The Rights of Cruise Ship Passengers

Information for Passengers

As a cruise ship passenger, you have rights the cruise companies want you to know. You also have rights the cruise companies do not want you to know.

These are the rights the cruise companies do not want you to know:

    the rights the cruise companies do not want you to know

  1. You have the right to receive money compensation for any accident, injury, assault, disappearance, drowning or near drowning that occurs aboard the cruise ship.  These include:
    A.   Slip and fall accidents during the cruise.
    B.   Rape or sexual assaults during the cruise.
    C.   Drowning or near drowning accidents during the cruise.
    D.   Disappearances during the cruise.
    E.  Any dangerous condition that causes you or your family harm during the cruise.
  2. You also have the right to receive money compensation for any accident, injury, assault, disappearance, drowning or near drowning during shore side excursions.

These are the rights the cruise companies want you to know:

    the rights of cruise ship passengers

  1. 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.
  2. The right to a full refund for a trip that is canceled due to mechanical failures, or a partial refund for voyages that are terminated early due to those failures.
  3. The right to have available on board ships operating beyond rivers or coastal waters full-time, professional emergency medical attention, as needed until shore side medical care becomes available. 
  4. The right to timely information updates as to any adjustments in the itinerary of the ship in the event of a mechanical failure or emergency, as well as timely updates of the status of efforts to address mechanical failures.
  5. The right to a ship crew that is properly trained in emergency and evacuation procedures. 
  6. The right to an emergency electrical generator in case the main generator fails.
  7. The right to transportation to the ship’s scheduled port of disembarkation or the passenger’s home city in the event a cruise is terminated early due to mechanical failures.
  8. The right to lodging if disembarkation and an overnight stay in an unscheduled port are required when a cruise is terminated early due to mechanical failures.
  9. The right to have included on each cruise line’s website a toll-free phone line that can be used for questions or information concerning any aspect of shipboard operations.
  10. The right to have this Cruise Line Passenger Bill of Rights published on each line’s website.

Do you have any questions or concerns? Contact us for more information.

Key West & Venice Band Together To Oppose Large Cruise Ships

Maritime Articles

In an effort to preserve the beauty and delicate ecosystem of their environment, concerned citizens in Key West, Florida, and Venice, Italy have come together to ban super sized cruise ships from visiting and docking at their ports.

The Comitato No Grandi Navi (the "Committee for no big ships") of Venice and the Key West Committee for Responsible Tourism are joined in their opposition to large cruise ships, which they say have disturbed the area’s natural ecosystem and can disrupt the visitor experience.

Both organizations issued a joint statement, saying that "The scale of the vessels far exceeds anything that these historic ports were built to accommodate and their sheer size overwhelms the historic setting, diminishing the visual appeal and sense of place."

"They (Comitato No Grandi Navi) are experiencing the same things we are", noted Jolly Benson, member of the Key West Committee for Responsible Tourism. "We reached out to them and they agreed to form an alliance with us. Both cities are seeing their culture and way of life diminished and both are seeing the very real effects these larger ships have on our sensitive ecosystems".

The issue is urgent for concerned residents, since Key West voters will be voting whether the Army Corps of Engineers can study the possibility of dredging the island’s main ship channel to open it up for super sized cruise ships. Dredging is currently illegal in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Key West could be granted a permit to dredge, as long as the Army Corps of Engineers publishes a favorable study that claims minimal impact. However, Sanctuary superintendent Sean Morton pointed out that there is no permit category that allows dredging solely for economic purposes.

Eric Bush, chief of the Planning and Policy for the Corps of Engineers Jacksonville office, has stated that his agency will take its cue from the resource agencies like the Marine Sanctuary. If the sanctuary disapproves of the proposed study, the agency will not go ahead with seeking funding for the dredging study.

Supporters of the ballot initiative include Jennifer Hulse, one of the key attorneys who helped create the PAC (political action committee) for the Greater Key West Chamber of Commerce. According to Hulse, the study is necessary because Key West has seen its cruise ship traffic shrink by almost 30% since 2003 -from 1 million passengers annually to around 700,000 in recent years-. "The reason for that is the restrictions on the channel", Hulse explained. "This (economically) affects every aspect of our community".

In the next month, Key West residents will have to determine just how much cruise ship business matters to their communities’ economic health. Still, it’s important to remember that conducting a study does not mean that dredging would be an inevitability. In one month, Key West voters can vote for their economic interests, or they can choose to preserve the reason tourists come to their island in the first place.

Extra Charges May Catch You By Surprise During Your Cruise Vacation

Maritime Articles

cruise ship incidentWhen planning a cruise vacation, the reality of hidden costs for seemingly innocuous items and activities are often overlooked until the traveler gets the final bill. Bill shock is a common occurrence for passengers who assume that everything is included in the cruise package, which can take the joy out of an otherwise relaxing and fun vacation. To avoid this kind of surprise, it pays to figure out your budget and do your homework before you book your cruise vacation.

First things first, when you see an advertised price for a cruise vacation that seems almost too good to be true, make sure to actually speak to a customer representative so you can get a clear idea of what the accommodations actually are for the promotional price. Cruises like to use “lead-in” pricing, which means the advertised prices are for the cheapest packages on offer rather than for the average cabin on the ship. This sales tactic is designed to attract bargain hunters, but when you find out what’s actually included (or rather, not included), you may want to reconsider your budget or continue shopping around for other cruise packages.

Another important consideration for your cruise vacation budget is the cost of gratuities. In the past, it was common practice for passengers to submit tips in an envelope to the appropriate crewmembers. Nowadays, cruise lines will just add a per day charge to cover gratuity, which can be around $10 to $12 per passenger. While some vacationers may not be comfortable with mandatory gratuity, this is done for everyone’s benefit; passengers can expect assistance from any crewmember, just like crewmembers are expected to help any passenger that requests assistance.

Alcohol and soft drinks can cost you if you drink away without looking into what your cruise package actually includes. Before booking your package, make sure that the customer representative clearly explains what is covered in the price. You can always buy additional drink packages, so you won’t have to worry about an outsize bill once your vacation is over. Many cruise lines offer unlimited alcoholic packages but beware, out in the open sea, just make sure you are surrounded by friends and crewmembers so you are safe no matter how drunk you are.

Internet access is another cost to watch out for. Cruise ships often charge by the hour, and while $0.75 may not be a lot, it can add up very quickly. The age of the ship can also affect the quality of the Internet connection, so it may be a good idea to explore data plans being offered by your mobile phone company. Nowadays, major telecom companies are offering data plans with roaming, which should offer a reliable signal for a preset cost almost anywhere in the world.

When booking shore excursions, you may be tempted to book through the cruise line to save time and hassle. What you won’t be saving, however, is money. Cruises often charge much more than independent operators, which means you will have less money for everything else. In addition, excursions booked through the cruise tend to be crowded and impersonal. Nowadays, independent providers will offer worry-free guarantees to ensure that you get back to your ship on time, so you never have to choose between saving money and having peace of mind.

The key to keeping the costs of your cruise vacation within striking distance of your planned budget is preparation and staying informed. A good rule of thumb is to never assume, it never hurts to ask, and as always, read the fine print. If anything is unclear, make sure the customer representative gives you an explanation. Though preparations can be quite time consuming and maybe even a little stressful, the freedom from bill shock will at least go a long way towards ensuring a smooth and relaxing vacation.

Cruise Ship Incidents & Engine Problems Are Surprisingly Common

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Though cruise trips are one of the most reliably safe and enjoyable vacations a traveler can choose, engine mishaps, malfunctions and other cruise ship incidents are more commonplace than the cruise industry lets on. There are many reasons for this, so would-be passengers need to be aware of the facts before they make a final decision.

Cost cutting affects cruise ship incidents

In the era of cost-cutting and competitive pricing, it can be easy for cruise ship companies to cut corners on ship upgrades and repairs until it is too late. Ship repair and retrofitting can be quite costly, so it is fairly common for ships to be sailing with an outmoded engine and inadequate backup power sources.

One of the latest incidents to illustrate this bleak reality occurred on the Carnival Triumph, which suffered an engine room fire while sailing in the Gulf of Mexico. The main engine was disabled and the ship did not have a viable backup power source. The result was over 4,000 passengers left to drift at sea for 5 days without power, plumbing, or standard sanitation. The suffering finally ended when the ship was towed to Alabama on Valentine’s Day earlier this year, though the trauma experienced by the passengers continues to this day as many wait for their lawsuits to be heard in the U.S. court system.

"Engine and weather-related problems are very common", notes Ross Klein, prominent author and editor of According to the 2007 records on his site, around 5% of the ships cancelled some port calls or altered itineraries due to engine issues, accidents, or equipment failures.

Though unfortunate, weather related problems are more understandable, since the cruise industry has no say over the matter. The only point of concern is if the captain of the ship insists on sailing and sacrificing everybody’s well being in the face of extreme weather, safety be damned.

Weather problems truly become an issue when a ship’s crew members are not properly trained because the cruise ship owner has chosen to hire the cheapest available labor. There is a domino effect that is not always readily apparent – many crew members are overworked and underpaid and may not even be proficient in communicating with each other, which can compromise efficient planning and evacuation during an event of an accident or emergency.

Cruise ship incidents are related to the use of “flags of convenience”

The "flags of convenience" phenomenon has only made these safety concerns worse, because it allows ship owners to bypass strict safety and labor laws to maximize profit. For the uninitiated, flags of convenience allow ship owners to register their cruise ship under other countries in order to save on registration fees and taxes, and to be almost legally untouchable in the event of a crime or accident.

There is very little recourse for the passenger when the cruise ship’s engine breaks down or when an accident occurs during the vacation. What the cruise ship will do for recompense is outlined on the ticket, so passengers would do well to read everything, especially the fine print.

Public opinion affects cruise ship companies’ decisions

Though cruise ship companies are practically invincible under the court of law, they are not immune to the power of public opinion. In the end, the cruise ship industry is wholly dependent on the public’s trust if it wants to survive. All it takes is widespread negative publicity and a threat of a costly public boycott for a ship owner to clean up their act, knowledge is power after all, which no court of law can ever nullify.

How Seaworthiness of Cruise Ships Has Impacted Carnival Cruise Lines

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After highly publicized maritime disasters like the Costa Concordia sinking off the coast of Italy and the Carnival Triumph losing power while sailing in the Gulf of Mexico, vacationers all over the world became understandably leery of cruise ships. Though cruise ship vacations are often safe and fun for everyone involved, it can be a shocking experience for passengers when things don’t turn out as expected.

The Concordia disaster was particularly hard to overcome, since the last thing passengers expect is to die or get injured during their dream vacation. Fortunately, Italy is doing its part to properly investigate the incident – which helped assuage public anger and assure victims and their families that justice would be meted out.

Just as the Concordia incident started to fade from the public’s memory, misfortune struck the Carnival Triumph in the Gulf of Mexico. A fire in the engine room disabled the ship’s power; with no viable backup generator, the ship was left drifting without power and plumbing for days before being towed to Alabama on Valentine’s Day earlier this year. The experience has traumatized many vacationers, triggering a spate of lawsuits that are still wending their way in the U.S. Court system.

The images of makeshift tents and human waste flooding the rooms left an indelible image of just how bad things can get on a cruise ship with inadequate backup and fire safety systems. In response to these disasters, Carnival Corp will spend $300 million to upgrade and retrofit all their ships to prevent such incidents from happening again. In addition, the company announced that it will reimburse the U.S. Government for a portion of the rescue costs for the Triumph incident – which should help blunt some of the negative publicity.

Despite the highly public nature of these cruise ship incidents, the long term impact on the cruise industry’s profitability and viability is likely to be negligible. The biggest factor behind this is the fact that cruise ship disasters are quite rare – which is why it’s so shocking when something bad does happen. Overall, even the vast majority of the public understand that the Concordia and Triumph incidents are exceptions rather than the rule.

According to S&P Capital IQ stock analyst William Mack, the outlook for Carnival Corp is still profitable, though not as much as he previously predicted. He considers the stock a “strong buy” and that the latest incident will have a “one year impact” at worst.

Still, Carnival Corp is leaving nothing to chance when it comes to winning back public opinion. The cruise company announced that Kate Middleton, British princess and Duchess of Cambridge, will help launch the brand new “Royal Princess” ship before it sails off for luxury Mediterranean excursions. The princess is one of the most photographed women in the world and is well loved by the public, which should be a public relations coup for the company as long as no new incidents make its way into the 24 hour TV news cycle.

But most importantly, Carnival’s response to the Concordia and Triumph disasters is proof that the cruise industry needs to act fast to remedy public concerns. By showing its willingness to acknowledge responsibility and spend what it takes to upgrade the safety of their cruise fleet, Carnival should be able to regain the public’s trust in no time at all.

Maritime Law: Cruise Ships and Assistance for Distressed Boaters

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Stories of distressed boaters getting much needed assistance from cruise ships are fairly commonplace, especially in South Florida. It’s only when a cruise ship refuses or fails to provide any help that the incident is considered out of the ordinary.  

When a Princess Cruise ship reportedly failed to help three Panamanian boaters, it shocked many cruise ship industry insiders and maritime law professionals. According to maritime law and tradition, ships have a legal and moral obligation to help distressed seafarers.

Ship crew have a legal and moral obligation to help distressed seafarers.

The duty to respond to persons in need of assistance at sea is based on the moral obligation to save human life,” stated South Miami maritime lawyer James Walker. He also noted that the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which regulates the shipping industry, requires mariners to help boaters in trouble.

The IMO explicitly states this requirement in its International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea: “A master of a ship at sea, which is in a position to be able to provide assistance on receiving a signal from any source that persons are in distress at sea, is bound to proceed with all speed to their assistance.

To comply with this law, cruise ship officers can receive essential training at the STAR Center in Dania Beach. The program includes information on how to assist distressed vessels; how to establish and maintain effective communication; how to handle ship emergencies; and how to enhance team and crew cohesion.

Every ship’s crew should have established protocol for helping distressed boaters

It should be standard operating procedure for every ship to have a set of “standing orders”, which is an established protocol for dealing with distressed boaters. The ship’s watch keeping officers should be well trained in recognizing distress signals out at sea, such as flares, hands waving, or urgent radio messages.

The International Code of Signals manual contains all recognized distress signals, which must be available on the bridge of every active vessel. If the watch officer spots a distressed vessel, it is his or her responsibility to inform the captain. Afterwards, steps must be taken to offer help to the distressed ship, as well as its crew and passengers.

It is still unclear as to why the captain of the Princess Cruise failed to help the troubled Panamanian fishermen. After all, the ship’s deck officers received the required bridge, emergency response, and vessel assistance training at the Center for Simulator Maritime Training in The Netherlands.

Three American passengers on the Princess claimed that the ship’s captain did nothing to help the fishermen after a crew member was informed of their plight. Two of the fishermen died as a result, leaving only one survivor who was rescued after 28 days at sea. The three men were seen waving frantically for help as the cruise ship sailed from Ecuador to Costa Rica on March 10.

The Princess, which is owned by Miami-based Carnival Corp., released an official statement saying it was “very sorry for the tragic loss of life.” The company conducted its own internal review, claiming that it could be a “case of unfortunate miscommunication,” since the ship’s captain was never notified of the fishermen’s signals for help. This conflicts with recorded passenger accounts of the incident, who claim that the crew knew about the distressed fishermen and did nothing.

Since the ship is registered in Bermuda, it is the responsibility of Bermudan authorities to investigate the incident. It is still unclear if the results of the investigation will be revealed to the public.

The failure to help is especially surprising, since other Princess cruise ships have assisted in more than 30 at-sea rescues in the last ten years. “The cruise industry has an incredibly good record overall of rendering assistance at sea,” declared Brad Schoenwald, an official at the U.S. Coast Guard Cruise Ship National Center of Expertise in Fort Lauderdale.

Possible penalties for the incident under Bermuda law include imprisonment for the ship’s captain, and a fine levied against him and his employer. The fishermen’s families will also most likely file a civil suit against the cruise company and the captain in the U.S. or in Panama.

Garbage Disposal Requirements for Ships

Maritime Articles

New garbage disposal regulations under the revised MARPOL Annex V will be immediately effective on January 1st, 2013. Shipping crews must be educated of the new requirements, and must know how to follow the updated garbage management protocols. Records of garbage disposal must be kept accurate and current at all times, and must follow the format of the new garbage record book, which will now include new garbage categories as listed under the revised MARPOL Annex V.

Effective Compliance within the Offshore Industry

The offshore oil and gas companies are expected to be vigilant and transparent in their compliance to all current garbage disposal regulations, given the nature of their industry. In general, all construction vessels, FPSOs, MODUs, anchor handling, and supply vessels are routinely checked by the oil company’s own auditor for compliance. For the offshore industry, compliance with garbage disposal laws is enforced by both port authorities and oil company auditors, in order to prevent garbage pollution from ships.

The Ocean Is Not a Garbage Can

Under the new regulations, specifically Regulation 10 of MARPOL Annex, all vessels at least 12m or longer, as well as all fixed and floating platforms, must display placards informing all crew and cruise ship passengers of the proper garbage disposal requirements. The placards must be written in the language of the ship’s crew to ensure proper understanding of the law regarding the garbage being produced by vessels. Cruise ships that travel to other ports or offshore terminals belonging to the nations that participated as Parties to the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea must also display the same instructional placards in English, French, or Spanish.