The Washington Post recently published an interesting article about whether or not cruise ships are doing enough to protect passengers, and whether existing regulations are strong enough to ensure passenger safety.
The article describes one passenger who almost drowned in the undertow of a pool on the ship, after going down a large slide. Her sister noticed her struggling, and only after she desperately cried for help did anybody from the cruise staff jump in to help her.
To make up for her accident, Carnival offered her a $100 coupon.
Industry Tries to Avoid Regulation
The cruise industry has thus far managed to avoid heavy government regulation by “self-regulating,” another way of saying the cat is guarding the henhouse or the wolf is protecting the sheep.
To show it is self-regulating, the cruise industry voluntarily passed its own “Passenger Bill of Rights,” which, while admirable, has no legal authority behind it, and is largely a voluntary “feel good” measure to appease lawmakers.
Despite the P.R. appeal of passing its “bill of rights,” the cruise industry may not be able to avoid Washington intervention. Legislators are still trying to pass a “Cruise Passenger Protection Act,” which would have mandatory safety requirements for cruises, expanded ability for government investigation of on-board accidents, and would require the reporting of all incidents that happen on a cruise for public viewing.
Regulation is Needed
It is no wonder that such regulation is needed. Cruise ships are now enormous recreation campuses, where the risk of injury isn’t just falling on a slippery floor.
With the addition of pool slides, rock walls, sporting activities, amusement park-like rides, and loads of other types of activities, the cruise line’s obligation to operate safely now goes beyond just traditional maritime activities.
If these kinds of recreational activities are regulated on land, there should be no reason why they wouldn’t be at sea.
Yet, the cruise lines still object to regulation. They contend that there are no more injuries on a ship than there are off the ship, and that the industry is doing enough on its own. They also use the old fashioned trick of threatening price increases—that the safety measures will lead to increased ticket prices.
Still, this argument ignores the fact that passengers injured at sea don’t have the same rights as those injured at an amusement park or similar facility on land. Injuries at sea are often severely limited by the terms of the cruise ticket, as well as by federal maritime laws, and by the extreme difficulty of the possibility of having to sue in a foreign jurisdiction.
The differences are compounded by the often sorely inadequate availability of real medical care aboard a cruise ship.
It is unclear if the law will or will not pass. But until it does, it seems that we may hear more about injuries that happen on cruise ships as they get bigger, with more amenities, even as the laws governing them remain static.
Were you sick or injured at sea or on a cruise? Talk to the Florida cruise ship accident attorneys at Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. for a free consultation to discuss your rights under maritime laws.