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When there is an injury—and especially multiple injuries—from almost any cause, the media and investigators are often all over the story. The public is provided with so much information, so quickly, that some of it is often incorrect in the early stages. But when it comes to reporting on tragic cruise ship injuries and deaths, it’s amazing how little is actually disclosed, and even more amazing how little anybody says about the dearth of information that is provided by cruise lines.

Mysterious Injuries on a Cruise

Recently, on board a Holland America cruise ship, three passenger suffered injuries—one with a leg injury, one with a head injury, and the other with a heart-related emergency. The injuries were so severe, and of such an emergency basis, that the ship had to come within three miles of shore to allow rescue crews to get them.

If you are cruising, and you think of safety issues, you probably think about the medical facilities on board, the cleanliness of the ship, and supervision of on-board activities. You may not give much thought to terrorism. One country is warning cruise passengers to be diligent about it in the coming months.

Italy Warns of Possible Threats

The Italian Ministry of Defense has warned that ISIS may engage in piracy of cruise ships on the seas, much like the Somali pirates that were highlighted in the recent “Captain Phillips” movie, which was based on true events. It’s well known Somali piracy affects merchant and commercial vehicles, but this is the first time we’ve heard of a government agency making a warning as to a passenger vehicle.

A Florida Court recently reduced a jury’s 2.7 million dollar injury award to a cruise ship passenger to zero based upon confusion over what law should apply. The United States Supreme Court has refused to hear the passenger’s appeal, creating a very dangerous legal precedent for Florida’s cruise ship passengers. Our Florida cruise ship accident attorneys are following these stories with interest.

Specifics of the Case

The passenger was injured when a rotting and unstable chair he was sitting on collapsed from underneath him while on a cruise. The jury awarded him 2.7 million dollars, but a dispute arose over the question of whether federal or state law should apply. The judge applied the much more business-friendly state laws, and reduced the award to zero.

Despite recent news of the ill-fated cruise line Costa Concordia being raised from the sea after its tragic sinking in 2012, Carnival Cruise lines, the parent company of Concordia, apparently thinks the environment is right to start raising prices on cruises again. This is despite having a less than spectacular year when it comes to cruise ship safety. Our Florida cruise ship attorneys are monitoring these developments closely.

Prices Going Up

Carnival Cruise line recently reported its intention to raise cruise prices, which had been trending cheaper in the recent years. Bad press has plagued the cruise line industry, due in no small part to the spate of near disasters that many mainstream cruise lines have suffered.

Wednesday, Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas arrived back in a New Jersey port after passengers suffered one of the largest gastrointestinal illness outbreaks on a cruise ship in 20 years.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) officially issued a cruise ship illness outbreak alert for the ship, on which  630 of 3,071 passengers (20.5 percent), and 54 of 1,166 crew (4.6 percent), reported falling ill with symptoms of vomiting and/or diarrhea. The CDC still has not officially announced the cause of the illness, but our Florida maritime accident attorneys are waiting with anticipation for a discovery.

According to the CDC, one of its Vessel Sanitation Program epidemiologists and environmental health officers, along with another independent epidemiologist, boarded the ship while it was in port at St. Thomas, and travelled with the ship back to port in New Jersey. The CDC team conducted an investigation and environmental health assessment in an attempt to determine the cause and origin of the outbreak. The CDC team is supposed to continue the investigation through the boarding of new passengers for the ship’s next voyage slated to begin tomorrow.

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) issued a cruise ship illness outbreak alert for the Norwegian Gem, an over 3,600-passenger capacity ship in the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet.  According to the alert, during a November 13-25, 2013, voyage, 111 passengers and 3 crew members (4.55% of the total number of people onboard) reported being ill with symptoms of vomiting and/or diarrhea. The cause of the outbreak is unknown, but our Florida maritime accident attorneys are waiting with anticipation for a discovery.

The report states that Norwegian Cruise Line responded to the outbreak by increasing the ship’s cleaning and disinfecting procedures and collecting specimens from ill passengers and crew for testing at the CDC’s National Calicivirus Laboratory. According to the CDC, Vessel Sanitation Program officers are monitoring the outbreak, which will continue into the ship’s subsequent voyage.

The CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program (“VSP”) is designed to assist the cruise ship industry in preventing and controlling introduction, transmission, and spread of gastrointestinal illnesses, i.e. food poisoning, on cruise ships.  Despite the CDC’s best efforts, however, health violations are common occurrences on many cruise ships.  Improper storage, handling, and preparation of food onboard cruise ships is dangerous and can easily result in the spread of gastrointestinal illness.  Gastrointestinal illnesses can cause vomiting, dizziness, diarrhea, dehydration, and, in very serious cases, death.

Earlier this week, the Sydney Morning Herald, an Australian news outlet, reported that the body of a man who had fallen overboard from Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas on December 21st had been recovered, according to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.  The ship was sailing towards Noumea, New Caledonia, approximately 550 kilometers east of Brisbane when the unidentified man went overboard. Our Florida maritime accident lawyers  have been covering this news extensively, and can provide legal advice to anyone that may find themselves in an accident related to time spend on a cruise.

An alarm was raised around 1 AM Queensland time after another passenger witnessed the man fall. According to reports, the ship’s crew threw life preservers and smoke markers into the water, and even launched rescue boats, but, however, they could not locate the man.  New Caledonian Law Enforcement Services will be investigating the death.

This incident is just another in a long line of unfortunate man overboard accidents which have plagued the cruise industry the last couple years. Last year, 30-year-old South Floridian Sarah Kirby fell overboard from the Carnival Destiny as it sailed from Miami to Jamaica. Kirby fell 100 feet to the water, striking a lifeboat on the way down. Kirby then spent the next two hours floating in the ocean at night, injured and struggling to stay afloat. Kirby’s story ended much more fortunately than many others.

According to two recent reports ready by our Florida cruise ship accident attorneys from both CNN and the Associated Press, Carnival knew that its now infamous Triumph ship posed a substantial risk of fire due to delays in the maintenance of its diesel engines and fuel lines, but allowed the ship to set sail anyway. More than 4,000 passengers and crew members became stranded aboard the Triumph in February of 2013 after a fire knocked out the ship’s power.  The ship drifted for four days without air conditioning, and only had limited lights, water, food and working toilets, before it was towed to Mobile, Alabama.

According to the AP article, Triumph’s captain, Angelo Los, admitted in a November 22nd, 2013, deposition that he had been notified by Carnival that there had been problems with the ships flexible fuel hoses leaking.  Los stated that he believed Carnival had known about the leaks since March of 2012.  When confronted with a “compliance notice report” dated January 2nd, 2013, that recommended that spray shields be installed on engines’ flexible fuel hoses, Los confesses that the suggested spray guards were only a makeshift measure to deal with leaking fuel lines and had not even been installed on the engine that caught fire.

In response to the allegations that it was aware of the Triumph’s safety issues, Carnival   stated, “The leak in the flexible fuel hose was a completely unexpected accident that took place. What ignited the fuel is unknown.”  Carnival referred to the spray guards as the “best practice to avoid fires.” Carnival also claimed that the compliance notice only referenced fuel lines above the engine room floor, whereas the leak that disabled the Triumph occurred on a fuel hose beneath the engine room floor.

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) released additional inspection reports for its Vessel Sanitation Program (“VSP”), which is designed to assist the cruise ship industry in preventing and controlling introduction, transmission, and spread of gastrointestinal illnesses, i.e. food poisoning, on cruise ships.

The results of one such report from July of this year evaluating the health conditions of the cruise ship Silver Shadow, a Silversea Cruises vessel, were particularly disturbing. CDC inspectors observed and documented numerous health violations, ultimately giving the ship a failing score of eighty-two. According to VSP criteria, anything ship receiving a score under eight-five is considered to have unsatisfactory health conditions.

After boarding the Silver Shadow on June 17, 2013, CDC inspectors conducted a surprise inspection, during which ship employees attempted to conceal various violations, including fifteen food trolleys packed with food and cooking equipment which were hidden in the cabins of galley crew members. The carts were filled with various perishable items that require refrigeration, such as milk, raw meat, fish, eggs, fruits and vegetables, and cheese.

Other health violations that were discovered included allowing insects to enter the pantry space, improper cooling of foods, accumulation of dust and mildew on refrigerator condensers, and erroneous reporting of cases of acute gastroenteritis cases on the ship.

The surprise inspection was prompted when the CDC became aware of a photo taken by an anonymous crew member that showed food carts being stored or hidden in unrefrigerated and unsanitary conditions. After discovering the various violations, VSP inspectors supervised the removal of all uncanned foods on the ship and then treated it with chlorine concentrate to ensure it would not be used after the inspectors’ departure.

Included in the VSP report was a specific rebuke to Silversea Cruises to stop the use of living quarters for food preparation. Following the issuance of the report, Silversea issued an apology on its facebook page on July 17, 2013, stating that it had taken immediate action to remedy the violations.

As demonstrated by some of the reports prepared by VSP just this year, health violations are common occurrences on many cruise ships. Improper storage, handling, and preparation of food onboard cruise ships is dangerous and can easily result in the spread of gastrointestinal illness. Gastrointestinal illnesses can cause vomiting, dizziness, diarrhea, dehydration, and, in very serious cases, death. The improper handling and preparation of food can subject a cruise line to legal liability for negligence.
As this blog has mentioned before, because cruise ship claims are subject to different laws and much shorter statutes of limitations, sometimes as short as one year, they are best handled by experienced cruise ship accident attorneys.
The Florida cruise ship accident attorneys of Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. are licensed to practice law in all of Florida’s state and federal courts and have been representing the victims of cruise ship negligence for over four decades. If you or someone you know has been injured in a cruise ship accident or has been the victim of a crime while on a cruise ship, contact the attorneys of Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. today.

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Once again, Carnival cruise line braces itself for some hard questioning and strong reaction from the public, after one of its vessels, the Carnival Triumph, wound up stranded in the Gulf of Mexico . This is the result of yet, another engine room fire, which left cruise ship passengers without very basic needs including: food, water, toilets, and power. Needless to say, passengers are disgruntled and Carnival is under fire by news agencies, and thousands of individuals concerned about the safety of cruising.

Carnival has not yet answered the looming question as to what caused a fire on the 14 year old ship which was based in Galveston, Texas. While the Costa Concordia ship wreck last year, is reminiscent of this incident, fortunately there were no casualties or incidents on the Carnival Triumph, like there were on the Concordia. So, why do there continue to be fires on ships, leaving passengers stranded in the ocean, sometimes ship wrecked for days?
One of the more recent forms of injury on board cruises results from extremely high numbers of sexual assaults that occur on cruise ships. Most often, these forms of crimes are committed against passengers by crew members. Cruise ship guidelines are not clear cut regarding background checks on employees, especially those who are hired overseas. Although, Carnival and many of the other major cruise lines are based in cities like Miami, Fl and Ft. Lauderdale, Fl the crew itself are from foreign countries and screening these people is difficult and not without major loop holes.

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