Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) pushed the cruise industry to adopt guarantees similar to the airline industry after a series of cruise ship incidents over the past 12 months. The cruise industry through its trade group, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), has announced its adoption of the “Passenger Bill of Rights” as suggested by Senator Schumer.
David Peikin, public affairs director of CLIA said, “All 26 North American member cruise lines have adopted the bill. The rights will become part of passengers’ contracts of carriage and will be legally enforceable.”
The cruise line Passenger Bill of Rights includes:
• The right to disembark a docked ship if essential needs, i.e., food, water, restroom facilities, are not able to be addressed on board.
• The right to a full refund if a trip is cancelled due to mechanical problems or a partial refund for trips that are cut short.
• The right for passengers to get timely updates about itinerary changes if a mechanical failure or emergency disrupts a trip, as well as updates on attempts to deal with mechanical problems.
• The right to transportation to the scheduled final port or a passenger’s home city if a cruise ends because of mechanical issues.
• The right to a place to stay if passengers must disembark and stay overnight at an unscheduled port.
• The right to a ship crew that is properly trained in emergency and evacuation procedures.
• The right to have available full-time, professional emergency medical attention, as needed, until shore-side medical care becomes available.
• The right to have included on each cruise lines website a toll free phone line that can be used for questions or information concerning any aspect of shipboard operation.
• The right to have the cruise line Passenger Bill of Rights published on each lines website.
The Passenger Bill of Rights will be effective immediately for U.S. passengers who purchase their cruise tickets in North America on CLIA’s member cruise lines. CLIA will submit the Passenger Bill of Rights to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), requesting formal global recognition and applicability under the IMO’s authority over the international maritime industry.
Florida is the home to many cruise lines, to include but limited to; Carnival, Celebrity, Disney, Holland American, Norwegian, Oceana, Princess, Royal Caribbean, and Seabourn. It was already common practice for these cruise lines to operate under similar passenger rights, however, the formal adoption ensures consistency and communicates the standards to passengers.
Charles Lipcon, a maritime attorney in Miami, who represents passengers and crew members in claims against the cruise lines has call the measure a step in the right direction; and “No question about it, the cruise lines have recently dropped the ball, I think, in a very, very large way, and if they carry through on this, I think it is very good. The missing element here, the really important thing that is not really being discussed, is a crew member bill of rights.”
For all of the positive public relations this action may have, the Passenger Bill of Rights, in some instances, may be used to restrict or limit the compensation offered passengers.
As an example, in the case of the Carnival Triumph, Carnival Cruise Lines not only reimbursed the full fare of the passengers, but they also provided passengers with a free voucher for a future cruise, waived all on board purchases, reimbursed the travel expenses of the passengers, and gave each passenger $500. The Passenger Bill of Rights actually provides considerably less compensation than what Carnival voluntarily provided.
Is the cruise line Passenger Bill of Rights truly a step in the right direction or simply a good public relations move? What are your thoughts?
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