Before Sailing to Paradise: Know Your Rights

Recently, the beleaguered cruise company Carnival launched a new campaign targeting first-time cruisers. Through both digital advertising and social media, Carnival hopes to attract cost-conscious vacationers while dispelling safety concerns that are foremost on the public's mind after several incidents over the past few years. From mass outbreaks of norovirus to the devastating Costa Concordia sinking that resulted in the deaths of nearly three dozen passengers, the safety image of the cruise industry has undoubtedly suffered.

Cruise Industry Passenger Bill of Rights

After the Costa Concordia accident, many would-be cruisers understandably had reservations about their upcoming trips. Unfortunately, most cruise companies such as Carnival have strict refund policies that cost customers who cancel their trips their entire deposit or most of their total cruise fare. Moreover, should passengers suffer injury or illness while traveling on a cruise, many contracts limit the venue for filing a claim to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida which turns even small claims into expensive federal cases.

For the hundreds of passengers that suffer gastrointestinal illnesses while sailing on the seas, a class action suit is the most cost-effective option. Yet, the "fine print" in the ticket language of most cruise contracts prohibit class actions, limiting passengers' access to justice.

In response to the public outcry after these cruise industry practices were revealed, the Cruise Lines International Association announced the creation of a "Cruise Industry Passenger Bill of Rights" in May 2013. Among the ten-point provisions are:

  • The right to be refunded for your canceled trip, as long as the trip was canceled because of mechanical failures.
  • The right to refund (partial) for a trip that ends early for mechanical failures.
  • The right to have access to emergency medical personnel.
  • The right to disembark a docked ship if essential provisions such as food, water, restroom facilities and access to medical care cannot adequately be provided onboard, subject only to the Master's concern for passenger safety and security and customs and immigration requirements of the port.

For many critics of the cruise industry however, these protections do not go far enough and do not adequately protect the legal rights of passengers to seek appropriate compensation and redress for cruise companies' negligence.

Congressional Support For Tougher Cruise Industry Regulations

In 2013, Senator John Rockefeller introduced S.1340, the Cruise Passenger Protection Act which directs the Department of Transportation to develop tougher standards for cruise companies to provide passengers with a summary of the key terms of cruise contracts before they are binding. Along with strengthening victim support services, the bill would establish an advisory committee for passenger vessel consumer protection and impose both civil and criminal penalties on companies that violate the terms of the Act.

As a Florida firm with close proximity to many cruise ships' ports of departure, we have extensive experience fighting for victims' rights against the cruise industry. Call The Pittman Firm today to speak with one of our experienced attorneys about your case.

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