The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) is a trade organization to which most cruise lines belong. Travel agents also belong to CLIA and receive some valuable training from them. This week, CLIA released a Cruise Industry Passenger Bill of Rights that details member cruise line’s commitment to the safety, comfort and care of guests in a number of important areas.
When Things Go Wrong
A good portion of the bill illustrates what cruise lines have already been doing as a practice when things go wrong. A full refund when a sailing is canceled for mechanical reasons or a partial refund when mechanical problems cause the trip to be cut short, they already do that and every other point mentioned in the bill.
“The Cruise Industry Passenger Bill of Rights codifies many longstanding practices of CLIA members and goes beyond those to further inform cruise guests of the industry’s commitment to their comfort and care,” said Christine Duffy, president and CEO of CLIA.
Preventing Things From Going Wrong
But the bill also draws attention to some of what cruise lines already do and systems that are in place to help avoid things going wrong. Medical care on ships, crews that are trained in emergency procedures and more, cruise lines already do and do quite well as a rule.
Duffy explains, “By formally adopting industry practices into a “Passenger Bill of Rights,” CLIA is further demonstrating consistent practices and transparency across CLIA member lines. The cruise industry is committed to continuing to deliver against the high standards we set for ourselves in all areas of shipboard operations.”
But this Passenger Bill of Rights is far more than a publicity stunt or an answer to calls for increased regulation. Going down the bill, point by point, experienced cruise travelers know that cruise lines already do these things. It’s that past-cruiser knowledge that keeps them booking cruises, even after multiple safety-related events have occurred.
Where’s The Beef?
One of the big values of this Bill to the cruise industry is to set first-time cruise travelers minds to rest. Those travelers who may have been considering a cruise vacation but were given a moment of pause by sensationalized media accounts of negative events at sea.
I remember watching CNN’s coverage of the Carnival Triumph ‘poop cruise’ and will probably use that event as a benchmark for just how inaccurate reporting can be far into the future. Personally a big fan of CNN, I have a television on my desk and have CNN on all day. Normally with the sound turned down, I keep it on just in case there is any breaking news that might turn into a story readers would want to know about.
I remember telling Lisa how disappointed I was in CNN’s coverage of the Carnival Triumph event, explaining:
“I know the cruise business and know that much of what CNN is saying is wrong. This coverage really makes me wonder how accurate their reporting is on other topics, topics I am not so knowledgeable about.”
About As Close To Increased Regulation As We Are Going To Get
Much the points in the Bill are usual and customary practices that we could already expect cruise lines to do. But they were “nice to do” things rather than “have to do” things as the Cruise Industry Passenger Bill of Rights suggests.
“Made a requirement of membership in CLIA, the CEO’s of each member line immediately adopted the measure,” said CLIA in a press release.
Initially, this is not like the Airline Passenger Bill of Rights, actual legislation that expanded airline passenger protection, details consequences for airlines that break the rules and provides a system for consumer protection.
But CLIA is also submitting their Bill of Rights to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations’ specialized agency responsible for improving maritime safety, requesting formal global recognition and applicability under the IMO’s authority over the international maritime industry. In the past, the IMO has introduced regulations covering liability and compensation for damage, but is more focused on pollution caused by ships than passenger rights. CLIA’s submission of their Passenger Bill of Rights could change that focus.
What Does It Mean To Me?
Cruise travelers should feel confident that CLIA’s Passenger Bill of Rights details what cruise lines do when things go wrong. Look for this information to be conveyed when booking a cruise via travel agents or most other booking sources, much like any given cruise lines Passenger Contract is already.
But while the Passenger Contract is most often referred to as a way that cruise lines protect themselves from legislation, the Bill of Rights will no doubt be viewed as an informative document that outlines what will happen if something goes wrong.
This is good stuff, much along the lines of the Operational Safety Review that resulted in 10 safety-related policies for member cruise lines in 2012, the Preparedness Risk Assessment that reviewed redundancies in power systems in 2013 and the Emergency Drill held in April of this year to test systems in place in the event of a catastrophic marine emergency.
Cruising is still one of the very safest ways to travel. Ships sailing around the world provide travelers with a safe, secure environment in which to travel. Will this bill of rights guarantee our safety, completely eliminate the possibility of something going wrong while at sea or insure that no matter what happens, passengers will be free from any danger?
There will still be occasional stories of bad things happening on good cruise lines, just as there are stories of bad things happening on good airlines, at good hotels, at normally-safe theme parks, shopping malls and other places where travelers might go. But the fact that the cruise industries main voice has brought a topic that customarily sits in the background into the forefront for all to see is commendable.
Take a look at the Passenger Bill of Rights, point by point. Like the Passenger Contract we all agree to by booking passage on any ship, this should be required reading for all cruise travelers
INTERNATIONAL CRUISE LINE PASSENGER BILL OF RIGHTS
The Members of the Cruise Lines International Association are dedicated to the comfort and care of all passengers on oceangoing cruises throughout the world. To fulfill this commitment, our Members have agreed to adopt the following set of passenger rights:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The right to a ship crew that is properly trained in emergency and evacuation procedures.
- The right to an emergency power source in the case of a main generator failure.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The right to have this Cruise Line Passenger Bill of Rights published on each line’s website.