This was a historic week in the world of cruising.
Congress passed the Cruise Vessel and Safety Act, which will help make cruising safer for U.S. families. Cruise lines will be required to install peepholes in cabin doors, maintain anti-retroviral medications and rape kits for victims, improve crime evidence handling procedures and – for the first time in the history of the cruise industry – report crimes to the U.S. Coast Guard and the FBI.
Congress also passed the "SPILL Act" (H.R. 5503) which removes the limitation of liability for shipping companies, and amends the Death On The High Seas Act (DOHSA) to permit families to recover compensation when they lose a loved one on the high seas – whether it is on a drilling rig or a cruise ship. In so doing, Congress finally repealed an archaic and wicked law that has inflicted additional pain on cruise victims for the past ninety years.
These pieces of legislation are the results of the dedication and hard work of families of U.S. citizens killed in international waters, including members of the International Cruise Victims (ICV). The ICV is a grass roots, non-profit organization comprised entirely of volunteers who have been a victim of a crime on a cruise ship or lost a loved one during a cruise.
These two new laws are truly historic. But you would never know it by reading the hundreds of cruise websites and travel-writer blogs.
There are literally thousands of travel agents and travel writers who I follow daily on Twitter. But not one blogger mentioned either one of these new bills.
The problem is that many of the travel writers and most of the cruise bloggers are shills for the cruise industry. They sell cruises or advertise cruise banners on their web sites. Many cruise lines invite them on all-expense-paid cruises in exchange for favorable cruise reviews.
The exception is Arthur Frommer, of the famous Frommer’s Travel Guides, and his daughter Pauline Frommer who covers travel stories in her blog "Daily Briefings." Ms. Frommer covered the cruise safety law in an article entitled In the Wee Hours This Morning, Cruising Just Got a Heckuva Lot Safer. Mr. Frommer re-printed his daughter’s article, and added a few personal comments, in A Cruise Line Safety Act Has Quietly Passed the House of Representatives.
The Frommers explain the key provisions of the new law and recognize the remarkable efforts of the ICV over the past five years.
Mr. Frommer acknowledges that "even the travel trade press has failed to take more than the barest notice of proposed legislation in Congress that would require the cruise lines to tighten up safety . . . "
The new maritime laws were passed only after years of resistance and millions of dollars of lobbying by the cruise industry’s trade organization – the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) – which is comprised of 16,000 travel agents. CLIA has a cozy relationship with many travel writers who choose not to offend the CLIA cruise lines by writing anything negative about the foreign flagged cruise industry. We have touched upon this subject in Travel Writers and the Ethics of Reporting Cruise News.
CLIA unsuccessfully worked behind the scenes lobbying against the SPILL Act in an effort to deny the widows and children of the oil workers killed in the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster from receiving compensation – a disgusting spectacle we reported on in Cruise Industry Joins Forces With BP to Deny Death Compensation to Grieving Families
So it should come as no surprise that most travel writers and the CLIA cruise bloggers chose not to touch these stories.
But it is refreshing to see travel writers with integrity and ethics like Mr. Frommer and Ms. Frommer write about the cruise safety law which will protect the cruising public.
July 7, 200 Update:
TNOOZ (Talking Trave Tech) has an interesting blog about my blog: "Are Travel Writers Shills For The Cruise Lines?" A number of travel writers are commenting.