A cruise passenger on board Holland America Line’s Maasdam was killed on November 7th when she slipped and fell between a tender and the HAL cruise ship. At the time of the incident, the ship was in Rarotonga in the Cook Islands.

The source of the information is a passenger, wishing to remain anonymous, who stated that: . . . the seas were very rough and it was debatable whether we should have been tendering at all. She was traveling by herself. It would appear that this incident is being covered up. The safety on this ship is rather haphazard.”

The passenger later stated that “the tender service was definitely operated by HAL. The staff members were offered counseling by phone.  I am particularly surprised how unsafe it is on their tenders . . . This particular day was the roughest I have ever seen at sea.  It was definitely not safe and that poor lady paid the ultimate price.”

The Maasdam is currently sailing on a 28 night “Polynesian & South Seas Sampler” cruise.

Cruise lines have a legal duty to exercise a minimum of reasonable care while transferring passengers to and from their cruise ships. A passenger was killed three and one-half years ago when she fell between the tender and the Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth. Eight years ago, a passenger was seriously injured when she fell trying to exit from a tender ferrying passengers to Grand Cayman from a Carnival cruise ship. Seven and one-half years ago, a woman died when she was dropped during a transfer from the Ocean Countess operated by  Cruise and Maritime Voyages.

The case is likely to be governed by the Death on the High Seas Act (“DOHSA”), which limits the recovery only to “pecuniary” (i.e., financial) damages.  Any surviving family members, such as a spouse or children, are not entitled under the terms of DOHSA to recover emotional damages such as grief, bereavement and emotional distress. If the woman is retired and not a wage earner, her family will be limited to just burial expenses.

DOHSA is one of the most antiquated, cruelest and completely callous laws imaginable.

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

November 12, 2018 update: A passenger on the cruise left the following comment on our Facebook page: “We were on that cruise and witnessed how unsafe the tendering operation were conducted.The tragedy of this event is that the captain did cover the fatal accident from the passengers and did not properly informed us about what had happened. This gives people reason to gossip and speculate about the real cause of the accident. On that day in Rarotonga the sea was very rough and there were no extra activities from the crew to make sure that tendering operations went safer. The state of tenders on HAL was below criticism.”

November 13, 2018 a.m. update: Newsweek is reporting on the fatality.

November 13, 2018 p.m. update: The Maasdam returned to Rarotonga today, but the master announced that due to rough conditions the ship is unable to tender ashore. A passenger stated “funny, it’s a lot calmer than the other day” (when the passenger died). A photo of the weather conditions today:

The local newspaper (Cook Islands News) reported on the incident.

November 14, 2018 Update: HAL touts itself today in a press release for winning the best cruise line for  shore excursions in a reader’s choice award from Porthole magazine, just a week after a guest was killed during a shore excursion.

Photo credit: Top -M/S/ Maasdam via Holland America Line

Middle and bottom – Maasdam tender – anonymous.

  • Jacques Strapp

    This story is based on one single anonymous passenger? Maybe corroborate your story before posting. What happened to journalism?

  • MichelleP12

    What is a “tender?”

    • Daniel

      A tender is a small boat, many times a life boat from the cruise ship or a one hired at port, to ferry passengers to and from the ship to the pier. Many ports of call may not have deep enough water to allow large ships to dock right at the pier. One cruise I went on I nearly was knocked out while getting into the tender in rough water as the tender dropped downwards and I hit my head hard on an overhead beam.

    • Dan

      A tender is a small boat, many times a life boat from the cruise ship or a one hired at port, to ferry passengers to and from the ship to the pier. Many ports of call may not have deep enough water to allow large ships to dock right at the pier. One cruise I went on I nearly was knocked out while getting into the tender in rough water as the tender dropped downwards and I hit my head hard on an overhead beam.

    • zo opy

      It is can be one of the lifeboats or a separate small boat.

    • A tender is a small boat that takes passengers from the ship to shore. They are used when port facilities can not accommodate ships of a certain size. At times a cruise line will use their own lifeboats for this purpose, but usually there are boats operated by the port or private company.

  • mindy kahn

    This is outrageous!

  • Guy M Wong

    I was on a different HAL ship a couple of months ago and rode on a tender at two different ports. There were staff assisting passengers to get on and off the tender. I simply cannot see how it could be unsafe as described by the anonymous passenger being quoted in the article. HAL, at least from what I saw on my trip, caters to a lot of seniors. Many were on walkers, a few even on wheelchairs. From what I saw, the HAL staff were excellent taking care of the passengers. My only suggestion is the staff and passenger should be holding each other’s wrist when getting on and off the tender.

  • CruiseLaw

    Jacques Strapp – I am an advocate for the safety of passengers and crew members. I do not pretend to be a journalist. This type of incident would never see the light of day if it was not reported. And you can research the weather conditions for this date and location f you are obsessed with such details . . .

  • Adrian Jenkins

    While I can accept that the DOHSA might be unfair, I struggle to understand what appears to be the America style of suing companies at the drop of a hat. Surely in many of these situations, there is some responsibility on both sides. In addition, many things are simply accidents – where it’s unfortunate, but no-one is really at fault. Yet, it seems that Americans have a culture of suing in cases of accidents. I have read stories of people suing cruise lines because they slipped over because they walked in a puddle of water. Surely the person involved should have taken care to look out and not walk into that puddle.

  • Kevin Vance

    What I don’t like is the insistence that the Captain announce everything, or it will be presented as a cover up. The vitom has privacy rights too. The Captain has no obligation to tell you anything that doesn’t have to do directly with you.

    In this case it made the news, and it sounds like it was reported to the authorities. Done, enough said, as an individual passenger you don’t have a need to know the details.