has only very limited sailing capabilities ( maximum 4-5 knots in calm conditions), which means the vessel will not be able maintain course in rough seas of the open ocean. The original ship ´s voyage was aimed at crossing the Atlantic (embarkation of passengers took place in Ushuaia on 29 March, disembarkation of passengers was planned at Praia/Cape Verdes on 05 May). The weather forecast is unpredictable due to approaching winter period. Oceanwide Expeditions decided to take precautions and cancel the crossing of the Atlantic based on mission to operate safe and environmentally responsible travel. It is planned that all 73 passengers, some crew members (from 35 nautical and hotel), 6 expedition staff and 1 medical doctor will be repatriated onboard chartered passenger vessel m/v Ushuaia which will sail to Grytviken, South Geogia from Mar del Plata, Argentina, departing on Friday 13 April at 12.00 hours, arriving in South Georgia on 18 April, approx 12.00 hours local time. It is expected that the vessel can depart from South Georgia the same day with all passengers, including expedition and hotel staff. The vessel is scheduled to arrive in Montevideo, Uruguay on 24 April for disembarkation and connecting travel arrangements .

Next-of-kin of passengers have been informed directly or via their booking agents by Oceanwide Expeditions. M/v Plancius will have to be towed with support of a tug boat from South Georgia if onboard repairs are not possible locally. IAATO ( International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators), Class (Lloyds register) , flag state (The Netherlands), South Georgia Government and National Authority in the Netherlands have received status reports respectively."  

Lawsuit: Carnival Cruise Lines Strip Searches Girl Looking For Pot

"Please remove your tampon, I have a job to do."

I have heard some weird and outrageous cruise ship stories over the years, but if this one is true it takes the cake.  

A lawsuit filed last month alleges that Carnival cruise employees suspected that a 17 year old girl on the Carnival Sensation possessed marijuana after she returned to the cruise ship after going ashore in Nassau. The lawsuit alleges that the girl had returned with her mother and a friend when a Carnival security officer found a bag of pot on the floor of the elevator that the group was riding on.  

Cruise Ship Drugs - Pot - Carnival SensationAccompanied by a female crew member and a male assistant housekeeping manager, the security officer entered the cabin of the girl and her friend, also a minor.  The security officer allegedly made no effort to locate the child's mother or advise the children of their rights, and then threatened and intimidated the girl into a confession that the weed in the bag was hers. 

The three crew members then searched the girls' cabin, and found no contraband or illegal substances.  Undaunted, the three crew members alleged "threatened, coerced, and required J.G. to remove her panties, lift her dress to her waist and expose her nakedness to all agents in the cabin."  Then things got especially weird.  The lawsuit alleges:

  • 41. J.G. was forcefully escorted to the restroom wherein all Defendant Agents were permitted to watch her urinate before returning her to the main area of the cabin.
  • 42. Without cause, the DEFENDANT AGENTS threatened, coerced and required J.G. to remove a tampon and her genital cavity was inspected visually by the female currently known only as LETICIA.
  • 43. This strip and cavity search took place in the plain view of male Security Officer TRAPA and male assistant housekeeping manager YUZON . . .

No additional pot was found, but the girl and her mother were reportedly escorted off of the ship where the Bahamian police placed the girl in a cell with adults where the child was allegedly assaulted. The lawsuit alleges that after the girl was released, she and her mom had to locate their own accommodations and travel arrangements home.   

Courthouse News Services uploaded a copy of the lawsuit papers here.

The girl's lawyer sued on grounds of negligence, fraud, intentional infliction of severe emotional distress and is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

This type of lawsuit comes at the wrong time for Carnival which is still suffering from the fall-out of the Costa Concordia disaster and the Costa Allegra cruise ship fire.

There are two sides of every story, and I can't wait to hear Carnival's side.  I hope it's not "we can't comment on matters in litigation but rest assured the safety and security of our guests are our highest priorities."

I asked Carnival for a comment and will publish it as soon as I receive it.

 

April 4, 2012 Update:  Here's Carnival's response in its entirety:

Carnival does not typically comment on pending litigation, but feels compelled to do so given the far-fetched claims made in this lawsuit. The claim that the plaintiff was strip searched is patently false, and obviously made in retaliation for the cruise line having disembarked the plaintiff and her mother part-way through the voyage in Nassau where the plaintiff was taken into custody by the Bahamian police.

 

Hat tip to Miami New Times which has also blogged about this story.

A Shot Across The Bow - Lawyers for German Tourist, Killed in Costa Concordia Disaster, Seize the Carnival Triumph

There is a lot of controversy today about the seizure of the Carnival Triumph cruise ship in Galveston. Lawyers in Mississippi and Texas who are representing the family of a German woman killed on the Costa Concordia filed a lawsuit against Carnival in Galveston.  In addition to the lawsuit, they filed a motion to obtain an order of attachment of a Carnival cruise ship (the Triumph) which is ported in Galveston.  

I have received lots of inquiries about the issue this afternoon.  Can someone just fill out some paperwork and seize a cruise ship like this?  Why is the Carnival Triumph being seized in Texas for something the Costa Concordia, operated by a separate cruise line, did in Italy?  Is this legal?

All good questions.

Carnival Triumph Arrest - GalvestonMaritime attachments or writs of garnishment are not uncommon. The legal mechanism of seizing a vessel is an effective tool when the vessel owner is in default of its legal obligations, like falling behind on the payment of a ship mortgage, or refusing to pay crew member wages, or refusing to pay for provisions or services rendered on behalf of a ship.

Vessel seizures (often called "attachments" or "arrests") are necessary when the defendant is a foreign corporation, which is not subject to the jurisdiction of the local courts, and its vessel is about to leave the jurisdiction and not return.  It's a good way to obtain jurisdiction and make the company post a bond. If the seizure is proper, then the company has to post a bond to cover its outstanding financial obligations and court / U.S. Marshall costs in order for its vessel to leave port.   

I remember the first time I seized a ship.  It was in 1983 and I was fresh out of law school.  A Greek crew member was owed wages which the shipowner refused to pay.  He hired me to collect around $15,000 in unpaid wages. The lawyer for the shipowner had around 30 years of experience under his belt and was not taking me or my client seriously.  The defense lawyer kept saying that the shipping company was going to pay my client.  But he kept stalling and making excuses.

One afternoon I learned that the ship was planning on departing the port of New Orleans late that night. If I later obtained a judgment on behalf of my client, I knew that it would not be worth the paper it was written on because the shipping company was based in Greece.  I had to shut the ship down.

I quickly typed up a writ of maritime attachment, completed an affidavit and ran down to the Federal courthouse to file the writ and affidavit.  My secretary meanwhile called the U.S. Marshall's office telling them that we expected to have an order seizing the Greek ship shortly, while also asking for directions for me to find the Marshall's office.

Later that evening the Marshall's office served the vessel with the attachment order.  Shortly thereafter, I received a frantic call from the defense lawyer who was now motivated to do what he had been promising to do for six weeks. We met at a shipping warehouse off of Tchoupitoulas Street.  After we resolved the payment issues, I called the Marshall's office which released the ship to sail down the Mississippi River into the night.     

So what does this have to do with the seizure of the Triumph in Galveston?  Nothing, quite frankly. Carnival owes no unpaid debt to the German family.  As sympathetic as I am to the loss of life involved, the fact remains that the death occurred on another cruise ship operated by another cruise line in another country.   

The proper location for lawsuits arising out of the Concordia is Genoa, Italy.  The proper defendant? Costa Crociere, the operator of the cruise ship.  I am no fan of cruise lines, but the facts are the facts. This is an Italian cruise ship.  It is flagged in Italy.  Costa is incorporated in Italy.  Its principal place of business is Genoa, Italy.  The cruise tickets issued to the passengers specify that all disputes must Carnival Triumph Cruise Ship - Arrest - Galvestonbe resolved in Genoa, Italy.  The accident, after all, occurred in Italian waters and is being investigated by the Italian Coast Guard.  There are criminal proceedings in Italy against the Italian captain.

It may well be that seizing the cruise ship was a ploy to try and keep the case in Galveston, whose judges are friendlier to individuals than our Federal courts in Miami, and to take Carnival's home court advantage away.  But there is no connection between the Concordia and Texas.  These passengers are from Germany, for goodness sakes. There is no good reason to seize a Carnival cruise ship for the sins of another cruise ship operated by a different company. 

Unlike the fly-by-night Greek shipping company that tried to rip off my client 29 years ago, Carnival is not going anywhere.  It has tens of billions of dollars in assets here in Miami.  The lawyers who don't want to sue in Genoa can file suit here in Miami, like others have done, and take their chances.  There are many hundreds of lawsuits filed against Carnival here every year.  It would be bedlam if a cruise ship was seized every time a lawsuit was filed.  

So what is this all about? 

The main lawyer for the German family is John Eaves Jr., who practices in Jackson, Mississippi. He told Bloomberg Businesseek that “We’ve not been able to get Carnival’s attention, so this is our shot over the bow to let them know we’re serious about changing the law and maritime standards,” Eaves said. “We want a uniform set of safety standards, and we won’t stop until we get it.”

Seizing a cruise ship to make a point is not a good idea.  Mr. Eaves seems well intended.  Yet, an attachment is not legally required nor justified in these circumstances. The public doesn't like it.  The families on the Triumph don't deserve the hassle. 

Stricter maritime safety laws are needed no doubt.  That's what Congress is for.  I know, I have attended seven Congressional hearings. The process is slow and often discouraging.  But jacking up a cruise line like this is not the way to do it.  

 

Read the lawsuit here: Kai Stumpf v. Carnival Plc, 3:12-cv-0099, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Galveston)

Photo credit: Top: Sims Travel; bottom: Eaves Law Firm

 

April 1, 2012 Update: The Triumph sailed on time out of Galveston.  There is no indication that Carnival was required to post a bond.  Newspaper accounts indicate that the issue of the vessel arrest was resolved through a "confidential agreement" between the parties.  The Houston Chronicle quoted me in an earlier article about the issue which can be read here

Did Cruise Line International President Christine Duffy Lie to Congress?

Congressional Cruise Safety HearingThe first blog I wrote when I started Cruise Law News three years ago was about the Death On The High Seas Act ("DOHSA").  It was called "Death On The High Seas Act - Screwing American Passengers for 89 Years."

Under this archaic law, families who have lost a loved one on the high seas due to the negligence of the shipping company are entitled to recover only the lost wages and burial expenses of the decedent.  In cases where the dead passenger is a child or a retired grandfather or grandmother, and hence no wages to be recovered, the recovery is limited to funeral expenses.  There is no entitlement to the decedent's pre-death pain and suffering or the sadness, bereavement and mental anguish of the surviving family members.  

The current status of DOHSA provides no financial incentive for the cruise lines to improve their operations to make cruising reasonably safe for the traveling public.  I have written a number of articles about DOHSA over the years, including "If a Cruise Line Drops Your Grandmother in the Ocean, Don't Expect Any Compensation." 

Cruise lines love DOHSA.  Even when a cruise line is clearly negligent or even acts recklessly, there is no accountability when that negligent or reckless conduct kills a child or elderly passenger.

The cruise lines and their trade organization, Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), have spent millions lobbying Congress to kill efforts to amend the law to include additional remedies. Two years ago, when victim groups were getting close to amending DOSHA, CLIA and its lobbyists went into overdrive and killed the amendment.

Tandy Bondi and Christine DuffyTake a moment and read: "Cruise Industry Lobbies Congress To Kill Amendment To Death On High Seas Act." 

You can read about how Alcalde & Fay lobbyists, including Tandy Bondi, met with Congressmen and Congresswomen to derail efforts to amend DOHSA back in 2010.

The issue of DOHSA came back into the news last week during the Congressional cruise safety hearings.  

Congresswoman Mazie Hirono of Hawaii raised the issue why families have virtually no legal remedies when they lose a family member during a cruise, but enjoy the full range of remedies if the accident occurs in an automobile or airplane.  She asked the cruise line panel whether they thought this was fair.

Congresswoman Hirono asked CLIA's President and CEO Christine Duffy to answer first.  Ms. Duffy was unprepared for the question and initially did not respond.  Everyone in the hearing room knew that CLIA was absolutely against amending DOHSA, and that the victims groups, like the International Cruise Victims (ICV), were absolutely for the amendment.

But instead of answering honestly before the C-Span audience, Ms. Duffy hemmed and hawed and tried to deflect the question by saying "I'm not a lawyer."  But right next to her was the CLIA lawyer Michael Crye and behind her was maritime lawyer Bradley Rose who is CLIA's outside legal counsel. These lawyers were key players for CLIA in submitting a position paper to Congress against revising DOHSA.  Lawyers Crye and Rose just watched Ms. Duffy squirm.   

Sitting close to CLIA's lawyers were the CLIA's lobbyists, including Tandy Bondi (photo above left, chatting with Ms. Duffy right before the hearing).  Ms. Bondi, you will recall, was one of the main lobbyists who helped CLIA kill the DOHSA amendments just two years ago.            

Ms. Duffy knew good and well that CLIA opposed changing DOHSA.  But instead of choosing to be transparent, she chose the gobbledygook I'm-not-a-lawyer non-response.  She had just testified at length about how international laws, flag state laws and U.S. laws supposedly regulate the cruise industry, but now she was no longer competent to give an opinion about an unfair law that screws U.S. cruise passengers.

None of the other cruise line representatives at the hearing would answer the question either.

 

Photos credits:  Jim Walker

Cruise Law & International Cruise Victims Return to Washington DC (Again)

International Cruise Victims - Cruise Ship Safety  I returned to Miami from Washington DC this afternoon after attending the cruise safety hearings convened in the House of Representatives and the Senate this week. 

These hearings were the sixth and seventh Congressional hearings regarding the issue of cruise ship dangers I have attended since 2005.   

I met my friends and former clients in DC from the International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization: ICV CEO Ken Carver, ICV President Jamie Barnett, and ICV Board member Laurie Dishman who has traveled to DC over 30 times.  

Professor Ross Klein was invited to speak at the Senate hearing and he objectively laid out the cruise industry's history of cruise ship collisions, groundings, sinkings and fires. His written submission is the most impressively thorough and complete list of cruise ship related maritime disasters I have ever seen. Professor Klein's hard work and detailed analysis of cruise ship mishaps contrasted sharply with the self-serving opinions of the cruise line advocates who talked in conclusory phrases ("cruising is incredibly safe").   I will be linking to Professor Klein's research as soon as he uploads the information to his website.

During the hearings I met a half-dozen survivors of the Costa Concordia disaster, who traveled from Florida, Georgia and Massachusetts.

The hearings left me with a realization of the polarization of our Congress, and perhaps our country.

The meeting in the Republican controlled House on Wednesday was not unlike a big cocktail party. The cruise line representatives & cruise industry lobbyists back-slapped and joked around with Republican Congressmen and Congresswomen like it was their five year college reunion.  The Republicans extolled the cruise industry's great "entrepreneurs" without even a fleeting thought or concern of the cruise industry's disastrous effect on the environment, or the cruise industry's exploitation of foreign crewmembers, or the fact that the cruise industry pays virtually no U.S  taxes although it relies heavily on U.S. agencies to conduct its business.    

Contrast this freak show with the serious attitude of the Senate hearing on Thursday, which was presided over by a well respected Democratic Senator like Jay Rockefeller who has dedicated his life protecting the coal mine workers from his state of West Virginia and consumers across the U.S.

As long as there are responsible consumer-oriented leaders like Senator Rockefeller in Congress, the victims of cruise ship malfeasance have a fighting chance to force the cruise industry to be accountable when they injure and kill passengers and crew and destroy our environment.   

Congressional Hearing Cruise Safety - Costa Concordia

Photograph above:  ICV President Jamie Barnett, ICV Director Laurie Dishman, Cruise Expert Professor Ross Klein, Costa Concordia survivor, Jim Walker, ICV member Shari Cecil, and ICV CEO Ken Carver.  

Senator Rockefeller Blasts Cruise Industry: "You Are A World Unto Yourselves"

Unlike the love fest between the Republican members of Congress and the cruise line representatives at the hearing before the House on Wednesday, the hearing before the U.S. Senate was certainly not warm and fuzzy.

U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller, D-W. Va., who chairs the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, started the hearing off questioning why the highly profitable cruise lines pay virtually no U.S. income taxes although they extensively use the resources of some 40 Federal agencies. Senator Rockefeller continued saying that he was suspicious of the cruise industry which uses antiquated laws and onerous contractual terms to deny fair compensation to families who die or are injured during cruises.

Senator Rockefeller also questioned the ethics of an industry which dumps human sewage just three miles off the coast of the U.S., creating floating islands of untreated sewage.

Senate Cruise Safety HearingThe exchange between Senator Rockefeller and Christine Duffy, the CEO of the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA") was remarkable.  Ms. Duffy read from a prepared script which touched upon all of  CLIA's "talking points," but she would not respond directly to Senator Rockefeller's tough questions.  

Senator Rockefeller asked Ms. Duffy to admit that Carnival Corporation pays only 1.1% in taxes in the 11 billion dollars in profits made over the course of the last three years.  She would not directly respond and she also skirted the question whether she considered that to be fair.  Ms. Duffy would also not immediately agree to provide income tax returns to the committee, until he threatened to use the subpoena power of the Senate.

Senator Rockefeller drew an analogy between what happens deep in the coal mines of his state of West Virginia with what happens on the high sea beyond three miles.  He questioned Ms. Duffy's credibility and admonished her to "speak more truth."  Referring to the cruise industry, he stated "You are A World Unto Yourselves."

What a difference a day makes, between the Republican party heaping praise on Ms. Duffy the day before at the House hearing, and the tough questions posed by a Democratic Senator the following day. 

 

Don't forget to read:

Six Lies The Cruise Lines Will Tell You After The Costa Concordia Crash

House of Representatives Convenes Hearing on Costa Concordia to Avoid "Collateral Damage" to Cruise Industry

Yesterday the House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure convened a hearing on the Costa Concordia disaster.

As I mentioned in prior articles, I was concerned that the Chairman of the committee, John Mica, a Republican from Florida who is an unabashed supporter of the Florida-based cruise industry, would use the hearing as a platform to praise the cruise lines and help them try and rehabilitate their tarnished reputation. 

I was right.  The hearing yesterday began with the committee members praising the cruise industry and "applauding" the cruise lines for what they described as an "excellent" safety record.  Chairman Mica described cruising as a "joyful," "pleasurable" and "incredible" experience.  Congressman Young from Alaska trumped the Italian investigators and announced that "there was nothing wrong with that ship."  He applauded the industry's "great safety record," and warned against against "casting aspersions" on the cruise lines.  Congresswoman Maxine Brown, also a cruise lines supporter from Florida and a former travel agent, praised the cruise industry as providing the "safest" form of transportation in the world.

The cruise line and CLIA representatives touched on all of their "talking points," and then scurried out a back door behind the hearing room to avoid the press.

Although Congresswoman Doris Matsui (CA) and Congresswoman Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) asked Elijah Cummings - Cruise Safetysome tough questions, the hearing was mostly a pep rally for the cruise industry.

Most disappointing was the involvement of Congressman Elijah Cummings (photo left) who, like all of the other committee members never mentioned the dead U.S. passengers (Gerald Heil, age 69, and Barbara Heil, age 70, of Minnesota) by name. 

How can the U.S. House of Representative conduct an inquiry into a cruise disaster which kills two Americans where no one even mentions the names of the dead couple?

Congressman Cummings, usually an even keeled legislator who has treated cruise victims with respect, made clear that his primary concern was for the reputation and economic interests of the cruise lines.  He brought up the issue of what he described as avoiding "collateral damage."  He said to the C-SPAN audience that he wanted to make certain that no one came away from the hearing with an impression that cruise lines were not safe. 

Collateral damage?   Thirty two people dead or missing and Mr. and Ms. Heil's bodies remain trapped in the bowels of the Costa Concordia.  And Congressman Cummings is concerned that the cruise industry's reputation may be collaterally damaged by the investigation? 

Later this morning, the Senate will be convening its own hearing on the Concordia debacle.  Let's hope that the Senate takes the tragedy more seriously and asks some tough questions.Maech

March 1, 2012 Update:

The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel news paper echoed the sentiments in our article with "Congressional Hearing On Cruise-Ship Safety Turns Into Love-Fest for Industry."

 

Don't forget to read: Six Lies The Cruise Lines Will Tell You After The Costa Concordia Crash 

Congressman Mica Tries to Stack Congressional Hearing with Cruise Line Witnesses - But One Couple Who Survived the Costa Concordia Crash Will Testify

Congressman John Mica - Republican The U.S. House of Representatives will be holding a hearing on cruise ship safety on Wednesday, February 29, 2012.  The hearing will begin at 10:00 AM in the 2167 Rayburn House Office Building.

A subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (the subcommittee on Coast Guard & Maritime Transportation) will conduct the hearing and will focus on the Costa Concordia disaster.  The hearing is called "A Review of Cruise Ship Safety and Lessons Learned From the Costa Concordia Accident."

Republican John Mica (R - Fla.) (photo left) is the chairman of the committee. Unfortunately, he is no fan of cruise victims.  His allegiance is squarely to the cruise industry.  

I have been to five Congressional hearings regarding cruise crime and passenger disappearances over the last six years.  My clients - three women raped on cruise ships, a family whose father was killed in a cruise ship fire, and a widow whose husband disappeared during a cruise - appeared in Washington and testified.  Very serious and somber stuff.  But when Congressman Mica presided over one of the hearings, it was an ugly event.  Disrespectful is an understatement.  He mocked some of the cruise crime victims to the point that the audience began booing. 

Christine Duffy - Cruise Line International AssociationIt was to my surprise therefore that shortly after the Costa Concordia disaster last month, Congressman Mica announced that he was going to convene a hearing to examine the Costa Concordia crash and determine whether cruise ships operating out of the U.S. were operating safely.  I wondered had Congressman Mica found his soul?  Or did he plan on conducting a publicity stunt for his cruise line friends and supporters in Florida by assuring the public that everything with the cruise industry was safe and sound.

I received my answer last week when I received a copy of the list of witness who would testify - five cruise line representatives and one Coast Guard witness.  But no survivors of the Costa disaster.  No cruise victims.  No cruise critics.  No neutral cruise experts.  

Congressman Mica seemed to have designed the hearing be a Congressional love fest between the Congressional cruise supporters and the cruise line employees & lobbyists.  Consider the line up of cruise supporters:

Christine Duffy (photo above left) - President of the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA)

Michael Crye - Lawyer for the Cruise Line International Association.

Vicky Rey - (photo left below) PR person and customer care representative for Carnival Cruise Lines.

Vicky Rey - CarnivalGeorge Wright - Operations Department of Carnival subsidiary, Princess Cruises.

Captain Evans Hoyt - Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) Captain.

Ms. Duffy and Mr. Crye, employees of the cruise industry's trade organizations CLIA, are paid cheerleaders for the cruise line whose testimony will consist of repeating the cruise industry's "talking points" and alternating between saying that "cruising is incredibly safe" and the "safety & security of cruise passengers are CLIA's highest priority."  Ms. Rey has no technical knowledge about anything and is Carnival's happy face for publicity purposes. The two cruise employees with maritime knowledge, Mr. Wright from Princess and Captain Hoyt from NCL, have no first hand knowledge of the Costa Concordia debacle.

Where were the survivors of the Costa Concordia?  Frightened families who cried as they explained the terror and confusion of the ill-fated cruise have appeared in documentaries on the Discovery channel, on ABC's 20/20 cruise special, CNN's Anderson Cooper and all of the major networks.  But Congressman Mica couldn't find one single cruise victim anywhere?

Sameer and Divya Sharma - Costa Concordia survivorsIt was only after member of the International Cruise Victims (ICV) organization learned of the stacked deck and protested to the subcommittee did Congressman Mica agree that one couple who survived the cruise horror could testify.  Sameer and Divya Sharma (photograph right, on cruise ship) were added as last minute witnesses.

Mr. and Ms. Sharma family are wine and spirit shop owners in the Medford / Stoneham area in Massachusetts who were celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary when disaster struck. To obtain a glimpse of their anticipated testimony at the hearing tomorrow, watch the video below and consider what they explained to a reporter in a local newspaper in Medford:

We were lied to,” said Sameer Sharma. “They said this is just an electrical mistake, we’re working on it, generators being kicked in, everything under control, stay calm, don’t panic and enjoy your dinner. They had the audacity of making the same announcement right when we were waiting to board the lifeboats when it was very obvious the boat was going down.”

The Sharmas said they heard announcements made “on behalf of the captain” throughout the evening, not realizing until the next day that Captain Franceso Shettino had already fled the ship.  As reassuring announcements blared over the speakers, Divya described a clustered group of men, women and children waiting to board lifeboats with no sense of organization. She called it “mass hysteria.”

“I’ve never seen anything so unorganized and chaotic in my life,” Divya said, adding several adults wore child-size life jackets because there were not enough adult-size life jackets to go around.

Certainly insight like this will be more revealing to the subcommittee of the dire circumstances the cruise passengers faced than the happy talk of the cruise line PR people.  I'm sure that Congressman Mica would prefer that the Sharma family stay in Massachusetts.

 

 

 

Video credit:  wamcadoo YouTube

Photo credit: Sameer Sharma

Newspaper credit: Wicked Local Medford / Medford Transcript

The Debate Continues: Does Maritime Law Favor Only The Cruise Lines?

Sea Diamond - Cruise Ship Sinking Take a look at the photograph on the left.  Can you identify it?

Nine times out of ten, I bet the answer is of course, its the Costa Concordia.  You know, the cruise ship that crashed into rocks last last month near the Italian island of Giglio.

Wrong.  Its a photo of the Sea Diamond, which capsized after hitting a reef in Greek waters in 2007 and sank with loss of life.

The story of the Sea Diamond is one that the cruise lines and cruise industry supporters ignore while extolling the safety of cruising.

The photo of the stricken Sea Diamond is part of a Reuters article this morning questioning whether the cruise lines benefit from overreaching contractual terms and the absence of consumer laws protecting the public.   The article is entitled "Insight: Cruise-Laws Leave Cruise Ship Victims at Sea." It explains how the cruise lines erect a series of hurdles which make if difficult to seek compensation or justice when things go wrong on the high seas. The journalists interviewed a number of cruise passengers who were injured or lost loved ones during cruises.

Another article,taking a different perspective, was also published this morning.  The cruise friendly on-line community Cruisemates published "Cruisin' U.S.A."   

The article suggests that foreign flagged cruise ship are subject to Federal laws, international regulations, and the scrutiny of the U.S. Coast Guard, the Centers for Disease Control, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Customs and Border Patrol.  The author did not interview anyone.  The only link was to the cruise industry's trade organization, Cruise Line International Association.  The article contains no historical perspective, and contains no photographs of sinking cruise ships.

As the cruise industry braces for the negative publicity which will surround the Congressional hearings about cruise ship safety later this month, you will see a series of competing articles like this.  The debate is a healthy one.  The cruise industry will put its best foot forward using a platform of cruise supporters like Cruisemates and Cruise Critic and certain travel agent bloggers.  And real journalists like the folks at Reuters will chip away at the facade and reveal the dark side of the cruise industry.  

 

Photo credit:  Reuters

Cruise Industry Accountability Back in the Spotlight: U.S. House and Senate to Hold Hearings on Cruise Ship Safety

Cruise Ship Safety HearingsThe U.S. House and Senate have scheduled hearings for February 29 and March 1, 2012 to address whether the cruise industry has taken adequate steps to protect cruise passengers and comply with newly enacted laws designed to make cruising safer.

A series of events prompted the Congressional hearings.  

First, and most obvious, is the Costa Concordia disaster.  There is not much debate that the cruise ship engaged in a reckless maneuver of showboating near the rocks of Giglio - apparently with the blessing of the cruise line - which endangered the lives of thousands of passengers who were further imperiled by the irresponsibility of the vessel's officers and the disorganization of its crew.  Chaos and confusion caused by a cowardly to-hell-with-the women-and-children captain who managed to place his mistress in one of the first lifeboats to safety.

17 dead and 15 missing are the result. 

Only after these deaths did the public learn that the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which is suppose to oversee the cruise lines, did not even require lifeboat drills before the departure of ships from port.  So much for the "stringent requirements" of this toothless United Nations' maritime fraternity. This is the madness which results when cruise lines are left to their own devices.

Secondly, and equally importantly, is the failure of the cruise lines, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Coast Guard to comply with the newly enacted Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act.

The new cruise safety law was designed to require the cruise lines to do things as simple as bore peepholes in passenger doors, and to have at least one crewmember certified in crime scene preservation.  The Coast Guard was required to post accurate crime statistics on a web page based on crimes reported to the FBI.  The purpose of the crime statistics was for the public to finally see truthful crime statistics of the thefts, homicides, suspicious deaths, assaults and sexual assaults which occur during cruises. 

The cruise lines have failed to comply with many aspects of the new law.

This year alone I have seen a cruise line destroy evidence more thoroughly and brazenly than I have ever seen; refuse to release a rape victim's medical records to the victim as required by law; and refuse to report crimes in a timely and accurate manner.

The reporting system in place by the FBI and Coast Guard is a joke.  Over the years we have obtained (through court orders) lists of rapes on cruise ships.  We know that cruise lines historically have over 100 sexual assaults a year, in addition to thefts, disappearances suggesting foul play and physical assaults. But take a look at the FBI / Coast Guard on-line report of the last quarter of 2011 here - only 3 sexual assaults and not one single theft, physical assault, homicide or suspicious death for the entire cruise industry!  

The problem is that the FBI is disinterested in involving itself in shipboard rapes, disappearances and murders and is leaving the dirty work to the cruise line security to investigate the crimes.  But there is an inherent conflict of interest in delegating law enforcement duties to the cruise ship's security officers who have already failed the cruise passengers. One of our clients was raped by a security guard.  Do you think the cruise line security department is going to build a case against one of their own?  The bottom line is that many cruise crimes remain unreported by the cruise lines or not investigated by the FBI.

The problem is compounded by the fact that the FBI does not report crimes to the Coast Guard database whenever there is an open file.  One thing that the FBI is good at is keeping its investigations open, even if there are no investigations ongoing.  The Department of Justice rarely prosecutes cases after FBI investigations.  

The International Cruise Victims (ICV) has worked hard over the past 6 years to bring the new cruise safety law into effect.  Our firm has attended 5 Congressional hearings since 2005, 4 in the House and 1 in the Senate, before the new law came into effect.  We have seen the dedication of the ICV members over the years.  One of our clients, Laurie Dishman, has traveled to Washington over 30 times to lobby Congress for a law to protect the cruising public.  

Cruise ShipsIts a real shame that the goals of the new legislation - greater accountability and transparency of the cruise lines and greater safety of passengers in the process - are being subverted by the cozy relationship between the self-regulating cruise industry and the FBI which has little interest in investigating cruise ship rapes.

So far, the entire cruise industry has refused to commit to send one single cruise line president or CEO to attend the cruise hearings at the end of this month.  Instead the cruise industry will send Christine Duffy, the president of the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), who has been giving talking points on how to sell cruise tickets to travel agents by overcoming customer fears about cruising following the Costa Concordia debacle.

We will hear about how wonderful cruising is and how the safety of the passengers is the cruise industry's highest priority.  Ms. Duffy will make these remarks while 2 Americans and 13 other passengers from other nations remain trapped dead in the sarcophagus of the Costa Concordia.    

Hopefully the House and Senate will see through this happy talk.

The Concordia crash should be a wake up call that this is a self-regulating industry which needs a tight rein.  The cruise line / FBI / Coast Guard reporting system is a failure.  Congress needs to take a hard look at the cruise industry and the federal agencies which are making a mockery of the cruise safety law. 

When Will Royal Caribbean Replace the Dangerous Stairs in the Catacombs Lounge on the Liberty of the Seas?

Last week, a Royal Caribbean guest fell while trying to descend a stairwell in the Catacombs lounge on the Liberty of the Seas cruise ship.

We wrote about the incident in our article: Royal Caribbean Passenger Falls & Dies on Liberty of the Seas Cruise Ship.

A number of former passengers aboard this cruise ship left comments to our article:

Stairs Catacombs Nightclub - Liberty of the Seas Cruise Ship. . . those stairs are so dangerous, why would they have stairs like this at a bar?????? while drinking is going on etc! No traction, no carpet,  Nothing . . . 

. . .  they looked dangerous and slippery.  Pretty? Yes - but dangerous . . .

. . . they are incredibly dangerous!!! . . .

. . .  those stairs, are EXTREMELY Dangerous.  Even from the picture you can see that they have little to no tread and no skid protection.  Mix that with heels, lack of bright lighting, drinking, and possible spillage..and you have a recipe for disaster . . .

Well, disaster did strike, and cruise passenger Barbara Wood died as a result.  Was this a freak accident?  No.  Royal Caribbean knew before this latest accident that these stairs pose a danger to their guests.  It has been sued before. 

One of the Miami maritime lawyers who I regularly consult with, Glenn Holzberg, filed a lawsuit against Royal Caribbean for a fall on these steps.  The lawsuit which Glenn filed alleges that back in September 2007, a cruise passenger: 

 . . . was on board the Liberty of the Seas, when she slipped and fell down the stairway within the Catacombs Lounge leading to the deck below, causing her to repeatedly strike her forehead and face and resulting in serious and permanent damage including a concussion, and closed head injuries. The direct and proximate cause of the fall was the condition and design of the stairway and individual stairs, making it difficult to distinguish one step from another, and the darkness in the Catacombs lounge leading to and surrounding the stairway . . .

Did Royal Caribbean make any changes to the stairwell after this earlier serious accident over the past 4 years?   Did it improve the lighting conditions around the stairwell?  Did it place any warning signs around the area? 

How many other passengers have been injured at this location? 

How many more injuries and deaths will it take before Royal Caribbean replaces these pretty but dangerous steps?

 

If you sailed on the Liberty and experienced difficulties with these steps, please consider leaving a comment below.

 

Photo credit:  Sean Lloyd (Flickr)

FlowRider Accidents: Royal Caribbean Liability Waivers Are Unenforceable!

A year and a half ago, I wrote about the danger of serious injury and death created by the "FlowRider" attraction on Royal Caribbean's cruise ship.  The article is entitled Wipeout! Liability of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line for FlowRider Accidents.

In the article, I discussed that the cruise line forces the passengers to sign "Onboard Activities Waivers" before they can participate in certain activities on board the cruise ships.  Royal Caribbean claims that these "waivers" protect it from lawsuits whenever a cruise passenger is injured on a FlowRider, as well as during zip lining, rock climbing, or ice skating activities on the cruise ship.  We disagree.  In our article stated, we stated in no uncertain terms that:

".  .  .  these waivers are invalid.  They violate U.S. Federal law which prohibits shipping companies FowRider - Cruise Ship - Royal Caribbeanand cruise lines avoiding or limiting liability for injuries and deaths on the high seas . . .  if you are seriously injured, check with a maritime lawyer before you take the cruise line's word that their so-called 'waivers' are valid."

Yesterday, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal agreed with us.  In a case involving a client represented by our firm and our co-counsel Jonathan Aronson, the Eleventh Circuit struck down the Royal Caribbean "Onboard Activities Waiver," pursuant to a  federal statute, 46 U.S.C. § 30509. 

The Court summarized the facts of the case as follows:

"Johnson was a passenger on the Oasis of the Sea cruise ship owned by Royal.  One of the attractions of this ship was the FlowRider - a simulated surfing and body boarding activity.  Before purchasing a ticket to participate in the FlowRider attraction, Johnson was instructed to sign her name to an electronic "Onboard Activity Waiver" ("the waiver").  When she signed her name to the waiver, Johnson agreed to release Royal and its employees from actions "arising from any accident [or] injury. . . resulting from . . . [her] participation in any or all of the shipboard activities [she] has selected." 

While receiving instruction for the body boarding portion of FlowRider, Johnson received instructions from an instructor employed by Royal ("Mike") that deviated from the regular use of the body boards, which are different from the surfboards.  Mike instructed Johnson to stand on the body board while he was holding it.  When he released the board, Johnson fell off the board and suffered a fractured ankle.  The maneuver attempted by Mike with Johnson was in violation of Royal's safety guidelines for the FlowRider attraction. These guidelines specifically state that the boards for the surfing portion can be stood upon, while the boards used for the body boarding portion should only be used while lying down."

After we filed suit against Royal Caribbean, the cruise line argued that the waiver precluded our client from recovering for her injuries.  The trial court agreed and ended our case a few days before trial.  We appealed.

In an opinion released yesterday, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal reversed the lower court.  The appellate court ruled that the Royal Caribbean waiver violated 46 U.S.C. § 30509 which prohibits contractual provisions which attempt to limit the liability of the owner of ships for "personal injury or death caused by the negligence or fault of the owner or the owner's employees or agents."   The court held that the statute was clear and unambiguous, and there was no exception for recreational, inherently dangerous, or ultra hazardous activities.  Although waivers of this type may be enforceable on land, such waivers are illegal and unenforceable on the high seas.

The ruling is significant because there has been at least one death and numerous serious injuries to cruise passengers on the Royal Caribbean FlowRiders.

The interesting thing about this appeal is that in addition to the efforts of Royal Caribbean, the cruise industry's trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), filed an amicus curiae brief, trying to convince the appellate court to strip the rights of passengers who are injured during cruises.  If successful with this case, Royal Caribbean and the other 25 CLIA cruise lines undoubtedly would have required cruise passengers to sign waivers for all shipboard activities.  I doubt that any travel agents who are members of CLIA know what the cruise lines were up to.

The appeal was handled by appellate specialist Phil Parrish.    

You can read the entire opinion here.  And don't forget to watch "Royal Caribbean WipeOuts!" video below:

 

 

Video             YouTube lilmikee420

Photo:       Cruise Critic

Woman Dies After Fall From Queen Mary

A news station in California is reporting that a woman is dead after falling around 75 feet from the Queen Mary in Long Beach Harbor Monday evening.

KABC News in Long Beach states that the woman "fell off a walkway" around 8:30 p.m. yesterday evening and plunged into the water below.

Another person jumped into the water to try and rescue the woman, followed by two Long Beach police officers. 

The BelmontShores-Naples Patch has the most complete information.  This newspaper states that the 26 year old woman fell from the upper gangway after arguing with her 40 year old boyfriend.

Queen Mary Hotel - Long BeachThe newspaper reports that that two unidentified employees witnessed the argument and the woman falling into the water.  Although ordered not to talk, they provided eyewitness detail.

They said that the woman had been arguing, with a man they called her boyfriend, near the center of the top level gangway for nearly 10 minutes.  One employee recounted that the woman allegedly said "I don't want to live, I don't want to be with you anymore, I don't want to go on."

She made a "motion like she was going to go over the rail and slipped."

The 40 year old man then "ran down the steps to the bottom landing and jumped in."

The newspaper states that one of the employees saw the entire (nearly 10 minute) argument, while the second employee said he saw the final three or four minutes.

She was taken to a hospital in critical condition and later died.

Although many news sources refer to the Queen Mary as a "cruise ship," in 1967 it was removed from the British registry and officially turned over to the city of Long Beach.  The once storied vessel was operated by Cunard.  The vessel had its inaugural voyage in 1936; it was used as a troop transport in the second world war; and it enjoyed its "golden years" in the 1950's and 1960's.  It is now operated as a hotel and is fully dependent on shore utilities.  

Medical Malpractice on the High Seas: Do Cruise Passengers Have Any Rights?

CBC News in Canada published a story this week about cruise passenger Bernie Hamilton, age 66, who died following a Holland America Line ("HAL") cruise due to what sounds like a series of errors by the ship's medical personnel.  The article is entitled "Cruise Death Prompts Warning on Ships' Medical Care."  

I have heard these stories time after time over the years.   A couple excited about a dream vacation.  The husband experiences medical issues during the cruise which a competent doctor ashore would easily handle.  But due to blunders by the cruise ship medical team, the wife returns home alone to face the cruise line's denials of responsibility for the suffering and death.

In Bernie Hamilton's case, you can read about the ship doctor's misdiagnosis by concluding that Mr. Hamilton had just a common cold or perhaps asthma which led to a prescription of Ventolin which accelerates a patient's heart rate.  You can read that after Mr. Hamilton collapsed on Holland America Line - Cruise Ship Medical Carethe floor of the cabin, his wife Heather had to witness the spectacle of the medical personnel trying to decipher the instructions for the automatic defibrillator as precious minutes ticked away on her husband's life.  

After the ship medical team struggled to insert an intravenous line and intubation tube and finally "stabilized" Mr. Hamilton, the ship put Mr. Hamilton ashore in Spain where the shore-side doctors declared him brain dead.

Ms. Hamilton received no apologies from HAL.  The cruise line is quoted in the article saying that they "believe the care provided to Mr. Hamilton was appropriate."  All that Ms. Hamilton received from HAL was a bill for $2,000.

Last year, I wrote an article "If the Ship Doctor Kills You, Too Bad" which explains the dangers provided by the limited nature of cruise ship medical care and the difficulty seeking compensation when malpractice of the ship doctor or nurses harms your family. 

Yes, doctors and nurses make mistakes, but a cruise ship is about the only place where a doctor can negligently kill your loved one and there is no accountability. 

As I mentioned last year, as long as cruise lines are not liable for bad medical care, there is no financial incentive for the ships to invest in training and hiring more qualified and experienced doctors and nurses.

There is no economic or moral justification for such an inequitable situation. The cruise industry collects over $35 billion dollars a year and pays no Federal income taxes by registering their cruise ships in foreign countries.  As long as travel agents, cruise fans and the public are indifferent to these type of stories, in the future other families will experience the horror of dream vacations going terribly wrong.

 

Photo credit:   CBC News / Heather Hamilton

Atlantis Jet-Ski Accident in Nassau: Was A Carnival Cruise Passenger Killed?

A number of readers of our blog have contacted us asking for information about a jet ski mishap where a cruise passenger apparently died in the Bahamas on November 24th.

The incident reportedly occurred after the cruise passenger rented a jet ski at the Atlantis resort in Nassau.  The passenger had sailed to Nassau aboard the Carnival Magic cruise ship.

There are no news accounts regarding the incident which we have been able to find.  

One reader wrote to us saying: 

" . . . I think it would be good to have more openness so that people can make better informed decisions about activities when they go on vacation. I think it's atrocious that it is obviously being covered up. I also checked all avenues before I wrote you a note. It is real but I don't know how to get the information out."

The U.S. Department of State has the following warning about water sports rentals in the Bahamas:

"The water sports and scooter rental industries in The Bahamas are not carefully regulated.  Every year people are killed or injured due to improper, careless, or reckless operation of scooters, jet-skis, and personal watercraft or scuba/snorkeling equipment.  Visitors should rent equipment only from reputable operators, and should insist on sufficient training before using the equipment. There have been reports that some operators do not actually provide insurance coverage even when the renter opted (and paid) for insurance coverage.  Visitors should insist on seeing proof that operators have sufficient medical and liability insurance."

There are lots of articles on line about jet ski accidents in the Bahamas, including this article dating back to 2004. 

If you were on the Magic and have information about this incident, please leave a comment below.

November 30, 2011 Update:

A reader left a comment below and alerted us that there is a video from the Bahamas about the incident.  The victim was apparenty 47 years old and from Texas. 

 

 

Video credit:  Broadcasting Corporation of the Bahamas

Cruise Passenger Seriously Injured in Jet Ski - Banana Boat Accident in Cayman Islands

Multiple news sources are reporting that a sixteen year old girl vacationing in the Cayman Islands during a cruise is in a critical condition following a collision between a jet ski and a "banana boat" near Seven Mile Public Beach.

The incident occurred shortly after noon on Thursday.  The local police stated that the jet ski was being ridden by a seventeen year old cruise passenger when it ran into the "banana" inflatable raft which was being towed by a power boat. 

Two females, aged sixteen and twenty-four years old, were thrown from the inflatable raft.  They were transported to the Cayman Islands Hospital for treatment.  The twenty-four year old woman was released from the hospital, but the teenager remains in a critical condition and is apparently being airlifted here to Florida for treatment.

The newspapers covering the story indicate that all three people involved in the incident were cruise ship passengers.

So far, there is no indication regarding the name of the cruise ship or whether this was a cruise sponsored excursion. 

Three Princess Cruises Passengers Hospitalized in Bermuda

Grand Princess Cruise Ship - Princess CruisesThe Bermuda Sun reports this week that three cruise passengers were taken to the hospital in Bermuda after Princess Cruises' Grand Princess arrived in port.

A female passenger reportedly broke her ankle, a male passenger suffered a heart condition, and another male passenger lost consciousness in the cruise ship's swimming pool.  

This was the Grand Princess’s only trip to Bermuda this year. 

Bermuda has recently lost a number of cruise lines as customers this year.  Holland America just announced that the Veendam will no longer visit Bermuda after next year, after making 24 cruises from New York this year.  That announcement occurred shortly after Carnival announced that it was cutting cruises to Bermuda from 16 trips by four cruise ships this year, to just one in 2012.

The president of Bermuda's Chamber of Commerce characterized these developments as a “big blow to the island’s economy.” 

 

Photo credit:  Grand Princess cruise ship in Bermuda Flickr (tribewantedgilligan)

Celebrity Cruises Passenger Killed in Parasailng Accident in St. Thomas

A news source in the U.S. Virgin Islands reports that two passengers from the Celebrity Eclipse cruise ship were involved in a serious parasailing accident on Tuesday in St. Thomas.

The incident occurred late Tuesday afternoon while the passengers were on an excursion.  One of the passengers died, and the other was seriously injured and remains hospitalized.

There are comments from an online cruise community suggesting that the deceased passengers was celebrating  her 60th birthday and her daughter was the one seriously injured.     

Celebrity Cruises Parasailing Accident - St. ThomasCelebrity Cruises advertises parasailing "400 feet over St. Thomas" on its website.  You can watch's Celebrity's brief  video about parasailing in St. Thomas here which describes the excursion as an "experience of a lifetime." 

A number of agencies are apparently involved in the investigation into this incident, including the Virgin Islands Police Department, Department of Planning and Natural Resources, Attorney General’s Office, and the U.S. Coast Guard. 

Last year we reported on the death of a Carnival cruise passenger parasailing in Cozumel during an excursion. 

 if you know how the accident occurred, please leave a comment below.

November 17, 2011 Update:

Caribbean Water Sports and Tours - Parasailing DeathThe Virgin Islands Daily News published an article this evening stating that "squalls and wind gusts Tuesday afternoon may have factored into the death of Bernice Kraftcheck, 60, and the serious injury of her daughter Danielle Haese, 34, who was hospitalized overnight at Schneider Hospital." 

The mother and daughter purchased a parasailing shore-excursion from Celebrity Cruises which was conducted by Caribbean Watersports and Tours.  The excursion company conducted the parasailing trip aboard the 31-foot powerboat Turtle.  The newspaper reports that two crew members operated the Turtle, which was carrying five passengers. 

"All parasailing shore excursions in the Caribbean have been cancelled indefinitely, pending the outcome of the investigation," said Celebrity Cruises spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez.

Cruise lines face legal liability when they fail to vet the safety policies and procedures of the excursion companies which the cruise lines select to do business with. 

For example, a dozen passengers from Celebrity Cruises' Summit cruise ship were seriously injured when an open air excursion vehicle ran off the road in Dominica.  We represented passengers against the cruise line and the excursion company in that accident.  Information on the Dominica excursion accident is contained in an article "Injured Visitors to Dominica Airlifted to Miami."

December 3, 2011 Update:

Coast Guard Continues to Investigate St. Thomas Parasailing Accident

 

Photo credit:  Celebrity Cruises

Celebration Cruise Line Refuses to Permit U.S. Military Soldier to Cruise to Bahamas

WPTV - 5 in West Palm Beach has an interesting article and video this morning about a U.S. soldier who was denied boarding on a cruise ship to the Bahamas by Celebration cruise line because he had only military I.D. with him.

The story involves Jupiter Florida mom Melissa Fontane who booked the cruise in celebration of her son, who serves with the 101st Airborne Division, returning to the U.S. on leave from service in Afghanistan.  Before she purchased the cruise, she knew that her son did not have a passport nor did he have possession of his birth certificate.  She asked if it was okay for him to use his military I.D. 

"No problem!" the cruise line agent said.

What Ms. Fontane did not know, nor did the cruise line reveal, was that the Department of Homeland Security changed its policies and no longer permitted military I.D. to board a cruise ship.

As WPTV - 5 explains, not only did Celebration block soldier Fontane from boarding, but the cruise line refused to honor "Celebration's protection plan" which Ms. Fontane paid extra for just in case she had to cancel for any reason.  Celebration referred to the "fine print" drafted by their lawyers in the cruise ticket stating: 'no refunds or changes are allowed if you're denied boarding due to failure to provide proper documents.' 

When Ms. Fontane tried to dispute the charges with her credit card company, Celebration blocked that move too, arguing that:  'the guests were denied boarding due to failure to provide proper immigration documents. The booking, was cancelled, and charged the full penalty.'

Ms. Fontane tried to contact the Celebration executives but was given only the email of a low level customer care representative who completely ignored her. 

Justifiably frustrated, she asked: "he can serve in Afghanistan, fly through different countries with his military I.D., but to go to the Bahamas on a cruise line is not acceptable?"

So what did Ms. Fontane do at this point?  Did she hire a lawyer to fight the dastardly cruise line?  No, that would not have make much of a difference in a case like this.  Cruise lines like this are equally skilled at ignoring lawyers too.

She did something much smarter - she contacted the media. 

When a local television station called Celebration and said it was airing an investigation, the cruise line suddenly changed its tune.  Its all a big mistake the cruise line explained.  Ms. Fontane received a full refund plus free cruises to be used when her son returns from overseas.  The foreign incorporated and foreign flagged cruise line was suddenly full of American pride and patriotism, announcing: 

"The President of Celebration spent 26 years in the military. We appreciate everything the brave men and women of the military do for our country . . . "

Ah, a happy ending to the story!  Now if we can only get Celebration to begin paying U.S. taxes . . .

 

 

Video credit:  WPTV Channel 5 West Palm Beach  (Shannon Cake reporting)
 

How to Hire a Miami Maritime Lawyer to Sue a Cruise Line

Each year 14,000,000 people (yes 14 million) will go on a cruise.  There are literally hundreds of passengers, as well as crewmembers, who will suffer a serious back injury or break their ankle, leg or hip after slipping and falling while cruising.  Once back home after the cruise, they find it difficult to think of hiring a lawyer who they have never met in order to sue a large corporation in a far-off location like Miami.

But the process of hiring a Miami maritime lawyer to bring a claim against a cruise line like Carnival or Royal Caribbean is simple.

Jim Walker - Miami Maritime LawyerOver 95 percent of our firm's clients live out side of Florida.  If you have a question about an accident on a cruise ship, send us an email.  You can reach me directly: jwalker@cruiselaw.com  

You will receive an answer to your email right away.  We will need answers to four issues: 

When did the accident occur?  Remember that you have only one year to file a lawsuit against a cruise line!  This is a much shorter period of time than most land based injuries.

Which cruise line and which cruise ship were involved?  The majority of the cases we handle are against Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Carnival and Norwegian cruise lines.  These cases have to be filed here in Miami.  Other cruise lines like Princess Cruises have to be filed in California.  Holland America Line, for example, has to be sued in Seattle.  If we can't help you, we will find someone who can.

What happened and why is the cruise line responsible?  Be prepared to tell us not only how the accident occurred but why you think that the cruise line is liable.     

What injuries did you sustain?   The nature and extent of your injuries are important issues in your case.  Have you undergone surgery?   What type of medical treatment will you need in the future?  Once you retain us, we will quickly obtain copies of all relevant medical records and reports. 

If you prefer to call us, we look forward to speaking with you. We have a toll free number (800) 256-1518.  You will probably initially speak with one of our assistants, like Jan or Betsy (photo right, with client), who will ask you a few questions about the basic information listed above.  I will be pleased to answer any questions you may have.

If you decide to hire us, we work on a contingency fee.  This means that we do not bill you or ask for a retainer.  We are paid only if we are successful and obtain a settlement or a verdict.  You have nothing to lose. 

Miami Florida Maritime Law Firm We will send you four documents.

The first is the contingency fees agreement.  All lawyers who handle these type of cases must have a written contract with the client where everything is spelled out.  The second document is a statement of your rights as a client.  We will also send you a short questionnaire about your cruise accident.  The last document is a medical authorization so that we can obtain copies of your medical records.

We will email these items to you shortly after you email us or speak with us on the telephone.  Just fill out the forms and return them to us.  There is no need to travel to Miami to start your case.

One of the main reasons why cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean require that all claims be filed in Miami is that they know that it is inconvenient for injured passengers to do so.  That's why we make it easy for our clients to retain us.  Simply send us an email or make a single call.

I'm sure that you may have other questions, and I will be happy to spend as much time as necessary to provide answers for you.  I have been handling maritime injury cases since 1983.  Over ten years ago I was interviewed about the process of filing a claim against a cruise line. 

You can obtain additional basic information by reading the article here - Cruise Passenger Rights and Wrongs - Interview With Maritime Lawyer Jim Walker

Did NCL Hide Evidence of Cancerous Drinking Water From Passengers?

The Sunday Times of London published a disturbing story today regarding paint used on cruise ships and other vessels which could leach into the ship's water tanks.  The newspaper reports that the potable water supplies may have been contaminated and posed a cancer risk to thousands of cruise passengers.  

The paint could leach the toxin acrylonitrile, described as a tumor-causing probable carcinogen, Acrylonitrile - Cruise Ship Waterinto the cruise ship's drinking water. 

After an inspector, Brian Bradford, discovered the problem with the paint, the paint manufacturer, Danish corporation Hempel, successfully sought an injunction against Mr. Bradford to keep him quite.    

The New York Post picked up the story today, and published an article "Cancer Scare Over Cruise Ships’ Suspect H2O."  The Post refers to the Sunday Times "bombshell report" and raises the alarming question whether "thousands of New Yorkers may have been exposed to cancer-causing drinking water aboard a flotilla of luxury cruise liners." 

The Post refers to a "defective paint"  used inside water tanks on many ships, some owned by cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line as well as other companies.

The articles report that Hempel managed to keep the danger secret due to a "super-injunction" which effectively gagged Mr. Bradford from blowing the whistle on the paint manufacturer and the cruise lines.  The articles state that Mr. Bradford was a paint inspector who was overseeing the repainting of water tanks on the Norwegian Dawn and the Norwegian Star. 

Cruise Water Gag OrderThe Post states that "Bradford discovered a black residue on tanks, told Norwegian Cruise Line about it, and was axed."  Mr. Bradford remains muzzled for speaking out about the danger, but the Sunday Times apparently is not bound by the injunction.   

Norwegian Cruise Line issued a statement, claiming that: “the drinking water on Norwegian Star and Norwegian Dawn has always been and remains safe.”

We reported on the problem with the allegedly toxic cruise ship water last March in our article Did Cruise Industry Hide Evidence of Toxic Water Tanks?   Our article was based on an article which was published in the Telegraph in London.  At that time we raised the issue of what cruise ships had the Hempel paint and which cruise lines knew of the problem.  

Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein also published an interesting editorial on this problem - Is Drinking Water Safe on Cruise Ships?  

It's interesting to see the London based newspapers taking the lead reporting on such a public hazard involving the cruise industry based here in Miami. 

When will the major U.S. media focus on this important story?

 

Photo credit:  Top - heraldsun.com.au

Royal Caribbean Passenger Dies During Diving Excursion in Bermuda

The BDA Sun newspaper in Bermuda is reporting that a 52 year-old cruise passenger died during a diving excursion in Bermuda.

Donna Zapata cruised with her husband on Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas to BermudaShe went on what is described as a "helmet diving" excursion with Hartley's Bell Diving.  The newspaper explains that this involves "shallow water where divers wear airtight helmets to view the underwater world." 

After a dive, Ms. Zapata complained of shortness of breath.  She reportedly was given oxygen aboard the excursion vessel and the excursion staff called shore-side for emergency medical personnel to be ready ashore.  But its reportedly took "about 20 minutes to get everyone back on board and get to shore." 

Ms. Zapata lost consciousness and passed away at the King Edward VII Hospital.

The Bermuda Police Service has the following account:

"Police have commenced an investigation into the death of an American woman who was visiting the island as a cruise ship passenger. It appears that around 12 noon on Tuesday, June 7th 52 year old Donna Zapata was in the Mangrove Bay area ‘helmet diving’ with family members when she got into difficulty. EMTs performed CPR as the victim was rushed to King Edward VII Memorial Hospital via ambulance; however they were unable to revive her. She was subsequently pronounced dead at 1pm on Tuesday by an on call physician at the hospital. An autopsy will be performed on the deceased during the course of this week."

U.S. Customs Officials Take Revenge Against Elderly British Cruise Passengers?

A number of newspapers in the U.K. are reporting that 2,000 elderly British cruise ship passengers were forced to endure seven hours of immigration checks when their cruise ship docked at the port of  Los Angeles. 

The U.K.'s Telegraph and the  Mail Online have rather sensationalized accounts of how things went wrong once when passengers aboard the luxury P&O cruise ship Arcadia arrived in LA on May 26th.  Although this was their 10th stop at a U.S. port, and they had all completed forms for multiple-entry visas, the passengers described a nightmare situation where the elderly passengers were subject to detailed passport checks, extensive background interviews, and full Cruise Interrogationbiometric checks, including fingerprints of both hands and retina scans.

When some of the passengers protested the Gestapo-like treatment, passengers complained that the custom and border agents retaliated against them.  The newspaper analogized the mis-treatment to the manner terrorists are treated when they arrival at Guantanamo Bay.   

Then an immigration officials' computer broke down, forcing the weary travelers to wait even longer.

The elderly passengers were 'herded like animals', according to an article in the Telegraph, "causing some to pass out and leaving others confused and bewildered."

The delays forced the P & O cruise ship to extend its stay in LA by 24 hours, and the passengers will miss a planned visit to Roatan, Honduras later this week. 

A U.K luxury cruise turns into a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol "revenge interrogation" of geriatric Brits?  The U.S. war on terror continues.  They are lucky U.S. Homeland Security didn't water-board them . . .  

Today's blog was mentioned in the South Florida Business Review - "The British Are Coming"  and the U.K. Mirror - "Cruise Passengers Face Seven-Hour Ordeal at Hhands of US Immigration."    

Australian Prime Minister Ignores Cruise Safety Recommendations

The Australian newspaper reports that the Federal government in Australia is ignoring certain cruise safety recommendations proposed by Australian Coroner Jacqueline Milledge following an inquest into the death of P & O Cruises passenger Dianne Brimble.

Ms. Brimble's death and the dreadful state of affairs which existed in the P & O Cruises fleet were some of the first issues I wrote about when I started this blog two years ago.  You can read through this sad case in a series of articles here.  The stories are disturbing.  

Dianne Brimble - Cruise Ship Crime  The Australian article today points out that it has been six months since NSW Coroner Jacqueline Milledge concluded an inquest into Ms. Brimble's death aboard the P&O cruise ship, the Pacific Sky nine years ago, and issued cruise safety recommendations to the Federal Government.  

Ms. Milledge summed up the case accurately, saying Ms. Brimble was "drugged by unscrupulous individuals who were intent on denigrating her for their own sexual gratification."  The newspaper reports that the "conservative and modest mother-of-three was left to die on the floor of a cabin from an overdose of the drug, fantasy, and alcohol, after being photographed having sex with strangers she met in the ship's disco."  Ms. Milledge recommended: 

Australian Federal Police on board every cruise ship;

Drug detection scanning of passengers and crew members;

Drug sniffer dogs at all ports; and

The establishment of a federal parliamentary committee to consider industry reforms to improve crime prevention, investigation and prosecution of offenses at sea.

The newspaper reports that Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has not responded to the recommendations, saying only: "This is a tragic case that has caused pain and anguish to Ms. Brimble's family and friends."

It is now nine years since Ms. Brimble's untimely death.  It will be a real shame if these recommendations are not fully implemented no later than the 10 year anniversary of her death next year.  

 

Photo credit:  Book cover, "Abandoned - The Sad Death of Dianne Brimble" by Geesche Jacobsen.

Top 10 Shocking Clauses In Your Cruise Contract

Writing this article, I’m reminded of Seth Meyers’s joke at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner - addressing the Senate: “I don't think you read bills anyways.  I think you guys vote on bills the same way the rest of us agree to updated terms and conditions on iTunes.”

Let’s be honest. Most of us don’t read the “fine print” of contracts and are often bound by terms and conditions we don’t understand or don’t even know exist.  And most of us assume that lawyers Cruise Ticket - Cruise Passenger Rightsdrafting these contracts use standard form, kitchen sink, same ole’ same legalese that appears in all of the contracts we encounter in day-to-day life. We assume we’ll be protected by the law.

This assumption is the inspiration for this blog.  I remember when I was writing my undergraduate thesis at the University of Florida.  The irony was that I finally read the ticket-passenger contract to a cruise I had taken 6 months earlier.  Oops.  As I was reading the contract for my research, I remember thinking to myself, I really should have looked at this before I boarded the ship.  Again, oops.

So, I’ve decided to prepare my list of the top 10 shocking contractual provisions in cruise line tickets. (I strongly advise picking up the contract and reading it in its entirety before stepping aboard).

The selected clauses are taken directly from Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s (“RCCL”) website. The following clauses are the Top 10 Shocking Clauses taken from RCCL’s Ticket-Passenger Contract for its passengers, excluding the Brilliance of the Seas.

1. We Don’t Care If You Have Read or Signed the Contract

“Purchase or use of this Ticket Contract, whether or not signed by the Passenger, shall constitute the agreement by Passenger, on behalf of himself and all other persons traveling under this Ticket Contract (including any accompanying minors or other persons for whom the Ticket Contract was purchased), to be bound by the terms and conditions of this Ticket Contract.”

2. No Jury Trials for You!

“This agreement requires the use of arbitration for certain disputes and waives any right to trial by jury to resolve those disputes.”

3. We’re Not Responsible for the Ship Doctor’s Malpractice

“Carrier assumes no liability whatsoever for any treatment, failure to treat, diagnosis, misdiagnosis, actual or alleged malpractice, advice, examination or other services provided by such persons or entities.”

4. We’re Not Responsible for the Excursions We Sell, Even if We Make Millions in Profits

“Even though Carrier may collect a fee for, or otherwise profit from, making such arrangements and offers for sale shore excursions, tours, hotels, restaurants, attractions, elements of the RCT Land Tour packages that are provided by independent contractors and other similar activities and Cruise Ticket - Cruise Passenger Rightsservices taking place off the Vessel for a profit, it does not undertake to supervise or control such independent contractors or their employees, nor maintain their conveyances or facilities, and makes no representation, whether express or implied, regarding their suitability or safety.”

5. Our Agents Can Kill You, But We’re Still Not Responsible

“In no event shall Carrier be liable for any loss, delay, disappointment, damage, injury, death or harm whatsoever to Passenger which occurs on or off the Vessel or the Transport as a result of any acts, omissions or negligence of any independent contractors.”

6. Live in Oregon and Injured on Cruise Ship in Mexico? You Have to Sue in Miami

“It is agreed by and between Passenger and Carrier that all disputes and matters whatsoever arising under, in connection with or incident to this agreement, Passenger’s cruise, cruisetour, RCT Land Tour or transport, shall be litigated, if at all, in and before the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida located in Miami-Dade County, Florida, U.S.A.”

7. Injured on a Cruise? You Lose Your Right to Sue Us If You Don’t Send Us a Letter in 6 Months and Sue Us in 1 Year

“The limits for personal injury/illness/death claims: no suit shall be maintainable against carrier, the vessel or the transport for personal injury, illness or death of any passenger unless written notice of the claim, with full particulars, shall be delivered to carrier at its principal office within six (6) months from the date of the injury, illness or death and suit is commenced (filed) within one (1) year from the date of such injury, illness or death and process served within 120 days after filing, notwithstanding any provision of law of any state or country to the contrary.”

8. If You’re Injured or Killed on a Ship Which Doesn’t Call on a U.S. Port, the Maximum Compensation is $70,000

“On cruises which neither embark, disembark nor call at any port in the United States, Carrier shall be entitled to any and all liability limitations, immunities and rights applicable to it under the “Athens Convention relating to the carriage of passengers and their luggage by sea” of 1974 (“Athens Convention”). The Athens Convention limits that Carrier’s liability for death or personal injury to a Passenger to no more than 46,666 special drawing rights as defined therein (approximately U.S. $70,000, which amount fluctuates, depending on daily exchange rate as printed in the Wall Street Journal).”

9. Don’t Even Think of Filing a Class Action Lawsuit

“Passenger hereby agrees that except as provided in the last sentence of this paragraph, Passenger may bring claims against Carrier only in Passenger’s individual capacity. Even if the applicable law provides otherwise, Passenger agrees that any arbitration or lawsuit against Carrier . . . shall be litigated by Passenger individually and not as a member of any class. . .”

10. We Can Search Your Cabin and Kick You Off The Ship If The Captain Says So

Caitlin Burke - Cruise Law News“Carrier may also change accommodations, alter or cancel any activities of, deny service of alcohol to, confine to a stateroom or quarantine, search the stateroom, property or baggage of any Passenger, change a Passenger's RCT Land Tour, disembark or refuse to embark the Passenger and/or any Passenger responsible for any minor Passenger, or restrain any Passenger at any time, without liability, at the risk and expense of the Passenger, when in the sole opinion of Carrier or Captain . . .”

Some of these terms and conditions are valid and enforceable, other clauses are not. Cruise Law News has reported on several of these issues in the past:

Fox News Focuses on Dangerous Cruise Ship Medical Care

Cruise Ship Statute of Limitations? - One Year for Adults!  Three Years for Minors

This article was written by a "guest blogger" for Cruise Law News, Caitlin Burke.  Ms. Burke just finished her first year at law school at the University of Miami. Ms. Burke is a graduate from the University of Florida. She majored in Recreation, Parks and Sport Management. Ms. Burke wrote a senior honor's thesis entitled a "Qualitative Study of Victimization and Legal Issues Relevant to Cruise Ships."

 

Miami New Times: Couple Sues Carnival Cruise Lines After Teenage Daughter Killed in Virgin Islands Gang Shootout

The lawsuit we filed this week of behalf of our clients for the death of their daughter, Liz Marie Perez Chaparro, has been covered in the Miami New Times and USA Today this week.  The article, written by Tim Elfrink, for the Miami New Times is entitled "Couple Sues Carnival Cruise Lines After Teenage Daughter Killed in Virgin Islands Gang Shootout."

"Liz Marie Perez Chaparro was celebrating her quinceañera on a Carnival cruise with her parents last summer when an employee convinced the family to join an excursion in St. Thomas. What he didn't mention, Chaparro's family says, is that a heated gang war was raging in the area.

Liz Marie Perez Chaparro - Death - Carnival Cruise Chaparro died on a tour bus when a shootout exploded between the rival gangs at a funeral, peppering the young tourist with bullets. Her family filed suit against Carnival today, alleging they should have known the violence was likely.

Chaparro and her parents, Ceferino Perez and Aida Esther Chaparro, live in San Juan, Puerto Rico. They saved for ten months to pay for her quinceañera cruise last July, they told the Virgin Island Daily News.

On July 12, one of the first nights of the cruise, Perez was drinking on deck when a cruise employee sold him on a trip to Coki Beach, a popular sandy stretch in St. Thomas.

But Perez didn't know that the Virgin Islands at the time were riding an all-time high homicide streak, he says in his lawsuit. Already that calendar year, the islands -- with a population of 100,000 -- had seen 43 murders.

What's more, Perez says, the week before a gang member had been shot and killed at a mall near Coki Beach and his gang had planned a funeral at a cemetery near the beach on the day of the excursion.

"(Carnival) should have known there was a high risk of an attempted gang revenge killing at the funeral," Perez says in the suit.

Either way, soon after Perez and his family boarded the bus for Coki Beach it was trapped on a two-lane road blocked by the gang members.  When a shootout broke out, their bus was caught in the crossfire.

Fourteen-year-old Liz Marie Chaparro died on the scene.

A Carnival spokesperson didn't immediately return a phone call and an email about the lawsuit this morning; we'll update the post when we hear back."

 

A copy of the lawsuit is available on line here (via courthousenews.com). 

Cruise lines have a legal duty to warn their passengers of dangers in the ports of call.  For our article about this terrible crime, read: More Caribbean Crime - Carnival Passenger Killed In St. Thomas.

Slip and Fall on Carnival Cruise Ship Results in $2,998,000 Verdict

A Federal District Court Judge recently awarded a verdict in favor of a cruise passenger who was seriously injured in a slip and fall accident during a cruise aboard a Carnival cruise ship. 

The passenger, Ms. Denise Kaba, reportedly slipped and fell on the deck around a pool on the Carnival Pride cruise ship in August, 2009.  She sustained a fractured knee cap and which resulted in six surgeries and the need for surgery (knee replacement) in the future.

Carnival Slip and Fall Accident - Compensation - LawyerHer theory of liability was that the pool deck was covered with a resin surface which was  slippery as ice.  Carnival had notice of prior accidents on this type of dangerous surface.

Carnival admitted liability for the accident. The case was tried before the Court (without a jury) solely on the issue of damages. 

Judge Ursula Ungaro awarded $2,998,155.70 which consists of $170,483.00 for loss of earning capacity, $221,910.55 for past medical expenses, $373,564.00 for future medical expenses, $200,000.00 for past non-economic damages (pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, mental anguish, scarring, disfigurement, and disability), $1,960,000.00 for future non-economic damages, and $ 72,198.15 in pre-judgment interest:  

The case is styled: Denise Kaba v. Carnival Corporation, United States District Court Southern District of Florida, Case No. 10-21627-CIV-UNGARO.

The passenger was represented by Jack Hickey and David Appleby of the Hickey Law Firm.

Carnival was represented by Tom Scott and Armando Rubio of the Cole, Scott & Kissane law firm.

 

For other recent awards entered against Miami-based cruise lines, read: Royal Caribbean Ordered to Pay $1,250,000 to Injured Crewmember.

 

Interested in similar articles like these?  Enter your email address in the box at the lower left  for free Cruise Law News updates .  .  . 

Fox News Focuses on Dangerous Cruise Ship Medical Care

Fox News 11 (Los Angeles) has published a special investigation into the quality of medical care aboard cruise ships.  The article is entitled "Cruise Ship Medical Care Under Scrutiny."

The article and video below focus on the fate of cruise several passengers, including the daughters of Ken Carver (Merrian Carver), and the daughter of Jamie Barnett (Ashley Barnett), whose parents are left to tell their stories.

Ken Carver is now the Chairman of the International Cruise Victims organization (ICV) which he founded over five years ago following the disappearance of his daughter.  When he tried to investigate what happened, the cruise line (Royal Caribbean / Celebrity Cruises) engaged in a cover-up.  He created the ICV to organize the families of hundreds of passengers who are victims of cruise ship malpractice, crime and lack of responsibility.

Jamie Barnett lost her daughter due to the medical negligence of Carnival which defended the delayed and bad medical treatment by claiming that the cruise ship doctor and nurses were "independent contractors" for whom Carnival was not responsible.  Ms. Barnett's experiences with Carnival led her to join the ICV.  She is now the president of the ICV.  

Mr. Carver and Ms. Barnett have both testified before legislative bodies in an effort to improve safety aboard foreign flagged cruise ships.  They last appeared before a California Assembly just two weeks ago in a successful effort to introduce a bill to make cruising out of California safer.

In watching the video, remember that if the cruise ship doctor kills or maims a family member during a cruise, the cruise line will deny all liability and you will be faced with trying to seek compensation against a foreign doctor living somewhere in Africa or South America.  Unlike the U.S. doctor who appeared on behalf of the cruise industry in this video, over 95% of cruise ship doctors are not educated, trained, or licensed in the U.S.  

 

 

May 13th Update:  After this aired, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), the trade organization for the cruise industry, telephoned Fox News 11, and complained that the U.S. cruise doctor CLIA arranged for the video should have been given more air time. 

Credits:

Fox News 11 (Los Angeles)

Reporter Christine Devine

Video Producer Heidi Cuda

Did Cruise Industry Hide Evidence of Toxic Water Tanks?

The Telegraph newspaper in the U.K. contains an interesting story today about the use of gag orders by large corporations in England to prevent the public from learning of potential safety hazards.     

Called "hyper-injunctions," the gag orders are used to protect a corporation's reputation by barring an individual from discussing embarrassing information which may affect a corporation's business and legal interests.  

Cruise Ship Water Tank - Potable Water - Toxic?The newspaper reports that  a hyper-injunction was obtained at the High Court in 2006 which prevented an individual from "saying that paint used in water tanks on passenger ships could break down and release potentially toxic chemicals." 

The injunction barred the person from discussing the case with members of Parliament, journalists and lawyers, along with the US Coast Guard and any ship owners, and also forbids any speculation linking chemicals in the paint with the illness of any individuals.

According to the Telegraph, the unidentified individual was given a two-week suspended sentence after talking to a lawyer about whether he would take the case.  A U.K. politician commented on the situation saying: 

"What we have, therefore, is passenger vessels trundling around the world with potentially toxic substances being released into the tanks.  One of those who worked on the tanks collapsed as a result.

From a health and safety point of view, we want to think that the water we are drinking is safe and that it will not cause health problems.  The difficulty in this case is that we do not know.

What we do know is that corporations used the massive force of the law to gag an individual and truss him up so much that he could not really challenge the process."

The article does not mention who obtained the gag order.  Did a cruise line use the "hyper-injunction" to suppress information from a former employee?

Does anyone have information about this?  Please leave a comment below.

November 13, 2011 Update:  Looks like NCL and Royal Caribbean cruise ships contained the paint in question.  The terminated paint inspector was Brian Bradford.  You can read about the new information here.

 

Celebrity Cruises Provides Perfect Cruise for Visually Impaired Guest

"Why don't you write something positive for  a change?" is the number one criticism I hear from readers of Cruise Law News.  Few people contact a maritime lawyer when they experience a wonderful time on a vacation cruise.  So it was my good luck to be contacted by a passenger who ended up, after a couple of tries, having a perfect cruise.

Last month, Ms. Orly Shamir sailed on the Celebrity Eclipse with her husband.  She now tells the cruising world about her experiences as a visually impaired cruiser.  Thanks Ms. Orly for letting Cruise Law News be the first to talk about your positive cruising experience.  And a special thank Orly Shamir - Special Needs - Cruiseyou for teaching us the lessons which we all can learn when passengers and the cruise lines work together to make a dream vacation come true:   

"Sitting here unpacked from my most recent of three cruise vacations with Celebrity, I’m reflecting on my experiences on board as a visually impaired guest I feel compelled to share them.

My story with Celebrity began four years ago in December 2006.  I have a knack for making arrangements and always plan all the vacations that my husband and I take.  I called Celebrity to inquire about upcoming cruises for my husband and I and after much consideration, I settled on the Celebrity Constellation ten-day New Years cruise.  Prior to departing, I was unaware that my husband was planning to propose to me on-board.  I contacted Celebrity’s Access Department to better understand their role in assisting passengers with disabilities and how they would best be able to assist me in making my cruise experience the best possible.  I was pleasantly surprised to find such a department exists and furthermore that the primary purpose of the Access Department is to put in place any accommodation that will assist me in being as independent as possible.  I was to receive a tour of the ship in order to adjust to my new surroundings.  It was also to be arranged that all menus and daily communications would be available to me in Braille, and that our room would be situated in such a location that would offer ease to move about the ship independently. 

When my husband and I boarded our new temporary home, we were crushed to learn that none of the prior arrangements made by the Access Department had been received.  I felt all my efforts to make arrangements was for nothing.  All calls emails and forms I had to complete, had been for nothing.  This truly negatively impacted my entire cruising experience.

When returning home I contacted the Access Department and Corporate Guest Relations to discuss what had just happened and why.  I was advised to record my experiences in a letter for investigation.  My letter outlined all my efforts made to assure accommodations would be in place.  The goal of my letter was to make an impact in assuring a more positive experience for passengers with disabilities in the future.  My concern was that a large corporation such as Celebrity had gone to the trouble of creating a department specifically designed to assist those with disabilities; and I knew my feedback was crucial in moving towards improvement.  There were serious issues with processing requests, most noticeably in communication breakdown between head office and the crew on-board.  After many letters and phone calls with Corporate Guest Relations, I was offered compensation . I was very clear to communicate that things had to change.  I am a strong believer that any errors made in life by anyone, is an open door for moving forward towards change.  I love Celebrity, but I was unwilling to just walk away never to return because of my experiences.

This was a great learning opportunity for Celebrity and a perfect time to make the necessary improvements moving forward.

Last year January 2010, I booked a second cruise for my husband and I.  A seven-night Southern Caribbean cruise onboard the Celebrity Summit.  Since our first cruise in 2006, several years had Orly Shamir - Perfect Cruisepassed.  When booking this trip I re-iterated our past experiences with the booking agent.  I also called the Access Department and explained everything that had happened on my previous cruise.  I went into great detail about all of my needs for my upcoming cruise and was assured that nothing like my previous experience would be repeated.  I made several calls and many notes were made on my file.  I felt quite certain that changes had been made and my passed concerns were taken seriously.

On boarding the Celebrity Summit, much to my dismay, I learned that once again nothing had been done.  The onboard crew knew nothing of my needs.  I could not believe my first cruise experience was repeating itself.  I called one morning to ask for the Daily Compass to be read to me and the agent replied, “I’m too busy, you’re with your husband; Can’t he read it to you?”  At each impasse I was met with resistance.   Having no choice, I did what the Guest Relations agent suggested and totally relied on my husband.  I was left feeling completely dependent.  I wasn’t being treated with respect and dignity . I then requested that the ship staff contact Corporate Guest Relations for me and conference the call into my room.  Again, I was taking time out of my vacation trying to be heard.  The Corporate Guest Relations agent from head office was very patient and listened to the story.  He informed me he couldn’t do anything for the cruise I was already on, but to call him when getting back home.

Returning home, I explained to Guest Relations that I had had a repeat of my experiences as a Celebrity Cruise passenger.  I made sure to speak with the same agent I had spoken to when on-board.  He did assure me that the message would reach their Access Department with high priority.  I was refunded my cruise fees and assured that if I were to travel with Celebrity, things would be different.  My goal the first time and now second, was to get the message across that changes could be made and not just pushed aside.  Everyone has a choice of where and with whom to travel.  It’s an important decision as unfortunately travel opportunities are not as frequent as we all would like. Having my needs met as a disabled person isn’t asking for too much.  Especially if Celebrity Cruises has a designated Access Department who made arrangements on my behalf and promises to that effect, but sadly didn’t follow through.

In December 2010, I booked our third cruise on the Celebrity Eclipse for our wedding anniversary.  This was truly different.  This time, when speaking with the Access Department, the agent took it upon herself to email the Hotel Director directly.  The Hotel Director provided menus and daily calendars in both Braille and in PDF format, so that I could hear the information on my laptop.  He connected me with the concierge Nicolas onboard as well. We all emailed back and forth prior to sailing.  The guest Relations agent, Medea, at head office, really worked hard on making sure the past wasn’t going to repeat itself. When onboard I felt like I was the only passenger with how special I was treated.  Damien’s team really made the difference with every passing day.  The concierge, Nicolas, helped organize the PDF daily calendars.  He assisted me when I needed to get from place to place. He even helped me get assistance with my make up on formal nights.  I did request that he apply the make up himself.  To this he replied; “If I did your make up, you’d look like a crazy person.”  I opted to get it done by someone who knew what they were doing.  Nicolas was there assisting me with many of my needs.  He is a kind, funny person who truly cares about his guests.  We were also invited by Damien to sit at the captains table for the second formal night and I felt like a princess!  Definitely a highlight of our trip! Alex and Christophe, Damien’s right and left hand men, were such true gentleman and went out of their way to make sure I was well taken care of.  During evening dining time in the main dining room and at specialty restaurants, I was promptly greeted with a Braille copy of the menu.  Our beautiful cabin suite was situated in the Orly Shamir - Celebrity Cruises perfect location, allowed me to come and go independently.  Of course I did spend time with my husband, but there were times I went off on my own especially on Sea Days.  So many incredible experiences and incredible people that truly care. THAT is the Celebrity I have believed in all along.  The promises I knew Celebrity would uphold. I felt like I mattered and I was treated with the utmost respect and dignity.  I felt like I was the only traveler onboard, that’s how special the crew on the Celebrity Eclipse made me feel!!!  We had a completely polar experience.  That was a true vacation for both my husband and I.

I finely felt heard, even though it took sometime and many efforts.  But I believed it could happen.  I came home and contacted Guest Relations. Medea was so excited to hear of my experiences.  I knew she’d be waiting for a full report.  As a joke, I started off by saying that I demanded full compensation.  I heard dead silence on the other end.  I told Medea that my experience on the Eclipse was absolutely perfect.

So the moral of my story is to never give up even when it seems hopeless.  When you believe in something or someone, guide and persist them through the growing pains.  Celebrity, I believe in you and everything you stand for.  Thank you all for your efforts in making the difference.  Everyone at Celebrity thank you so much from the bottom of my heart.  Thank you for caring enough to make the changes happen for me and everyone out there who love your cruises."

Orly Shamir

 

Have other passengers with special needs had a great vacation experience where a cruise line met your  needs and exceeded your expectations?  Let us hear from you.  Please leave a comment below.

Is Royal Caribbean Ready for Medical Emergencies During the World's Largest Gay Cruise?

Today, Royal Caribbean's newest mega-ship, the Allure of the Seas, sails from Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale on its first charter with 5,400 gay and lesbian passengers.  The cruise is sponsored by Atlantis Events which is billing the event as the "world's largest gay cruise."

The Allure will port in Nassau, St. Thomas and St. Maarten during the one week cruise.  This is the  20th anniversary for the Atlantis travel company which specializes in all-gay vacations.

Atlantis Gay Cruise - Allure of the Seas The Atlantis cruises have not been without controversy.  One year ago, a 37 year old passenger aboard Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas died during an Atlantis sponsored cruise.

In October 2009, we reported on the death of another passenger aboard a Royal Caribbean - Atlantis cruise.  Spencer Yu, an attorney for Warner Brothers and a board member of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation ("GLAAD"), died on the Mariner of the Seas. There is speculation that Mr. Yu, also a young man of  only 46 years, may have died of a drug overdose during the cruise.  After this ill fated cruise, passengers contacted our office complaining about the inexperience and confusion of the Royal Caribbean medical staff in responding to Mr. Yu's medical emergency.

Commenters on the gay community blogs Queerty and JoeMyGod bickered about the use of drugs during Atlantis sponsored events. 

Cruise ships are not the place to have a medical emergency, whether you are gay, lesbian, transgendered, or straight.  Cruise ships are often characterized by the questionable experience and training of the shipboard doctors and staff and the limited nature of the cruise ship's medical facilities. 

Is the Allure of the Seas, the largest and most technologically advanced cruise ship in the world, equipped to handle medical emergencies which occur during Atlantis parties?  Does Atlantis discuss the use of drugs and the foreseeable risk of a drug overdose with the cruise line to make certain that there are properly trained medical personnel to respond to emergencies?

January 11, 2011 Update:  Passenger Busted for Selling Drugs on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas - plus a half dozen drug overdoses.

Passengers Poisoned By Gas On Princess Cruise Ship

A newspaper in the U.K. is reporting that three passengers (a mother and her two daughters) aboard Princess Cruises' Sea Princess were diagnosed with exposure to potentially lethal hydrogen sulphide gas due to a leak in their cabin’s air conditioning unit.  They hired the British firm, Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, to seek compensation for their injuries.  The article "Norfolk Woman, 79, Poisoned On Cruise Liner" indicates that Princess Cruises admitted liability for the gas leak.  Here is the article:

"A Norfolk family are still waiting for compensation more than a year after a dream cruise turned into a nightmare when they were poisoned by gas in their cabin.

Princess Cruises - Poison Gas - Hydrogen Sulphide Gas - Cruise ShipSisters Lisa Mills, 51, and Jane Anderson, 55, and their mother Ethel Mills, 79, were traveling aboard the 400-bed Sea Princess to celebrate Lisa’s 50th birthday when they all became severely ill with headaches, sinus pain and sickness.

Towards the end of the cruise, they visited the ship’s doctor and were horrified when they were diagnosed with exposure to potentially lethal hydrogen sulphide gas due to a leak in their cabin’s air conditioning unit.

Owner Princess Cruises has admitted fault for the suffering caused, said the group’s lawyer, Liz Tetzner, a travel law specialist at Irwin Mitchell Solicitors. Now she has urged the cruise operator to work with them quickly to ensure victims have access to the funds they need so that they can put the ordeal behind them.

The family set out on the two-week cruise, which cost just under £2,000 each, from Barbados in October, 2009.

Lisa Mills, who lives in Wymondham and cares for her mother, said: “Within hours of boarding the ship things started to go horribly wrong. To start with, we were really disappointed with the conditions in our cabins as there was an overpowering smell of rotten eggs coming from the air conditioning unit. But that was just the start of the problems and things soon got much worse.

“After just one night we began to feel horrendously poorly, we had unbearable headaches and our noses felt like they were going to explode.”

Despite complaining about the awful smell in their cabin, the family say they were “fobbed off” by staff.

Mrs Anderson, from Southrepps, said: “They just kept not showing any worries about it and we put the illness down to sea sickness. The smell got so bad at night that we were sleeping with the balcony door slightly ajar.”

The family were so worried about their health that they visited the ship’s doctor on the penultimate day of the cruise and were horrified when they were diagnosed with exposure to hydrogen sulphide gas and were prescribed antiemetics and took painkillers. But despite the diagnosis, the ship’s staff did not move the family from their cabin.

Ms Mills said: “I feel we were treated appallingly, especially my mother as she had been unwell prior to holiday, and the break was supposed to help her recuperate but instead she felt even worse when we got back and we are all still suffering symptoms today.”

Lawyer Liz Tetzner said: “The company should provide assurances that lessons have been learned from this appalling incident, and that no other passengers will suffer onboard vessels in the Princess Cruises fleet due to inadequate standards of health and safety.”

Princess Cruises were unavailable to comment."

 

Credits:  EDP24 (Kim Briscoe)

AOL News: New Law Targets Dangers Aboard Cruise Ships

AOL News has an interesting article about cruise ship dangers.  Written by Tori Richards, the article is entitled "New Law Targets Dangers Aboard Cruise Ships."  It features Ken Carver, the President of the International Cruise Victims organization.

Here is the article reprinted from AOL News:

LOS ANGELES (Nov. 28) -- Missing persons. Assault. Child molestation. Rape. Death. Those are some of the extras the cruise ship lines don't tell you about.

The industry suffered a black eye for the recent nightmare cruise aboard the Mexico-bound Carnival Splendor, but that's just a small sampling of the safety issues plaguing one of America's favorite vacation modes, victim advocates say.

Carnival Splendor Cruise Ship - Cruise Vessel Security and Safety ActAll sorts of dangerous incidents happen on ocean liners. But beginning next year, portions of a new federal law will give the FBI authority over crimes that occur on ships that have docked at U.S. ports.

"It's like a town serving unlimited drinks with no police," Kendall Carver said of the cruise industry. His 40-year-old daughter disappeared from a Celebrity cruise ship in 2004.

"Every two weeks someone goes missing from a cruise ship somewhere in the world – and those are only the ones we know about," Carver said.

Last year, the FBI received reports of 349 incidents on cruise ships. It opened investigations into 32 cases involving "serious crimes" -- including one death, three missing people, 20 sexual assaults and six assaults with great bodily injury. The names of the cruise lines involved were not available, nor were statistics from this year, an FBI official told AOL News.

A database of FBI reports from December 2007 to October 2008, available on the Sun-Sentinel website, shows 363 incidents. The vast majority were on Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruises.

None of this surprises Carver, who hears of incidents like this frequently as the founder of the non-profit International Cruise Victims which represents hundreds of people and is now in 20 countries.

Carver told AOL News he started the organization after spending years trying to find his daughter, Merrian Carver. During that time, he said, he ran into a cover-up by the cruise line, missing evidence and employees who were ordered not to talk.

The case has since been settled for an undisclosed sum, but Carver is still waiting for the answers he was looking for.

Merrian lived in Massachusetts and her father found an ally in the state's U.S. senator, John Kerry. They discovered that there were no laws pertaining to crimes aboard ships at sea. Soon they began to lay groundwork to change that.

"My daughter was the subject of five Senate hearings," Carver said. "The cruise lines spent $11 million in lobbyists to defeat this, but we still won even though we are just a group of regular citizens."

President Barack Obama signed the Cruise Vessel and Safety Act of 2010 on July 27.

"This law will finally do away with the murky lines of jurisdiction that have put American cruise ship passengers at risk in the past," Kerry said in a statement. He also noted Carver's help in getting the legislation passed.

It will be 18 months from the date of signing before the law is fully implemented. However, parts of it will be enforced in stages. Beginning early next year, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation must have guidelines to carry out enforcement. By summer, training standards must exist for ship personnel.

The law requires:  

  • Peep holes and security latches on all passenger and crew doors
  • Electronic video surveillance that documents crimes to be made available to law enforcement
  • Passenger security guides with information on reporting crimes to U.S. law enforcement
  • Limits on crew access to passenger cabins
  • Staff with knowledge and equipment to perform rape exams
  • Free and immediate access to law enforcement
  • Prompt reporting of crimes, which must be contained in a log

"It's too soon to tell if it will matter," said Mike Ehline, a Los Angeles attorney who handles lawsuits against cruise lines. "I'm still getting the same types of issues with the cruise lines refusing to hand things over. They always have some excuse – like the video was out that day, it got lost, or it was erased on accident."

A Carnival spokesman did not want to comment on the new law. However, noting the high number of incidents reported on the Sun-Sentinel website, he said that Carnival carries more guests than any other cruise line with an estimated 3.9 million passengers this year.

"We have a zero-tolerance policy for crime and any and all allegations reported to us by guests or made known to us via any other channel are reported to the FBI," Carnival's Vance Gulliksen said.

No one from Royal Caribbean was available for comment Friday.

According to language in the new law, "It is not known precisely how often crimes occur on cruise vessels or exactly how many people have disappeared during ocean voyages because cruise line companies do not make comprehensive, crime-related data readily available to the public."

It states sexual assault and physical assault as the leading crimes investigated by the FBI on cruise ships and it's difficult for law enforcement to gather evidence and conduct an investigation.

"Before, cruise lines would just say 'We are registered in this island or that, and we don't have to do this,'" Carver said. "Now, they will be banned from coming into our ports if they don't."

 

Story credit:  Tori Richards, AOL News

Photo credit:   Denis Poroy, AP (via AOL News) 

British Passenger Stuck In Mexican Hospital Following Heart Attack on Princess Cruise Ship

Most cruise passengers who sail on luxury cruises to the Caribbean, Mexico or Europe have a false sense of security.  They think that if anything goes wrong during the cruise, the cruise line will take care of them.  But when passengers get sick, the reality is that the cruise line will dump them off of the cruise ship as soon as possible, and the passengers will be left to fend for themselves in foreign ports. 

So it is heartbreaking to read of a healthy 67 year old passenger from the United Kingdom who suffered a heart attack while cruising on the Sea Princess cruise ship.  The cruise line disembarked her ashore in Mexico where a hospital charged her over $125,000 in medical expenses so far.

Heart Attack - Cruise Ship - Valerie KingThis story involves Ms. Valerie King who was sailing with her husband, Tony King, on the Princess cruise ship from San Fransisco to Barbados after leaving on October 9th.  Ms. King suffered a heart attack while on board the cruise ship.  The ship doctor informed her that she had to disembark at the next port which was Cabo San Lucas in Mexico on October 12th.

A newspaper in the U.K., the Warrington Guardian, reports that after being sent from the cruise ship, Ms. King has been stuck in the hospital and has incurred over $125,000 in medical expenses.  Ms. King's daughter, Anita, flew from England to Cabo San Lucas to try and support her father as her mother's stay in the intensive care unit is now approaching three weeks. 

The newspaper quotes daughter Anita as stating that the hospital is "pressing for payment and the account manager followed us into a cafe after we had visited my mother to ask about settling the bill."

This case reveals a problem that many passenger do not understand when considering a cruise.  We have been contacted by many cruise passengers who end up in hospitals in Mexico and the Caribbean ports of call.  The hospitals in Mexico are the worst when it comes to running up medical expenses on cruise passengers. The first thing these hospitals want to know is your Visa card numbers and the expiration date.  This is in stark contrast to healthcare providers in some European ports, such as Sweden or Norway, where the medical treatment is outstanding and the passengers are not charged for anything.

When reading about this case, I thought of my own family experiences.  My father had a heart attack in London. He received good medical care in the British health care system and was charged nothing.  I can not imagine having to experience a nightmare like the Knight family where your parent is essentially a hostage in a sub-standard medical facility with the hospital administrator following you around like a over-zealous bill collector trying to collect over $125,000.     

Mexican Hospital - Cruise Ship - Heart AttackCruise lines need to warn passengers that if they become ill while sailing into Mexico, the local medical system is designed to suck the patients like a lime at a tequila party. 

In addition to the big bill from the Mexican doctors, the cruise line handed Mr. Knight with a bill for his wife's overnight stay in the cruise ship's sick bay of around $5,000 dollars. This took his credit card just about to the limit and left him with no funds to give a deposit to the hospital.  

Cruise lines should not use their limited medical facilities as a profit center to gouge passengers in distress.

What a predicament.  Vacationing passengers spend thousands of dollars for a cruise only to be charged $5,000 by the cruise line and dumped in a Mexican hospital which charges over $125,000!  The Knight's travel insurance in the U.K. also denied coverage citing exclusions for pre-existing conditions. 

Please take a minute and help the Knight family.  Please e-mail anita@andalan.plus.com and consider sending her a donation of $100 to help the family with this plight.

 

Photo credits:  Knight family via Warrington Guardian

Carnival Cruise Line Settlement Keeps Getting Publicity

Yesterday I reported on a settlement which a passenger from Texas reached after she was seriously injured while trying to step off a tender boat onto the dock in Grand Cayman.  The case illustrates the liability of cruise lines when they fail to safely transfer their passengers from the cruise ship to shore during ports of call.     

The passenger was seriously injured and underwent surgery with the insertion of plates and screw.  This type of injury is painful, the surgery and recovery are painful, and the medical expenses are substantial.  After fling suit, the Carnival passenger reached a $125,000 settlement with Carnival cruise line.  

The settlement was picked up by a local news station, CBS News 4 in Miami, and then I blogged about it, and then it was discussed by the very popular USA Today cruise blog called "CruiseLog" this morning, and by the afternoon a news station Cayman 27 in Grand Cayman was reporting about the settlement.    

The CruiseLog readers, who are usually conservative, pro-cruise and anti-lawuit minded, concluded that the settlement was too much, which is strange because it seems to be a rather modest settlement.  But the interesting thing is that such a modest settlement received so much attention - from a local news station in Miami - to a national newspaper - to a news station in the Caribbean.

Settlements like this are usually confidential because the cruise lines require secrecy.  Cruise lines hate publicity like this.  It is inconsistent with the image cruise lines try and project, and the cruise lines think that it encourages others to file suit.  But the truth is that cruise lines like Carnival make billions upon billions of dollars each year and pay no taxes by incorporating in foreign countries like Panama and flying foreign flags on their cruise ships.  Carnival also has literally billions of dollars in insurance.   

Anytime a passenger falls between a tender boat and a dock, it is going to be a case of liability.  Cruise lines have a duty of "high care" for getting passengers, particularly elderly passengers, safely to shore.  So a settlement like this is almost a certainty. 

Although this case has received alot of interest in the media, a $125,000 settlement is pocket change for a corporation like Carnival when it lets a passenger fall between a tender and a dock.  

  

 

 

Video credit:      Cayman 27 News

Cruise Line Liability for Injuries to Passengers on Tender Boats

Local CBS News 4 reports on a settlement reached yesterday between Carnival cruise line and a passenger trying to exit from a tender boat. 

Elizabeth Reimer of Texas sailed out of Galveston to the Caribbean.  When the cruise ship reached Grand Cayman, the cruise ship ferried passengers to and from the port via tender boats operated by a local company.  Ms. Reimer was seriously injured when she fell trying to exit from a tender Tender Boat - Cruise Ship - Grand Cayman - Carnival Cruiseboat to the dock.  The vessel moved away from the dock and her leg fell into the gap, breaking her tibia. 

Cruise lines have a duty to safely transport cruise passengers to and from port.  In many ports, the local docks can not accommodate large cruise ships and have to bring the passenger to and from the port via tender boats.  The process is called "tendering."

Some cruise lines carry their own tender boats on the side of the cruise ships.  Other cruise lines use local companies at the cruise port to tender the passengers.  

Many accidents occur when the tender is not safely secured to the cruise ship or the dock.  Some accidents occur because there is insufficient assistance provided by the cruise lines to elderly passengers trying to get ashore from the tenders.  Other accidents occur during rough weather.  Accidents occur on floating docks after the passenger get off of the tenders.

Some cruise lines try and deny liability for tender accidents, claiming that it is the responsibility of the tender companies or the local port facility.  But there is a clear legal obligation of the cruise line in these type of situations.  Indeed, there are cases indicating that cruise line have a duty of exercising a "high degree of care" for their passengers in safely transporting passenger to and from the cruise ships.  

Ms. Reimer (who was represented by another lawyer in Miami) ended up settling her case for $125,000.  The unusual thing about her case was that Carnival agreed to give her a 2 for 1 cruise certificate as a part of the settlement deal.  It is our experience that the last thing an injured passenger wants is to cruise again.  The cruise line often views the passenger as a liability and doesn't want them back as a customer in the future.  We have even handled cases where the cruise line insists that the passenger agree to never sail with them as a condition of the settlement.

The other unusual thing about this settlement is that there was no confidentiality provision.  (Even the amount of the settlement was disclosed).  So the video below was aired on the local CBS affiliate in Miami, CBS News 4:     

 

 

 

Photo credit:   beans-around-the-world.com

Video credit:  CBS News 4 (Miami)

MSNBC Reports: "Staying Safe on the High Seas"

Christopher Elliott - MSNBC - National Geographic - Cruise TravelMSNBC has an interesting article today by travel columnist, Christopher Elliott, entitled Staying Safe on the High Seas.  

Mr. Elliott reports on the new cruise ship security and safety law signed by President Obama, the problem of sexual assaults, noro-virus, and medical facilities aboard cruise ships.

The article quoted me saying that:

"The last place you want to become ill or injured is on a cruise ship far away from a U.S. port.  Cruise ship medical care is limited. Ship doctors are usually from foreign medical schools. The shipboard facilities are often inadequate and the medical care is sub-standard.”

Its an interesting article that every passenger should read before setting sail with their family.

 

Christopher Elliott is a travel columnist, a msnbc.com contributor, and the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine.  You can read more travel tips on his blog, elliott.org or e-mail him at celliott@ngs.org.

Are Cruise Passengers Entitled to Refunds When Crew Members Go Overboard? No, and Why Should They?

An article this morning in the Chicago Tribune caught my attention - "Compensation Doesn't Float After Cruise Ship Skips Port."   The article involved a family's request for a refund after a cruise ship missed one of the scheduled ports of call.   Instead, the cruise line issued a $500 credit toward a future cruise - $200 for each parent and $100 for their child.

After returning home, the family appealed to the cruise line's customer service department and its corporate offices in Miami.  The mother is quoted as saying "I've been in customer service my whole life and I've never seen people so adept at giving the runaround .  .  .  They were wonderful at it."

I agree that the cruise lines' "service" departments are often of little service at all, and are regularly used as front line defenses to the passengers' claims.  But it is hard to feel sorry for the family upon taking a harder look at the story.  First of all, cruise lines have every legal right to limit their liability in instances of missed ports.  This family is lucky that the cruise line offered $500 under these circumstances. 

But how can anyone complain about a refund when the reason for the missed port was that a Royal Caribbean crew member jumped overboard as the Oasis of the Seas sailed toward St. Thomas - a fact that the article discusses only in passing.  This is a story which we followed closely last May - Another Overboard From A Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship? - Oasis of the Seas 

We received sixty-seven (67) comments to the story.  Most of the passengers focused on the tragedy of a crew member deciding to end his life in this manner.  But a few other passengers focused on themselves.  They either complained of the "inconvenience" of delaying their cruise to search for the crew member or not being refunded a portion of their cruise fare.  Most of these complainers were called out for whining when another human being had just perished.

The crew member who died was from the little island of St. Vincent.  Crew members from this island who work as cleaners on cruise ships earn as little as $550 a month working 80 - 90 hours a week.  It makes me grimace to think of any U.S. passenger complaining about a $500 credit. 

So its was strange to be drinking my coffee this morning and see that one of the passengers was still complaining about a missed port and the Chicago Tribune had chosen to write about it five months later.   

Get over it people.  Count your blessings that you still have your family alive and well, and you can enjoy many family vacations in the future. 

Updated: Cruise West Cancellations and Refund Options

The Federal Maritime Commission just issued the folowing update regarding Cruise West cancelations and refund options:

The United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) has announced on its website that consumers should be aware that partial or full reimbursement of lost payments and/or deposits for Cruise West products made prior to September 11, 2010, may be protected under the USTOA's Travelers Assistance Program. 

Please click on the update for further information.

Cruise West Cancellations and Refund Options

Cruise West Ceases Operations - Refunds - CancellationsCruise West has announced that it will cease most of its operations tomorrow September 18th.  The statement of the company can be read here.

The Federal Maritime Comission has provided us with the following statement regarding the cancellations of cruises by Cruise West:

Update: According to Cruise West, the September 22 Danube cruise will proceed as scheduled. This cruise does not call at U.S. ports.

West Travel, Inc., doing business as the cruise line Cruise West, has notified the Federal Maritime Commission that it is cancelling all cruises that were scheduled to begin this Saturday, September 18, and on all dates that follow, with the exception of the September 22 Danube Cruise. It will complete cruises of the Spirit of 98 and Spirit of Endeavour that are already underway and are scheduled to end in Portland and Seattle this Saturday, September 18.

Cruise West advised the Commission that as of September 1, 2010, it had stopped accepting new bookings and payments, and on September 8, 2010, it terminated its "Voyage of the Great Explorers" on the Spirit of Oceanus in Newfoundland, Canada. Until today's announcement, Cruise West had previously intended to complete its 2010 sailing schedule. Cruise West may provide additional updated information on its website at http://www.cruisewest.com/.

Under Commission regulations, Cruise West maintains surety bonds to provide passengers with refunds for cancelled cruises that were scheduled to board passengers from U.S. ports. Prior experience, however, has shown that third-party insurers and credit card issuers may provide speedier reimbursement to passengers than the claims process established for bonds issued under Commission regulations.

Passengers who paid for transportation by credit card should immediately contact their credit card issuer. The Federal Trade Commission issues information regarding consumer rights under the Fair Credit Billing Act. For that information, please see the Federal Trade Commission website at: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre16.shtm.

Those who purchased any third-party travel insurance should also immediately contact their insurer to claim reimbursement under their insurance policy if it covers such cancellations.

Cruise West's Commission-required surety bonds are underwritten by Travelers Casualty and Surety Company of America, Westchester Fire Insurance Company, and Fidelity and Deposit Company of Maryland. These bonds will apply to all applicable passenger fares and deposits for Cruise West vessels that were scheduled to board passengers from U.S. ports. These bonds do not, however, provide reimbursement for payments for air travel, shore-side hotel expenses, or other expenses that do not constitute water transportation or its related services. You can view the legal requirements for these surety bonds at 46 U.S.C. §§ 44101-44106 and 46 C.F.R. Part 540, which are available on the Commission's website.

Travelers has retained Wells Fargo Insurance Services of West Virginia, Inc., doing business as Wells Fargo Disability Management, to process all claims within the terms of the surety bond. Passengers who made payments for cancelled Cruise West cruises have the following options for making inquiries and requesting claim forms:

  • Send an email to dara.meade@wellsfargo.com. The email should specify that the claim is for cruise fare reimbursement.
  • Mail your inquiry or request to Cruise Claims c/o Wells Fargo Disability Management, P.O. Box 1567, Abingdon, Virginia 24212.
  • Call a Wells Fargo Disability Management agent at 877-371-9700 extension 6059.
  • Fax your inquiry or request to Wells Fargo Disability Management at 276-676-0152.

Additional information will be posted on the Commission's website at http://www.fmc.gov/ as it becomes available. In addition, the Commission's Office of Consumer Affairs and Dispute Resolution Services is available to assist passengers and may be contacted by email at cruisewestinfo@fmc.gov or by telephone at 1-866-448-9586 (toll free) or 202-523-5807.

The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) is the independent federal agency responsible for regulating the nation's international ocean transportation for the benefit of exporters, importers, and the American consumer. The FMC's mission is to foster a fair, efficient, and reliable international ocean transportation system while protecting the public from unfair and deceptive practices

More Cruise Ship Violence - A Drunken Brawl On Carnival's Dream

Last year I wrote a blog entitled "Cruise Ship Brawls - A Problem that Will Get Bigger with Bigger Ships" addressing the increasing violence on cruise ships.  I posted the following comments and questions: 

"Complicating matters is the huge amount of alcohol which the cruise lines sell to the passengers, which often leads to drunken brawls in the bars and discos and sometimes around the pools. It will be interesting to see how Carnival and the other cruise lines handle the "wider audience" flocking onto the larger cruise ships. If cruise ships are like cities and "stuff happens," what steps are they taking to protect U.S. families?

Will the cruise lines elect to hire a full complement of well trained and experienced Carnival Cruise Ship - Violence - Alcoholsecurity guards?  Or will they continue to try and save money with only 2 or 3 inexperienced "guards" trying to protect 2,000 or 3,000 passengers?"

Well, the answers to these questions may be found in YouTube videos which have surfaced regarding a brawl which broke out in the Caliente Club on Carnival's Dream cruise ship three weeks ago.

The August 12th fight was widely reported by the news media, including Professor's Ross Klein's Cruise Junkie which contained the following account from a passenger: 

"We were on the Carnival Dream sailing 08/07 to 08/14 and heard that a brawl broke out in the dance club around 3:00 a.m. on the morning of the 12th. We heard from passengers and a bartender that the brawl started over a song. It involved so many young people (men and women) that the security on board was unable to handle everyone and had to call in assistance from wait staff and other crew members. The fight spilled over into the art gallery located next door and apparently a $10K painting was ruined with blood spatter. Flat screen tvs were smashed and there was a lot of damage done. We heard that people on the ground were getting kicked in the head by men and women and that one person needed to be revived because he was hurt so badly. We also heard that the crowd spilled out of the dance club and that innocent people were getting punched in the face as they were walking by.

The next morning in Costa Maya there were a bunch of people (10 people) sitting by the side of the ship with all of their luggage as they were kicked off the ship and their relatives were shipped off to Mexican jails. Carnival needs to learn a lesson here and not serve alcohol after a certain time and perhaps shut down the 18+ dance club before 3:00 a.m. Nothing good can come of drunk teenagers at 3:00 in the morning."

An article in Florida Today "10 Cruise Passengers Evicted After Brawl" contained a rather understated PR statement by Carnival:

"A fight occurred on the vessel. It was broken up by ship's security and the cause of the fight was investigated which resulted in 10 guests being disembarked in Mexico . . .  The safety and security of our guests and crew is of utmost importance and we will not tolerate behavior that could put any of them at risk."

Carnival has a problem with way too much alcohol served on their cruise ships and way too few security guards to handle the unruly drunks.  Here are two videos of the fight.  

 

 

 

 

 

Video credits:    i008 YouTube

Photo credit:      Szymek S.'s Flickr photostream

Seven Clauses To Be Aware Of In Your Cruise Contract

MSNBC published an article yesterday about cruise passenger tickets entilted "Seven Clauses to Be Aware Of In Your Cruise Contract."  There is a lot of "fine print' designed to take away or limit passenger rights drafted in the ticket by the cruise lines.   

Compared to the one page ticket issued to passengers on the Titanic 100 years ago, the cruise contracts today read like mini enclyclopedias crammed full of every imaginable clause to protect the cruise line.  

Cruise Contract - Cruise Passenger Ticket - Titanic The article is by Christopher Elliott who is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. He also is a consumer travel advocate who writes at Elliott.org.

Mr. Eliott interviewed me and some others in the article:

Seven Clauses To Be Aware Of In Your Cruise Contract

If you ever want to feel confused, outraged and powerless all at the same time, just read your cruise line’s ticket contract.

Carrie Streahle didn’t know what was in hers until her cruise arrived late in Houston, and she had to pay an extra $1,900 in airfares and accommodations to get home. She contacted Carnival, asking for reimbursement.

“Carnival’s first response was that we didn’t have travel insurance,” she says. She protested. The cruise line responded again, this time blaming Mother Nature. “They said they can’t control the weather,” she says.

No kidding. Carnival’s ticket contract specifically says it can change arrival or departure times without notice, for any reason whatsoever, including weather. “Carnival shall have no liability for any compensation or other damages in such circumstances,” it adds.

“Carnival is not at fault because they were delayed by an act of nature,” says Anita Dunham-Potter, who writes the blog ExpertCruiser. “When this happens, they have no control over the port, or the time it takes customs to clear the ship, which is ultimately what decides the time you can get off the ship.”

Cruise contracts are filled with clauses and supported by laws that the average passenger doesn’t know about. If they did, they might think twice before setting sail. The paperwork addresses everything from what the cruise line owes you when something goes wrong (not much) when it’s responsible for your well-being (hardly ever) to where and when you can sue them (in a faraway court, and almost never).

“No one reads the fine print,” says Al Anolik, a travel attorney in San Francisco. But if you do — and a warning to all you non-attorneys out there, this isn’t light reading — you’ll find the law limits the rights of passengers in many key areas, such as a cap on damages you can collect from a cruise line and time limits on any lawsuit.  

“There are no consumer protections in the ticket,” adds maritime attorney James M. Walker, who writes a blog about cruise law. “It was drafted by the cruise lines lawyers to protect the cruise lines at the consumer’s expense. It is a one-sided document.”

So what do you need to know before you set sail?

Your laws aren’t our laws. That’s not hyperbole. It’s literally true, according to Robert M. Jarvis, a maritime law professor at Nova Southeastern University Law Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “The law governing cruises has nothing to do with where a passenger lives or buys a ticket,” he says. “Instead, federal maritime law, international law, the law of the country where the cruise ship is registered — typically the Bahamas, Liberia, or Panama — and the law selected by the cruise line are going to control, and all of these favor the cruise line.” That’s why it’s so hard to find a good lawyer to sue a cruise line. There aren’t many. Maritime law, or admiralty law, is “incredibly complex,” says Jarvis. “Only a few lawyers have the necessary training and experience to deal with such matters, and most of them are working for the cruise lines,” he adds.

Don’t hold us to the brochure. The ship may — or may not — keep the promised schedule. This is perhaps the most irritating contract provision. Here’s Royal Caribbean’s: “Carrier may for any reason at any time and without prior notice, cancel, advance, postpone or deviate from any scheduled sailing, port of call, destination, lodging or any activity on or off the Vessel, or substitute another vessel or port of call, destination, lodging or activity.” What’s more, it owes you nothing if it does. “Everything is subject to change and availability,” says Kristen Bentz, a travel consultant in Mesa, Ariz. “Basically, prices, rooms, excursions, itineraries, and anything not guaranteed is up to the cruise line’s discretion.”

The quack who treated you isn’t our problem. Most medical care on cruise ships is perfectly adequate. But just in case it isn’t, cruise lines have a clause that say they aren’t responsible for the malpractice of the ship’s doctors. Have a look at paragraph 13 of Princess’ passage contract: “Doctors, nurses or other medical or service personnel work directly for Passenger and shall not be considered to be acting under the control or supervision of Carrier, since Carrier is not a medical provider. Similarly, and without limitation, all spa personnel, photographers, instructors, guest lecturers and entertainers and other service personnel shall be considered independent contractors who work directly for the Passenger.” In other words, when a doctor’s negligence leads to the death of a family member, the cruise line is off the hook. “The passenger is left with the problem of having to bring a claim against the doctor who inevitably is not a U.S. citizen, often has no insurance, and is not subject to personal jurisdiction here in the U.S.,” says Walker.

Kids and retirees are second-class citizens. The survivors of children or retired passengers who die on cruise ships have no right to compensation except for burial and funeral expenses, according to Walker, who recently wrote about this quirky provision on his blog. It turns out that when passengers die on the high seas, the “Death On The High Seas Act” applies. “It limits the recovery of the surviving family members to what is called pecuniary losses,” he says. “This means that only lost wages and burial or funeral expenses are permitted.” If you’re a child or a retiree, and not earning wages, the only compensation is for the costs of the burial.

Wanna sue us? Come to Miami. These are called “forum selection” clauses, and they require you to sue the cruise line in a particular court. “Forum selection clauses have been routinely enforced for many years,” says Thomas Dickerson, author of the book Travel Law. “However, recently, the courts have consistently enforced a federal forum selection clause, which requires injured passengers to sue in federal court in Miami instead of state court — the significance being that jury trials may not be available in federal court.” That makes suing a cruise line difficult, and often impossible.

Time is short. There’s a one-year limitation period to file a claim, and a six-month period to write a letter to the cruise line when the passenger has been injured, says Walker, the maritime attorney. “This is a relatively short period of time, compared to the statute of limitations of most states,” he says. “Florida, for example, has a four-year limitations period.” What if you miss your deadline? Walker says people who have, contact him all the time. “There is nothing we can do for them.”

If you think that’s bad, get this: Experts agree that the contracts are getting worse. “In the last decade, cruise lines have had to tighten the reins,” says Bentz. “Contracts have gotten a little longer and a little less customer-friendly.” That means we may one day look back on 2010 as a time when cruise lines still cared about their passengers.

I have a sinking feeling that might be true.


Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. You can read more travel tips on his blog, elliott.org or e-mail him at celliott@ngs.org .

Cruise Forum Selection Clauses: Do You Speak French?

One of the surprises awaiting passengers after they have been injured or assaulted on a cruise ship is language in the passenger ticket which requires them to file suit in a jurisdiction far from their home.

Most passengers are required to file suit here in Miami.  Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Forum Selection Clause - Cruise - Regent Seven Seas CruisesNorwegian Cruise Lines have prepared "forum selection clauses" which include Federal District Court in Miami as the location where the passenger is required to file suit.  The United States Supreme Court has upheld the right of cruise lines to use "forum selection clauses," even though the passenger lives far away in California or New York and travel to Miami provides an economic hardship.

A case decided recently by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal illustrates the extreme lengths cruise lines will go to prejudice the ability of passengers to obtain compensation for their injuries.     

In Seung v. Regent Seven Seas Cruises, a passenger was injured while cruising on the Paul Gauguin cruise ship, operated by Regent Seven Seas Cruises.  After Ms. Seung filed suit in South Florida where the cruise line is based, the defense lawyers moved to dismiss the case arguing that the forum selection claim required the lawsuit to be brought in France.

It turns out that the Regent Seven Seas passenger ticket (like most other cruise tickets) requires suit to be filed in Federal Court in the Southern District of Florida.  However, this ticket contained a curious twist - if the cruise ship did not call on a U.S. port, the passenger has to file suit in Paris, France.

Mrs. Seung argued that traveling to Paris was unfair and unreasonable because she was an Paul Gaugin Cruise Ship - Regent Seven Seas Cruises elderly woman; she was financially unable to bring a lawsuit in Paris; she was a California resident with medical limitations, due in part to her injury, that prevent her from traveling to Paris; she would not be entitled to Medicare benefits if she became ill in France during her case; and Paris is a remote, alien forum chosen merely as a means of discouraging passengers from bringing legitimate claims.

The Eleventh Circuit rejected all of Mrs. Seung's arguments and upheld the district court's dismissal of her case. 

We hope that Ms. Seung knows how to speak French.

 

For other articles about cruise line forum selection clauses, consider reading:

Cruise Passenger Rights and Wrongs - Interview With Maritime Lawyer Jim Walker

Cruise Ship Accident and Injury Law - Miami Florida - Forum Selection Clauses 

Miami Cruise Ship Accident and Injury Lawyer  

 

Credits:  Case summary by Leagle.

Report of Rape on Bahamas Celebration Cruise Ship

The FBI is investigating a passenger rape aboard the MS Bahamas Celebration cruise ship which is operated by Celebration Cruise Line from the Port of Palm Beach.

A blog associated with the Palm Beach Post - Jose Mambiet's Page 2 Live - reports that a 52 year old woman was forced to have sex with a man, another passenger, on a ping-pong table on the ship's deck around 4:00 a.m. Monday.  The ship's nurse treated the passenger and administered a rape kit.

Bahamas Celebration - Celebration Cruise Line - Rape - Sexual AssaultThe article quotes the vice president of the cruise line's marketing, Glenn Ryerson, stating that "It's only a crime if the FBI deems it to be one.  At this point its only an alleged rape."  

This is one of the more insensitive press statements I have heard from a cruise line over the years. 

Unfortunately, the FBI's track record of successfully investigating shipboard rapes is dismal.  At a Congressional hearing I attended in 2007, the FBI admitted that its investigations resulted in prosecutions only 7 times out of every 100 sexual assault allegations. And cruise lines often work hard to make certain that no one convicted of a crime on the cruise ships.  Consider reading:

Cruise Ships Are A Perfect Place to Commit A Crime, And Get Away With It!

If You Are A Victim On A Cruise Ship, The Cruise Line Will Treat You Like A Criminal

Marketing VP Ryerson is also quoted stating that this is the first criminal allegation on the Bahamas Celebration "since its Palm Beach launch." 

That's not saying much - because this cruise ship started sailing out of Palm Beach in mid-March.

The cruise line has a Twitter page @CelebrationBS.  It is offering cruises for as little as $199 a day, although there have been consumer complaints.  Read Cruise Critic's article about about what are described as marketing scams by the cruise line or an affiliated wholesale company called "Caribbean" Cruise Line.     

I wonder if the cruise line has any surveillance cameras on the decks or security guards patrolling at night.          

 

Were you on the cruise or have information about this incident?  Please leave a comment below. 

 

Credits:     Photo        theBahamasWeekly.com

Passsenger Dies Following Fall From MSC Splendida

The Calgary Herald reoprorts thst a Spanish woman fell to her death Saturday off the gangway of a cruise ship moored in Genoa, Italy.

Maria Mercedes Bonastre, 62, of Barcelona was boarding the ship with her husband and friends when the top step of the plank gave way. 

The newspaper reports that the passenger was killed immediately when her head struck the dock and she fell into the sea. 

The incident occurred on the Splendida, operated by MSC Crociere.

Wipeout! Liability of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line for FlowRider Accidents

In the last several months, many cruise passengers contacted our office who have been seriously injured on the FlowRiders on Royal Caribbean cruise ships. Some passenger are injured when they fall.  Others are injured after they fall and then the water current drives them over the ridge into the back wall breaking their ankles.  

FlowRider - Royal Caribbean - Accidents - Injuries - Cruise The injuries are extremely serious.  All passengers required surgery and were left with permanent injuries.

The complaints which we hear from the passengers are all the same -  the cruise line "instructors" seemed to be ill-trained or in a rush, and the instructions given to the guests were incomplete.  Without exception once the accident occurred, the crew members at the FlowRider did not know what to do.  The injured passengers often find themselves being put off in the next port on a Caribbean island with inadequate medical treatment.

Royal Caribbean is the only cruise line which has FlowRiders.  That's because the other cruise line do not want to subject their guests to such serious injuries and then face the legal liability of having one of these dangerous activities on their cruise ships.    

Royal Caribbean has FlowRiders on the Oasis of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas, Independence of the Seas, and Liberty of the Seas.  The cruise line describes the FlowRiders innocently enough on its website

"How It Works - The FlowRider sends a thin sheet of water up a sloped and (thankfully) cushioned platform to create a wavelike flow of water. So it's perfect for beginning, intermediate and advanced surfers . . . "

Royal Caribbean faces liability for: inadequate instructions to passengers; failure to maintain and operate the FlowRider consistent with manufacture instructions and industry standards; failure to FlowRider Wipeout - Royal Caribbean Flow Rider Injury accurately disclose and effectively warn passengers of prior accidents, injuries, and deaths aboard the FlowRider; and failing to respond appropriately to the accidents.

The cruise line forces the passengers to sign "Onboard Activities Waivers."  The cruise line tries to argue that these 'waivers" strip the passengers of their rights whenever they are injured while flowboarding, zip lining, rock climbing, or ice skating. 

We believe these waivers are invalid.  They violate U.S. Federal law which prohibits shipping companies and cruise lines avoiding or limiting liability for injuries and deaths on the high seas.

Royal Caribbean knows that hundreds of passengers a year will be injured on the FlowRiders on their cruise ships,  They have installed large flat-screen tvs in the adjacent "Wipeout Bar" for the other passengers to watch the fun.  But if you are seriously injured, check with a maritime lawyer before you take the cruise line's word that their so-called "waivers' are valid.   

 

Don't forget to watch the video below - of Royal Caribbean FlowRider wipeouts - sung to "Let the Bodies Hit the Floor" by Drowning Pool:  

 

 

December 21, 2011 Update:  FlowRider Accidents: Royal Caribbean Liability Waivers Are Unenforceable!

 

Credits:

Photo 1           randmunn1 Fkickr 

Photo 2          carolsummer66 photobucket 

Video             YouTube lilmikee420

Like Cruise Ships, Foreign Flagged Oil Rigs Avoid U.S. Laws

Foreign Flags - Marshall Islands, Liberia, Panama The LA Times has an interesting article this morning revealing how drilling companies skirt U.S. laws by registering their oil rigs in countries like the Marshall Islands, described by the Times as a "tiny, impoverished nation in the Pacific Ocean." 

Drilling rigs are considered to be "vessels" under maritime law.  This permits their owners and operators to register them wherever they want in the world.  Like cruise lines which register their ships in Liberia, Panama, and the Bahamas, oil and gas companies and drilling contractors register their rigs outside the U.S. to avoid American safety laws and taxes.   

Congress will be conducting a hearing on the safety of these foreign flagged drilling rigs this Thursday.  The Times quotes James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.), chairman of the House Transportation Committee, as stating:  "Today, these oil rigs can operate under different, very minimal standards of inspection established by international maritime treaties."

Representative Oberstar is a friend of cruise passengers and crew members, having taken a leading role in passing the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act in the House of Representatives last year.  This law protects cruise passengers on foreign flagged cruise ships.  Take a minute and read: " Congressional All Stars Pass Cruise Crime Law By Vote of 416 to 4."

    

For additional information on the Marshall Islands vessel registration system, consider reading: "Growth Of The Marshall Islands Flag and American Bureau of Shipping."

Have a comment?  Leave your thoughts in the comment section below. 

Senate Unanimously Passes Cruise Safety Law

Last night, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a safety bill for cruise passengers which will require cruise ships to reports crimes on the high seas to the FBI and the U.S. Coast Guard. 

The bill will require the cruise industry to comply with a number of security provisions including specific rail heights, peep holes, warning devices, and cabin security measures.  The requirment that cruise lines must inform the FBI of disappearances and sexual assaults is important, because Cruise Lines Often Don't Report Crimes.

The bill is called the "Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act" (H.R. 3360).  It was authored by Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA).  Congresswoman Matsui (photo left) began convening hearings on the Cruise Safety Law - Doris Matsui - Laurie Dishmanissue of cruise line when her constituent, and our client Laurie Dishman (pictured with her father Bill), approached her after being sexually assaulted aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in 2006.

The cruise safety bill is the result of the dedication of the International Cruise Victims (ICV) (photos of members below). We reported on the ICV's hard work last fall - Congress Passes Cruise Crime Law.

The House of Representatives passed the bill last November. We reported on this historic development last year in Congressional All Stars Pass Cruise Crime Law By Vote of 416 to 4.

Congresswoman Matsui commented that the safety bill "is a critical and common-sense fix which will provide safety and security to Americans who go on cruise vacations without realizing they are not protected under U.S. laws when they leave its territorial waters."

“H.R. 3360 will improve the safety and security of all cruise ship passengers traveling in and out U.S. waters,” said Rep. Matsui. “Current law doesn’t pass the test of providing common-sense security measures to the traveling public to help protect them from crimes committed aboard ships or to adequately prevent individuals from going overboard. Moreover, current law does not provide the support victims and their families need in the event of a disaster. This legislation is critical to providing the security and safety measures that all Americans need and deserve, no matter if they are on land or at sea.”

International Cruise Victims - ICV - Cruise Safety LawSenator John F. Kerry championed the cruise bill in the Senate.  His constituent, Merrian Carver, disappeared under suspicious circumstances from the Celebrity Mercury cruise ship.  The cruise line, Royal Caribbean / Celebrity Cruises, did not alert law enforcement. Her father, Ken Carver, mounted an investigation which exposed a cover up.  Mr. Carver then created the ICV to assist other passengers victimized on cruise ships.

Take a moment and read and watch the video: Ken Carver Fights for Cruise Ship Safety and Ken Carver Pushes For Cruise Law After Daughter "Disappears" From Celebrity's Mercury Cruise Ship

Senator Kerry issued a statement on the passing of the safety bill: “Murky lines of jurisdiction are no longer an excuse for risking the safety of millions of Americans who will board cruise ships this year. I applaud my colleagues for helping to ensure that security, safety, and accountability be strengthened to hold criminals accountable and end the cycle of serious crimes on these vessels.”

Ken Carver - International Cruise Vcitims - Cruise LawMr. Carver commented "When the cruise safety legislation is signed into law, it will serve to protect Americans across the nation during what ought to be relaxing vacations. Without Congresswoman Matsui's efforts in the House and Senator Kerry's efforts in the U.S. Senate, this legislation would not have moved forward.”

After minor differences between the House and Senate version are reconciled, President Obama will sign the bill into law by July 4th! 

Congratulations to the ICV for taking these steps to protect familes on cruise ships.  Cruising will be safer due to your efforts. 

 

For additional news coverage, read: 

"Senate Passes Historic Cruise Safety Bill: Smith Family Applauds Measure" from the Greenwich Post. 

Cruise Safety Bill Heartens Greenwich Victim's Family - regarding family of George Smith IV.

"Cruise Ship Crime Law Closer To Reality"  WCVB TV5 (ABC) - Boston.

"Senate Passes Cruise Safety Bill, 5 years After Greenwich Man's Disappearance" from the Greenwich Post.

"Senate Passes Cruise Ship Safety Measures" from the South Florida Business Journal.

Passenger Files Lawsuit Against Costa Cruise Line A Year Late And In Wrong Courthouse

Leagle just published a decision from New Jersey which illustrates what can happen when a cruise passenger does not read the fine print in the ticket issued by the cruise line.

Costa cruise passenger Audrey Winograd sailed on the Costa Magica from Florida to the Dominican Republic.  While ashore in the shopping district of La Romana, several men with knives stole her passport, drivers license, credit cards, and other personal effects. 

Robbery - Cruise Passenger - Costa MagicaNearly two years after the robbery, Ms. Winograd filed suit in New Jersey seeking damages for physical and emotional injuries. 

The trial court dismissed the case because there is a one year limitations period in the cruise ticket issued by Costa. 

On appeal, the appellate court affirmed and held that even if the case was not subject to the one-year limitations, the passenger would still be required under to bring her claim in Broward County, Florida. "Such a forum selection clause in a cruise ticket contract is clearly valid. Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc. v. Shute, 499 U.S. 585, 593-96, 111 S. Ct. 1522, l527-28, 113 L. Ed. 2d 622, 631-33 (1991)."

So it turns out that cruise passenger Ms. Winograd lost twice - first by being robbed in a Caribbean port and, secondly, by filing suit a year late and in the wrong courthouse. 

 

We have written about these issues in prior blogs:

Limitations Period:  Cruise Ship Statute of Limitations? - One Year for Adults! Three Years for Minors.

Forum Clause:  Cruise Ship Accident and Injury Law - Miami Florida - Forum Selection Clauses

Crime in the Caribbean:  Crime in Caribbean Ports of Call Against Cruise Passengers

 

Don't forget to subscribe to our blog by typing your email address in the box at the left, or sign up for our RSS feed.

 

Credits:

Costa Magica    commons.wikimedia.org (Daniel78)

Miami Cruise Ship Accident and Injury Lawyer

This weekend while cleaning out a file cabinet, I ran across an article published by the Miami Herald entitled "Lawyers Turn Cruise Lawsuits Into Industry." The article stated that between 2001 and 2006, over 2,000 lawsuits were filed against the Miami based cruise lines - Carnival, Celebrity, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean.

Cruise Ship Lawyer - Miami - Accident - InjuryThe article mentioned that I was one of the "big three" leading adversaries of cruise lines. This was a nice compliment, I suppose, coming from a newspaper like the Miami Herald which is a big supporter of the cruise industry.

The article discussed lawsuits filed on behalf of passengers and crew members against cruise lines:

"The $25 billion-a-year cruising industry has faced more lawsuits than it cares to count over the past few decades -- some 2,100 in South Florida alone since 2001.

Many are filed by a small group of lawyers -- about 15 locally -- who specialize in representing injured cruise passengers and crew members and make up a thriving cottage industry in South Florida.

But the cruise lines aren't exactly sitting back -- far from it. They have teams of lawyers to fight or settle the suits, and they've quietly begun putting into place measures to make it more difficult to sue them."

"Prime Location For Passenger Claims"

One of the obstacles cruise lines use is the requirement that lawsuits by passengers must be filed here in South Florida.  Cruise lines have included forum selection clauses in the passenger tickets requiring the passenger to sue here in Miami rather than in their home town. The Miami Herald articles states:

Cruise Lawyer - Miami Florida - Accident - Injury - Cruise Ship"For lawyers interested in suing cruise lines, South Florida is the place to be.

If you want to do this kind of work, you pretty much have to do it in Miami," said Martin Davies, a maritime law professor at Tulane University.

Davies said plaintiffs' lawyers occasionally try to sue somewhere else, but they almost always fail. The perception is that the cruise lines are getting a hometown advantage. Davies disputes that, arguing that it makes sense for cruise lines to be able to limit the number of places where passengers can sue. "Their passengers come from all over the world," he said.

The cruise lines won't say how much money they spend on lawsuits, but most cases do get settled, with payouts ranging from a couple thousand dollars to more than $1 million."

 

For additional information about passenger lawsuits against cruise lines here in Miami, we suggest reading some of our other articles: 

Cruise Ship Accidents - Miami Maritime Lawyer

Cruise Ship Accident and Injury Law - Miami Florida - Forum Selection Clauses

Cruise Passenger Rights and Wrongs - Interview With Maritime Lawyer Jim Walker

Coast Guard Medevacs Sick Cruise Passengers

This was a busy weekend for the U.S. Coast Guard.

Coast Guard - Medevac - Cruise PassengerLast night around 7:15 p.m., the Carnival Glory cruise ship notified the Coast Guard in Miami that a 36 year-old pregnant woman needed emergency medical treatment.  The Carnival Glory departed the Port of Miami at 4 p.m. Sunday and was en route to the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Coast Guard sent an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter to the ship and safely hoisted the woman at about 8:30 p.m. (video below), and transferred her to Broward General Hospital.

On Saturday, the Carnival Inspiration cruise ship notified the Coast Guard around 3:00 a.m. that a  63-year-old cruise ship passenger with internal bleeding needed evacuation.  The ship was about 115 miles west of Marco Island. The Coast Guard helicopter arrived and took the passenger to Tampa General Hospital around 8:00 a.m. 

Later Saturday night, the Norwegian Jewel reported that a a 42-year-old man with acute appendicitis needed to go to a hospital.  The cruise ship was 20 miles east of Atlantic City Saturday.  A Coast Guard helicopter transported the passenger to AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center in Atlantic City for treatment.

A cruise ship is not the place you want to be if you are critically ill.  The U.S. Coast Guard does a fantastic job performing medical evacuations of cruise passengers and searching for passengers and crew when they go overboard. 

 

 

 

Credits:

Photograph           United States Coast Guard

Video            United States Coast Guard via Palm Beach Post

"Pleasure Cruises Bring Risks Too" Features Cruise Victims

An article in the Baltimore Sun entitled "Pleasure Cruise Bring Risks, Too" addresses the limited liability of cruise lines when tragedy strikes a family during a cruise.  Written by Frank Roylance, the article begins with the sad circumstances of Carnival cruise passenger Carol Olson who died during what appears to be a very lax, unsupervised and negligently operated snorkeling excursion in the Bahamas. 

Mr. Roylance discusses injuries, deaths, and crimes on cruise ships and the frustration experienced by cruise passengers seeking accountability from the foreign flagged cruise ships sailing from ports like Baltimore where Ms. Olson sailed from not to return.  Notwithstanding the fact that the cruise industry collects over $35 billion from Americans each year, cruise lines argue Internatonal Cruise Victims - ICV - Ken Carver - Lynnette Hudsonthat the cruise excursion companies and ship doctors are "independent contractors" and deaths are governed by the "Death On The High Seas Act."  Called "DOHSA," this outdated law provides no recovery for a cruise passenger's pain and suffering or the grief, bereavement, sadness and mourning of surviving family members.

Cruise lines have erected all of these legal obstacles to limit or take away cruise passengers' rights.

The article mentions the story of Ken Carver, the President of the International Cruise Victims ("ICV"), who lost his daughter Merrian during a cruise aboard the Celebrity Mercury cruise ship.  Following her disturbing and mysterious "disappearance," the cruise covered the incident up and lied to the Carver family.

Another member of the ICV mentioned in the article is firm client Lynnette Hudson who lost her father, Richard Liffridge, because of a fire on Princess Cruises' Star Princess cruise ship.  Because of DOHSA, which provides no compensation to retired passengers on cruise ships, the cruise line "didn't offer anything to my family. Not even a sympathy card," said Ms. Liffridge.

The article also mentioned the problem of crimes on cruise ships and the "Vessel Safety and Security Act" which, once enacted into law, will require cruise lines to report shipboard crimes to the FBI for the first time in the history of the cruise industry.

Cruise Line International Association - CLIA - PR - PravdaLanie Fagan, a PR spokesperson for the cruise industry's lobbying company, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), wrote to the Baltimore Sun claiming that cruise lines "already are required by law to report serious crimes to U.S. authorities."  This is a false statement.  There is absolutely no law requiring cruise lines to report rapes, assaults and other crimes against Americans in international waters to the FBI or the U.S. Coast Guard. 

Unfortunately, this is just another false PR statement from a cruise industry sorely lacking in credibility.  In response to this falsehood, the newspaper quoted me stating:

"If there was a law, then why didn't they report the suspicious disappearance of Merrian Carver? And why weren't they fined when it was revealed that they covered it up?"

 

The article is re-printed below in its entirety:

PLEASURE CRUISES BRING RISKS, TOO - Families Say Tragedies Expose Cruise Lines' Limited Liability

Cruise lines make their money offering vacationers more of everything: Sunshine, food and drink, excitement.

But when tragedy strikes — when a passenger is injured, or dies, or simply disappears — survivors say the cruise lines can be downright stingy: Reluctant to accept responsibility, tight even with information about what happened.

Long-established U.S. Maritime law limits the lines' financial liability, in the event of the death of a passenger, to lost income, so there is often no compensation for the loss of the very young or the retired beyond funeral expenses, legal experts say.

The death of Carol Martin Olson stirred an unwelcome sense of déjà vu among those who have lost loved ones about cruise ships.

The 71-year-old Reisterstown woman, a passenger aboard the Carnival Pride, died April 30 while on a snorkeling tour off Freeport in the Bahamas. Bahamian authorities have ruled the death an accidental drowning.

"My heart goes out to [Olson's] family," said Lynnette Hudson, 46, of Bear, Del, whose father died of smoke inhalation when his cruise ship caught fire off Jamaica in 2006.

"The family is going to be dealing with a brick wall, and the cruise industry is going to tell them her life had no value. They will not take responsibility for the things they should be accountable for," Hudson said.

Lanie Fagan, a spokeswoman for the Cruise Lines International Association, said passenger safety is the industry's "number one priority," and that cruise lines are obligated to exercise "reasonable care in the sale of shore excursions." The companies also share a "zero-tolerance policy when it comes to crime."

But advocates for cruise passengers say few people who board the big liners for carefree vacations are aware of just how much risk they bear.

The issue is increasingly significant for Marylanders as Baltimore grows as a cruise hub. Five lines now sail from the Locust Point Cruise Terminal. More than 165,000 passengers left port in 2009 on 81 cruises. The commerce pumped an estimated $152 million into the local economy and sustained 1,550 jobs, according to the Maryland Port Administration.

Olson and her husband, Harry A. Olson, left Baltimore on April 25 aboard the Carnival Pride, along with several members of their church, Trinity Lutheran in Reisterstown. On April 30th, with the ship in Freeport on Grand Bahama Island, they joined a snorkeling tour they had booked through Carnival.

The tour was operated by a third-party contractor that Carnival officials say they have dealt with for 10 years.

Other snorkelers said the tour was advertised as requiring "moderate exercise." But they told The Baltimore Sun that they were taken to a reef where waves and strong currents quickly exhausted even relatively young, strong swimmers, pulling them away from the boat.

"I consider myself a pretty strong swimmer," said Lyn Halavats, 46, of Troy, Mo. She said she and her husband were among the first off the boat. "I wanted to get in as much snorkeling as I could."

But in just 10 or 15 minutes, she said, "I was pretty far from the boat, and I kind of started to panic. … I started to swim pretty hard, but I wasn't getting anywhere."

With considerable effort, she managed to get back near the boat, where she saw Olson, who still had a snorkel in her mouth, but appeared unconscious as passengers and crew struggled to get her onto the boat.

Passengers interviewed by The Baltimore Sun said crew members seemed unprepared, or unwilling to perform CPR leaving passengers to attempt it. The boat was not equipped with ship-to-shore radio, the passengers said, and it took 90 minutes or more to get Olson to medical help in Freeport, where she was pronounced dead.

Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen contradicted the passengers' accounts. He said Friday that the tour boat crew had both radio and cell phones. They alerted their office, which brought an ambulance to the dock. Four of the five crewmen were CPR-trained, he said, but "since CPR was being administered properly by other guests, the captain allowed that process to continue."

Gulliksen said the weather at the time was "good," and the tour was on a side of the island sheltered from the wind. He said that while Carnival provides "general" guidelines, "the guest also must evaluate their own fitness level" in deciding on a tour. Refunds are available to those who back out, he said.

Jennifer de la Cruz, also with Carnival, expressed "heartfelt condolences" to Olson's family. Mr. Olson and his son, David B. Olson, were assisted in the Bahamas by a Carnival "Care Team."

Fagan, the industry spokeswoman said, cruise lines have a responsibility to "exercise reasonable care in the sale of shore excursions," and "a legal duty not to sell excursions they believe to be unsafe." Carnival has suspended its contract with the tour provider.

But Jim Walker, a Florida attorney who specializes in cruise line litigation, said passengers are largely on their own when they take shore tours with third parties under contract to the cruise lines.

When they market the tours, the lines "do business with passengers on the promise that these [tours] have been vetted, and investigated, and that they have better safety records" than tours passengers might find on their own, Walker said. And, the lines get a cut of the fees passengers pay for the tours.

The cruise companies are legally obligated to warn passengers of any dangers associated with the tour. And they are required to scrutinize the tour operators, inspect their facilities, safety protocols and operations.

So, "as long as they do that basic investigation, they're going to say they fully complied with the law," Walker said. That clears the cruise line.

Even if the tour company is then negligent, he said, "that does not create negligence on behalf of the cruise line." And when the tour operators are not U.S. companies, the families of passengers who are killed or injured will have a difficult time suing them directly.

Similar problems can arise with medical issues involving shipboard doctors, who Walker said are typically are not U.S.-trained or licensed.

"The cruise lines are not liable for the negligence of the ship's doctors," he said. "They are independent contractors."

Kendall Carver is chairman of International Cruise Victims, which advocates for the families of people who are victims of crimes or accidents on cruise lines. When tragedy strikes, he said, the cruise companies typically provide little information or compensation to passengers' families.

Carver said he lost his 40-year-old daughter, Merrian, when she disappeared on an Alaska cruise in 2004. She was never found.

"We hired a private investigator, and two law firms," he said. "All we wanted to do was talk to the steward, and that took court action in Massachusetts and Florida."

They eventually learned Merrian had been reported missing daily by the steward. "Cover-up was standard operating procedure," Carver said.

Collecting compensation for family members who are lost on board is also problematic.

Passenger or crew deaths that occur beyond U.S. territorial waters fall under the Death on the High Seas Act, which limits damages strictly to financial losses.

"No pre-death pain and suffering, no grief, bereavement, sadness of the husband or her family," Walker said. "The total damages that can be awarded are strictly financial losses."

When victims in these cases are children, or retired and no longer earning money, all that can be recovered are funeral and burial expenses. And that's normally too little to warrant the costs of the lawsuit, Walker said. "It's not a case anyone would pursue."

Lynnette Hudson, whose father died in the ship fire off Jamaica, said her family got little assistance from the cruise line, and they had to read the maritime accident report to learn how he died.

When they brought a wrongful death suit, they learned that under the Death on the High Seas Act, her father's life, because he was 72 and retired, had no monetary value. "They didn't offer anything to my family. Not even a sympathy card," she said.

Some crime-related problems would be addressed by legislation now pending before Congress, Walker said. The Cruise Safety and Security Act has already passed the House. A Senate vote is expected soon.

For the first time, Walker said, cruise lines sailing in or out of U.S. ports would be required to report all crimes to the FBI and the Coast Guard. Ships would also be required to carry rape kits and anti-retroviral medicines to protect rape victims from HIV infections.

And the cruise companies would have to make public all shipboard crimes. "The public will know the crimes that occur and see which ships have the greatest problems," Walker said.

Fagan, the industry spokeswoman, said the cruise lines already are required by law to report serious crimes to U.S. authorities.

"Under the proposed legislation, the procedures for reporting allegations of crimes will be clarified and further codified, goals the cruise industry fully supports," she said.

But Walker said the existing requirement applies only to crimes that occur in U.S. waters.

"The cruise industry has always taken the position … that you can't touch us unless we are in U.S. waters," he said. "If there was a law, then why didn't they report the suspicious disappearance of Merrian Carver? And why weren't they fined when it was revealed that they covered it up?"

Walker said the new legislation, if passed, will be "a major improvement on issues of crime," he said, but it does not address liability issues related to the Death on the High Seas Act, or third-party contractors, such as tour operators and shipboard doctors.

"That's our next step," Carver said.

 

Credits:

Article -  Frank Roylance of the Baltimore Sun; Sun reporter Michelle Deal-Zimmerman contributed to the article. 

Carnival Cruise Excursion Drowning Death

The Baltimore Sun reports on the death of a 71 year old passenger from Reisterstown, Maryland , Carol Olson, during a snorkeling excursion in the Bahamas.  Ms. Olson was a passenger on Carnival's Pride cruise ship and booked the excursion from the cruise line. 

Other passengers described having problems with the current. The excursion was described as poorly managed with no one from the excursion boat in the water assisting the snorkelers. 

Carol Olson - Carnival CruiseThe Baltimore Sun has an informative article which summarizes the dangers of cruise excursion and the pitfalls which Americans face if they lose a loved one during a cruise or an excursion sold by the cruise line.  The article is entitled "Cruise Passengers Describe Fatal Snorkel Tour."

Carnival's PR spokesperson Jennifer de la Cruz refused to provide any information to the Baltimore Sun, but released a statement stating in part:

"This was an extremely unusual and tragic situation and we … have suspended the tour and will be taking a close look at the details surrounding what transpired."

The problem is that Carnival will never reveal the results of their investigation to the public or even Ms. Olson's family.  

The situation is governed by the Death On The High Seas Act, which we have discussed in prior articles.  Most passengers do not realize that the recoverable compensation for retired passengers involving maritime deaths outside U.S. waters is limited to funeral / burial expenses.  Carnival collects approximately 12 billion dollars a year in cruise and excursion sales and pays no Federal income tax.  But it is protected from responsibility because of DOHSA.  Without financial accountability, there is no incentive for companies like Carnival to invest into making certain that their passengers are reasonably safe during excursions like this.

    

 

 

Credits:

Photograph   WBAL TV Baltimore

Video      ABC2News.com

Cruise Ship Statute of Limitations? - One Year for Adults! Three Years for Minors.

I received an email last week from a passenger who had been severely injured on a Carnival cruise.  She had already undergone two surgeries and was facing a third surgery.  She asked what's the statute of limitations for cruise line cases?  I had the unpleasant job of telling her that it was too late to consider filing a lawsuit. 

In most states, the statute of limitations is anywhere from two to five years.  For maritime cases, there is a three year statute.  However, in cruise line cases involving adults, passengers have just one year to file suit!

Cruise Statute of Limitations - One Year! - Cruise ShipTechnically, there is no "statute of limitations" for cruise ship injuries.  Rather, there is a limitations period in the passenger ticket issued by the cruise line which contains the one year period in the "fine print."  Courts have consistently enforced this limitations period.

Cruise lines know that many injured guests will not read the fine print in the ticket and think that they have two or three years to file suit.  But if the passenger waits longer than one year, its too late - they have lost their rights and their case will be dismissed.

On the same day the Carnival passenger contacted me, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal decided this exact issue in no uncertain terms.  In RAY RACCA v. CELEBRITY CRUISES, INC., ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISES LTD, a passenger sustained a serious knee injury on April 30, 2006, resulting in several surgeries and a total knee replacement.  He waited almost two years later to file suit on April 22, 2008.  The cruise lines responded with a motion to have his case thrown out of court.

The passenger complained that the limitations period was buried in a 100 page cruise brochure and the one year limitations period was not reasonably communicated to him.  The court acknowledge that most passenger do not read the ticket.  However, after a serious injury which includes surgery, the Court concluded that it is not unreasonable to expect passengers to read the ticket and learn their legal rights.  The court dismissed the passenger's case.

The court noted that the passenger also failed to provide written notice to the cruise line of his intention to seek compensation within six months of the accident, as also required by the ticket.  Failure to do so may also result in your case being dismissed.  We have discussed these issues in a prior article Cruise Passenger Rights and Wrongs - Interview With Maritime Lawyer Jim Walker.

If a child is injured or assaulted on a cruise ship, the limitations period is three years.  If the child turns18, the case must then be filed within one year after turning 18.

There are even shorter limitations periods for lost luggage, stolen items, and issues not involving personal injury.  If you are injured on a cruise ship, read your ticket! 

These limitations apply only to passengers.  Crew members have three years to file suit.

 

Credits:              Artwork           Maxim

YouTube Video of Carnival Ecstasy Listing - "The Rest of the Story"

The video below is from a passenger who was on Carnival's Ecstasy with his family when the cruise ship listed in the Gulf of Mexico on April 21, 2010. "Mattyhiway" writes:

The Ecstasy made a sharp turn at sea to avoid a wayward buoy.  The ship listed to port hard causing dozens of injuries and traumatizing many more. What the news showed was only part of the story, this is the REST of the story told from passengers who survived this incident.  

 

 

 

We have commented on this incident in an article "Did Carnival's Ecstasy Cruise Ship Almost Hit A Sand Bar?"   If you were on this cruise, click on the link and leave a comment!

See our updated story: Carnival Mocks Injured and Traumatized Cruise Passenger Complaints As "Completely Ridiculous"

 

Credits:    Mattyhiway's YouTube Channel