Cruise Ship Industry in the US Adopts Passenger Bill of Rights

In Bid to Regain Public Trust, Cruise Ship Industry Adopts Passenger Bill of Rights

Cruise Ship Industry Adopts Passenger Bill of Rights
In light of the recent negative incidents that have occurred on cruise ships, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has taken the unprecedented step of establishing a Passenger Bill of Rights to mollify public opinion, in response to U.S. Senator Charles Schumer’s demand for accountability. According to CLIA’s public affairs director David Peikin, the bill of rights is already approved by all North American cruise companies and will soon be approved by the rest of its members in the near future. In addition, it will be legally enforceable, which means that cruise lines are submitting to a little more legal accountability to reassure a distrustful public.

The Concordia disaster and the breakdown of the Carnival Triumph are still fresh in the public’s minds. In another blow to the cruise ship industry’s reputation, an 11 year old girl was reportedly groped by a crewmember on the Disney Dream Cruise. Though the crime itself was bad enough, it was found that the cruise delayed filing a report for one day until the cruise ship has sailed out of U.S. waters and jurisdiction, even though the girl’s family immediately reported the incident to cruise ship authorities.

In response to the eroding public trust in the industry, CLIA’s Peikin stated: "We agreed with Sen. Schumer’s recommendation that an explicitly stated ‘passenger bill of rights’ enumerating specific practices regarding passenger comfort and care was a good way to openly communicate the industry’s high standards and provide a clear level of accountability."

The newly minted Passenger Bill of Rights guarantees:

  • The right to leave a docked ship if essential needs (such as medical attention, sanitation, electricity) cannot be provided on the vessel.
  • A full refund if the trip is cancelled due mechanical problems or a partial refund for trips that are truncated.
  • The right to be informed of itinerary changes in a timely manner, especially if the changes are due to mechanical issues or any other types of emergencies.
  • Should the cruise end early because of mechanical problems, the cruise company must transport the passenger either to the scheduled final port or the passenger’s home city.
  • In the event that a passenger must stay overnight at an unscheduled port, the cruise must provide overnight accommodations at no extra charge.
  • Passengers can count on sailing with a crew that is properly trained in emergency and evacuation procedures.
  • Access to professional emergency medical attention.
  • The assurance of emergency power should the cruise ship’s generator fail.

There are many other provisions, which should hopefully reassure travellers that their safety and well-being will be safeguarded no matter where the cruise ship is sailing. While the bill of rights is a step in the right direction, legal accountability remains incomplete. For example, there is no change in how crime victims can seek redress when the incident occurs in international waters. In addition, there is also nothing to compel the flag states the ships are registered under to prosecute on-board crimes more aggressively when they do occur.

While the industry argues that cruise ship crime is rare, this is somewhat misleading because the industry is not legally compelled to report every incident to the public. If crime is truly that rare, then there is no need for obfuscation and secrecy. If the cruise ship industry truly wants to earn back the full trust of the public, complete transparency is the only answer. 

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