Will the Bahamas Celebration Sail Again?

Bahamas CelebrationThe Bahamas Celebration ran aground ten days ago and sustained a breach in the hull which permitted water to enter the lower deck.  

I am receiving many messages from the crew that they were required to work in dangerous conditions after the ship ran aground and returned to port in Freeport. Now the majority of the crew has been sent home and there are doubts that the cruise ship will sail again anytime soon. 

The company appears to be paying only the basic salary of the crew for two months. Waiters and cabin attendants who earn a basic salary of only $50 a month (and rely on tips to earn a living) will receive only $100 in the next two months.

The Bahamas Celebration Facebook page was updated yesterday with a cover photo saying "Caribbean Vacation Option Beginning November 13" with a toll free number.

This seems very misleading as the cruise ship can't sail and the crew was just sent home.

If you have information about the extend of the damage to the vessel or the status of the crew, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Photo Credit: Top - WPTV.

November 11 2014 Update: A number of cruise passengers and agents have contacted us today. Many passengers feel that they were treated improperly by the company. Agents, who have not worked since the first of November, feel that the company is keeping them in the dark.  They have not heard anything from the company, management, or staffing agency. One person told me: "The company is wrong in the way they are treating everyone guest, crew,and agents. Leaving people who go to work everyday with no communication, answers or even a reason, we have families! We are required to give reasons and communicate if something happens in our life but we do not get the same respect."  

Bahamas Celebration

Bait & Switch: CEO Stein Kruse's Promises are not Binding on HAL?

Stein Kruse HALToday I ran across an interesting video prepared by a Holland American Line passenger following the boiler fire on the M/S Westerdam.

You may recall that the Westerdam caught fire on June 28, 2014 as it was sailing to Alaska. The automatic fire suppression did not extinguish the fire and the crew had to use hoses to extinguish the fire. The fire flared up again and the crew has to extinguish it a second time. The Coast Guard forced the cruise ship to turn around and return to Seattle. You can read about the incident here.

HAL CEO Stein Kruse came aboard the ship later that night and spoke to the passengers. He said that one reason he came aboard was "to get this completely straight." 

He was very apologetic. He said that one port of the seven day "full Alaskan experience" would be lost. He promised that to make up for the fire and lost port, the passengers would receive a $250 credit to use on the ship. Plus, Kruse said that in order to make amends:

" . . .  we will send you a note to give a 25% discount off a future Holland American Line cruise." 

However, when a passenger later tried to a buy a cruise with the promised 25% discount, a HAL customer representative told the passenger that CEO Kruse had misspoke. The representative said that the 25% discount was good only for a cruise of a comparable price as the cruise in question on the Westerdam.

Of course, this is not what the cruise CEO said. Kruse was very deliberate, careful and precise with his words. "25% discount off a future Holland America Line cruise." There were no limitations, exclusions or caveats mentioned at all.

The customer representative wouldn't budge. She said that "our policy is that we don't protect verbal misquotes . . .  that goes from all the way from our reservations department up to our CEO."

The guest representative also referred to a "speech," which Kruse allegedly read from, which according to the cruise representative "specifically states that the credit would be from the sailing of the Westerdam." But this is not what Kruse said. 

In most circumstances, cruise passengers are at the mercy of the fine print and the legal mumbo-jumbo buried in the passenger ticket. But here a cruise CEO came aboard to "make amends" and to be "completely straight" with the passengers following a fire. The CEO made a promise, not a "verbal misquote."  

There is a legal issue whether what CEO Kruse said is legally binding on this cruise line. I think it is. But some other lawyer can sue HAL and argue about that.  But it's a real shame, from a public relations perspective, when the clear promises of a cruise executive are meaningless and can be easily disavowed by a low level reservations clerk.    

 

Norovirus on the Explorer of the Seas: Why No Compensation for Crew Members?

Crew members work hard on cruise ships. Waiters and cabin attendants earn wages from Royal Caribbean of only $50 a month. That's right. $50 a month. That's something like $1.67 a day. They depend almost exclusively on tips from the passengers to support their families back home.

Utility cleaners are not entitled to tips, and they earn around only $545 a month. That's around $18.30 a day. 

Crew members work a minimum of 12 hours a day, sometimes more.

Norovirus Explorer of the Seas - Royal CaribbeanThey work 7 days a week. Every single day of the month. For 8 months.

When a norovirus outbreak occurs, they are pressed into duty to try and sanitize the huge ship. That involves hours and hours of extra spraying and wiping and scrubbing everything in sight.

I cannot imagine the extra work required of the cabin attendants who clean as many as 18 cabins and bathrooms a day. I don't know how these men and women clean so many cabins and bathroom when there's no gastrointestinal illness outbreak. But when noro virus strikes and the puking and diarrhea starts, there are literally millions and millions of noro infected microbes floating around in an aerosolized form. The microbes can fall into the fabric of the furniture, the duvet covers on the bed, into the carpet fibers, and all the tiny nooks and crannies of the bathroom tiles.  

When the passengers leave the cruise ship at the last day of this cruise from hell, will they tip these hardworking crew members?  Many passengers are mad and feel ripped off. They didn't obtain the vacations which they paid for with their family. They want their money back from the cruise line. Are they going to track down the public bathroom cleaners responsible for sanitizing all of the public restrooms and give them a $50 tip?

Today Royal Caribbean announced "compensation" for the passengers: a 50% refund and a 50% future credit. Is that fair? Some will accept it. Others will think that they are being mistreated again. Some people were sailing on the Explorer as a replacement cruise after the Grandeur of the Seas caught on fire last year. Are they interested in testing their luck one more time? 

Whatever you think of the cruise line's offer of compensation, remember one thing. The crew is not getting a nickel extra from the cruise line. So if you are a passenger and want to bitch, whine, moan and complain, don't forget about all of those crew members you left behind. Remember that they were the ones cleaning up all of your vomit and removing your bio-hazard bags. They are not receiving any compensation at all.  They are busy trying to get the cruise ship in shape for the next 3,000 guests who will soon board.

Explorer of the Seas Norovirus

Photo Credit: Top - Getty Images

Carnival Cruise Compensation: The Rich Get Richer

Travel Weekly and Skift recently reported that the new CEO of Carnival Corporation, Arnold Donald, will receive the following in compensation:

Arnold Donald - Carnival Cruise Lines Compensation$1 million base salary to start, with reviews by the board of directors to increase or decrease his salary;

A fixed bonus of $1.125 million for 2013;

A one-time award of performance-based restricted stock with a target value of $3 million, although it could be 5 times that depending on company’s performance;

An annual stock award with a fair market value of $3.5 million in long term incentives;

$350,000 to cover relocation and temporary living expenses; and

A bonus for 2014 up to $2.65 million which could go up to $5.3 million in 2015.

You can read the official SEC filing here.

Mr. Donald must be so happy that he feels like dancing. 

The only things missing are a half dozen front row seats to the Miami Heat games.

This news must feel like salt into the wounds of the long term Carnival Cruise Lines crew members who lost their retirement benefits earlier this week. 

 

Photo Image: St. Louis Post Dispatch

Triumph Fire: Here Comes the Lawsuits! (Part 2): Miami Firm Files Class Action Lawsuit

Go big or stay home, so the saying goes.  

This weekend there have been several articles discussing the two lawsuits filed last Friday against Carnival arising out of the Carnival Triumph "cruise from hell."   I have thrown in my two cents in television & radio appearances and in a number of local and national newspapers. Bottom line:

Unless you have a serious physical injury or physical illness, families on the disabled cruise ship face an uphill climb proceeding with a lawsuit against Carnival for the inconvenience and unpleasant Carnival Triumph Class Action Lawsuitcircumstances they suffered last week.

You can read my blog today about the issue of whether to sue or not. 

But one law firm here in Miami is going for broke by filing a class action lawsuit today against Carnival.

The firm's press release contains links to an appearance of one lawyer on Fox and another lawyer on CNN, but contains no information about the cruise-passenger client on whose behalf the proposed class action was filed.

Lawyers working on contingency fees in Florida collect up to 40% of the gross recovery. Passengers thinking of trying to join in this attempt at a class action need to act smart. If you want to gamble with a big case, make certain that you accept for yourself the cruise fare reimbursements, waiver of expenses, free cruise voucher and $500 (which you can accept without waiving your rights).

Don't let any lawyer suck you into a class action boondoggle and take 40% of whatever has been offered to you already.     

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

Cruise Facts: Cheap Foreign Labor, No U.S. Taxes & Minimal Compensation to Dead & Injured Passengers

Jim Walker - Maritime Lawyer - Miami FloridaOver the past week, CNN has aired a number of special programs about the cruise industry, revealing a number of things that the industry would prefer you not know.

The segment below focuses on the cruise lines' efforts to avoid U.S  taxes,

By registering their cruise ships in foreign countries, cruise lines avoid most U.S. regulations and virtually all U.S. taxes. The CNN program points out that Carnival is registered in Panama; Royal Caribbean in Liberia; and Princess in Bermuda. Why? Primarily to avoid U.S. taxes.

Last year Carnival paid no U.S. taxes.  None.  Over the last seven years Carnival netted profits of over 11 billion dollars and paid a measly amount in taxes of barely over 1%.

The video shows some interesting comments by Senator Rockefeller (D - WVA) who presided over the hearing in the U.S. Senate about the Costa Concordia disaster. He stated that cruise ships are "getting away with alot."  They register overseas to avoid taxes; they hire cheap labor; they don't reimburse some 20 U.S. federal agencies for services rendered to the foreign cruise ships; and they pay the absolute minimum to passengers who are seriously injured or killed due to their negligence and recklessness.

There is a direct correlation between registering cruise lines in places like Africa or Central America and few safety regulations and lackluster regulatory bodies.      

CNN interviewed me for a short segment of the program where I discuss the extraordinary efforts cruise lines go to limit their liability by inserting onerous terms and conditions filled with legal "mumbo jumbo" to avoid paying fair compensation to injuries passengers and the families of the dead.      

The cruise industry may say that its priority is the safety of passengers, but as Senator Rockefeller said: the cruise lines' financial "bottom line" is the cruise lines' true emphasis.  

Watch the CNN video below:

  

Walker & O'Neill Settles Claim By Royal Caribbean Cabin Attendant

Walker & O'Neill recently settled a claim against Royal Caribbean Cruises on behalf of a seriously injured former crewmember, originally from St. Vincent in the West Indies.

The crewmember was employed as a stateroom attendant for a number of years. Stateroom attendants, also referred to as cabin attendants or cabin cleaners, are required to work long hours and are often assigned over 20 cabins to clean. They are responsible for cleaning the bathrooms, cabin interiors, and balconies on exterior cabins for all of the assigned guests, as well changing the linen and making the beds several times a day. The cruise line also presses them into carrying heavy luggage during embarkation days as well.

Royal Caribbean pays cabin attendants only $50 a month in salary.  The crewmembers are dependent on tips from passengers to make a living.Royal Caribbean Crew - Cabin Attendant - Maritime Lawyer   

The crewmember in question was injured on the Enchantment of the Seas while he was lifting a sofa to clean under it and experienced sharp pain in his lower back. He sought treatment from RCCL's on board medical team.

Unfortunately, the cruise line failed to provide prompt and adequate care and deemed him fit to continue working even though he was in immense pain.

Our firm flew the injured crewmember to Miami where we arranged for him to be evaluated by a board certified orthopedic doctor.  We were successful in reaching a settlement of his claim to compensate him for his injury and resulting pain and suffering, and to provide funds for medical treatment in the future.

Please keep in mind when you cruise on Royal Caribbean cruise ships that the cabin attendants work well in excess of 10 hours a days, 7 days a week. That's over 280 hours a month without a day's rest.

Tip them generously! 

 

Photo credit: Jim Walker (photo used with client's consent)

Royal Caribbean Ordered to Pay $1,250,000 to Injured Crewmember

An Arbitration panel in Miami, Florida has ordered Royal Caribbean Cruises to pay $1,250,000.00 to a crewmember following an injury aboard the Jewel of the Seas cruise ship.

The crewmember, who is from Serbia, sustained a serious back injury in June 2008 when a crew member violently slammed a door into her back while she was walking down a narrow hallway.  She sustained a large herniated disc.  She reported to the ship infirmary and the ship doctor found her unfit for duty.  However, her supervisor instructed her to continue working.

Jewel of the Seas - Cruise Ship Medical Care - Crew Member - ArbitrationThe ship doctor thereafter refused to take her medical condition seriously, and did not take an x-ray or order a MRI at a port of call.  After seven weeks of continuous work, her medical condition deteriorated badly.  She collapsed and had to be taken from the cruise ship on a stretcher with a IV morphine drip to manage her pain.

Royal Caribbean sent her back to Serbia and refused to arrange for medical treatment.  It paid her only $12 a day for lodging and food, which is impossible to live on.  It paid her consistently late.  It took the cruise line over five months to finally authorize back surgery in January 2009.  The doctor then performed surgery at the wrong level.  Royal Caribbean thereafter refused to arrange or pay for her rehabilitation or arrange for follow-up x-rays or a MRI.

After she retained Walker & O’Neill to represent her, the cruise line continued to refuse to meet its legal obligation to provide her with the necessary medical treatment.  When our firm complained, the cruise line terminated her living expenses. One of the in-house lawyers overseeing the cruise line’s medical department, Tony Faso, decided to abandon her.  Mr. Faso sent an email to Walker & O’Neill stating:

"I am sure any arbitrator will agree with me. I am sure that I will get some ridiculous response from you. I really don't care . . ."

Walker & O’Neill then flew the crew member here to Miami, and arranged for her to see a U.S. board certified orthopedist who determined that the first surgery was a failure.  Royal Caribbean nonetheless refused to reinstate the crew member’s benefits or provide her with the necessary medical care.

The three member Arbitration panel found Royal Caribbean’s refusal to pay maintenance and cure benefits to be:

" . . . not reasonable.  The denial of those benefits lacked any reasonable defense . . . "

The Arbitrators awarded the crew member $1,250,000.00.

Royal Caribbean was also found responsible for $11,650.00 for the administrative costs of the International Center for Dispute Resolution ("ICDR") as well as $48,970.00 for compensation of the Arbitrators.  

This award is the highest arbitration amount awarded to an injured crewmember since cruise lines began arbitrating cases. The award demonstrates the consequences of a cruise line unlawfully abandoning an ill crewmember and spitefully terminating her medical benefits. 

The crew member was represented by James (“Jim”) Walker and Lisa O’Neill of Walker & O’Neill P.A. and Jonathan Aronson of the Aronson Law Firm.

Royal Caribbean was represented by Curtis Mase of the Mase, Lara & Ebersole law firm.

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 .  .  . 

Royal Caribbean Executives Get Richer While Crew Members Get Poorer

In a proxy filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Royal Caribbean Cruises disclosed that its 2010 compensation paid to CEO Richard Fain (photo left) increased almost 60% to $8,600,000.  Royal Caribbean increased the compensation paid to the company's four other named executives from 18.5% to almost 50%.  The largest compensation increase of the four executives  went to Adam Goldstein (photo right), the president of Royal Caribbean International, whose total compensation increased to over $4,000,000. 

These increases were primarily incentive based, meaning that the executives met or exceeded Royal Caribbean Executives - Richard Fain - Adam Goldsteincertain financial goals for the corporation.

One of the company's goal we have been concerned with has been to reduce payments to ill and injured crew members.  In 2008, Royal Caribbean had over over 1,200 open medical files for ill and injured crew members around the world.  Due to certain cost cutting measures, by 2010 Royal Caribbean slashed the number of open crew medical files to around 400. 

In the process, the cruise line culled over 800 ill crew members from its medical department's responsibility.  In many instances, there was no legal basis to terminate the medical care.  In cases where the medical care was not arbitrarily terminated, the cruise line reduced the daily stipend for sick crew employees from $25 to $12 a day.  Needless to say, it is impossible for anyone to live on $12 for food and lodging a day.

These harsh cost cutting measures "saved" Royal Caribbean millions.  Given the fact that cruise executives Fain and Goldstein collected over $12,500,000 together last year, it looks like the money formerly spent on crew member medical benefits ended up in the executives' pockets.   

 

Photo credit:  Royal Caribbean International Flickr photostream

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)

The Splendor Cruise Ship Fire - Three Reasons Why You Will Lose If You Sue Carnival

Carnival Splendor Cruise Ship Fire - Lawsuit?Now that the disabled Carnival Splendor is back in a U.S. port, some lawyers are advertising that the passengers should consider filing a lawsuit.  One cruise site, offering "cruise insider expert advice," is shilling for a Miami lawyer: "Now is the time to join the November 7, 2010 passengers in a joint effort for compensation. Contact us if you were on this cruise."

Such desperate solicitation like this never ceases to amaze me. 

Any time there is a cruise disaster, the issue of lawsuits arises.  Sometimes there is a basis to file a lawsuit, and sometimes - like this time - there is clearly not.  Many passengers from the Carnival Splendor have contacted our office seeking a maritime lawyer to sue the cruise line for damages.  We have told them that there is no basis to consider suing Carnival under these circumstances.  They are wasting their time and money if they file a lawsuit, for these three reasons:

  • In order to have a legitimate case for compensation, a cruise passenger has to suffer a personal injury.  Experiencing inconvenience and unpleasant circumstances does not constitute a personal injury unless there is a physical injury.  If you fall down a flight of stairs in the dark and break your hip, that's a personal injury.  But taking cold showers, smelling toilets that can't be flushed, eating Spam sandwiches in the dark or other similar "cruise from hell" stories are not compensable. 
  • The cruise ticket drafted by Carnival protects the cruise line:  “If the performance of the proposed voyage is hindered or prevented by . . . breakdown of the vessel . . . Carnival may cancel the proposed voyage without liability to refund passage money or fares paid in advance.”  The passenger ticket also requires passengers to file suit in Miami, which the United States Supreme Court has upheld.      
  • Carnival has already offered to refund the passengers' fare and travel expenses and a free cruise of equal value in the future.  So if you are foolish enough to file suit (in Miami), you simply will not do any better than what is already being offered now.  Plus you will incur legal expenses and travel expenses pursuing a case in Miami which you are certain to lose.

Carnival's offer after this fire should be compared to its response to the fire aboard the Carnival Tropicale cruise ship in 1999.  Like the Splendor, the Tropicale was disabled by an engine room fire and the cruise ship bobbed around in the Gulf of Mexico.  Carnival offered the passengers only a 25% discount - which the passengers felt was a slap in the face and created a public relations nightmare.   

Carnival Splendor Cruise Ship Fire - Lawsuit?Carnival has handled this fire knowing that its response will be scrutinized in the court of public opinion.  Its CEO traveled from Miami to San Diego and held a press conference where he apologized and offered a full refund, reimbursement of travel expenses and a free future cruise. 

Most Americans think that Carnival's offer is fair.  MSNBC ran a story yesterday "Free Cruise Should Be Enough for Splendor Passengers."  In a poll of over 10,000 readers, MSNBC asked should the passengers stuck on the Carnival Splendor consider legal action?  88% said: "No - Carnival's compensation package is more than generous."  Only 8% said: "Yes - Days at sea in miserable conditions is worth more than money back and a future cruise."  (The remaining 4% said: "Unsure - Passengers may have a tough time since they signed an air-tight contract.") 

Although the passengers on the Splendor were inconvenienced by the fire and the elderly undoubtedly suffered the most, sometimes a cruise line will step up to the plate and make a fair offer.  But if you decide to reject it, please don't call us.  Most jurors will not have much patience for vacationers complaining about eating Pop Tarts on a cruise ship, when some of the jurors cannot afford a cruise in the first place and our U.S. troops have been eating MRE meals in the middle of the desert in Iraq and Afghanistan.    

November 14, 2010 Update:

A reader of Senior Cruise Director John Heald's blog sums up Canival's compensations as follows: 

  • Full refund
  • Future credit equal to total of what was paid to be applied to a future cruise and must be used within 2 years.
  • Refund of transportation costs to the pier and from San Diego back home. One person said they took a bus from Las Vegas to the pier and Carnival (besides putting them up in San Diego is flying them home.)
  • Overnight stay in San Diego for those who requested it AND a daily stipend.
  • For those who had flights Carnival made the changes for them.
  • Any charges made on Sunday on the guests “Sign and Sail card were forgiven!!!  (This included spa treatments, alcohol, purchases in the gift shop AND even gambling losses in the casino slots!!!)
  • All photos taken by Carnival of the guests were put out in the photo shop and guests were invited to come get their pictures at no charge!
  • On Tuesday and Wednesday Carnival opened some bars. Alcohol, wine and beer was given to the guests.
  • Carnival advised the guests that everything in their mini bars was free! (My minibar had 6 sodas, 6 beers, and 10 or 12 shot bottles of alcohol.)
     

Update:

This blog article went  viral and was discussed by:

The Wall Street Journal Blog: "Plaintiffs’ Lawyer to Splendor Passengers: Don’t Bother Suing."

USA Today: "Sue Carnival over Splendor incident? Don't bother, says top cruise lawyer."

Fox News: "Cruise Line Crisis and Compensation."

American Bar Association Journal: "Cruise Ship Lawyer: Smelly Toilets and Cold Showers Won’t Support a Lawsuit."

Gadling: "Should Splendor Passengers Sue Carnival after their Ship Broke Down?"

U.K. Mirror: "Splendor Passengers Back Carnival."

 

Slate Magazine: "Lawyers to Carnival Passengers: Don't Come Crying to Me."

Photo credit:

Top - CBS News video

Bottom - Washington Post video

Jury Hits Royal Caribbean With $1.7 Million Verdict for Injured Crew Member

A jury reached a verdict yesterday in the amount of $1,700,000 against cruise giant, Royal Caribbean Cruises, here in Miami.  The crew member is a musician who slipped on stage and suffered an injured shoulder which required surgery and ended his music career.

The Miami Herald reports on the case this morning, explaing that the defense lawyers for the cruise line suggested to the jury that they award less than $130,000 for the crew member's injuries.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship VerdictThe case is now being discussed on USA TODAY 's Cruise Log, a popular cruise blog frequented mostly by cruise fans.  The type of comments on this website are often in defense of the cruise industry.  You will often read comments that a verdict like this will cause cruise fares to increase.

The fact of the matter is that Royal Caribbean will collect over $6,000,000,000 (billion $) from its passengers this year.  It will pay $0 in Federal taxes because it registered its business in Liberia and flies flags of foreign countries to avoid taxes, safety laws, and wage regulations.  It is also part of an international "Protection and Indemnity" insurance group with hundreds of billions of dollars in assets.

The verdict will have no effect on the cruise line or any of its cruise passengers.  

Royal Caribbean is considered by many to be the worst cruise line in Miami regarding the mistreatment of ill or injured crew members.  Take a moment and read:

Royal Caribbean Cruises - An Epidemic of Sick, Injured & Neglected Crew Members

Cruise Ship Medical Care - Royal Caribbean Gives Their Crew Members the Royal Shaft

Leave a comment below if you agree or disagree.