The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) expects 30 million passengers on its cruises in 2019. Over one million employees and 290 ships are part of this organization alone, so handling the logistics of providing world-class entertainment and leisure to the travelling public is overwhelming.
There have been recent reports about the working conditions on cruise ships, bringing to light that often their crews are overworked and underpaid. Large ships require very large staffs, and many of these crew members are often forced to work more than 60 hours a week. It’s no wonder, then, that sometimes these exhausted cruise ship employees make errors that affect passengers’ wellbeing.
However, despite these reports, cruise passengers still entrust their lives to these companies and their ships. During the summer of 2019, several serious accidents occurred on board cruise ships. While each accident is unique and requires a thorough investigation to determine who is responsible, it’s clear that the cruise industry needs to work to limit on-board accidents, assaults, and illnesses.
According to news reports, the MSC Opera crashed into the dock of Venice’s Giudecca Canal on Sunday, June 2, 2019. The crew of the ship lost control and veered into another boat, injuring at least four bystanders.
MSC Cruises’ promotional material touts the technical specs of the Opera: a nearly 66,000-ton ship capable of carrying 2,150 passengers. Unfortunately, this was not the first time the huge ship had experienced technical failures. In 2011, the Opera lost power while on a Baltic cruise, resulting in dark passageways and toilets that wouldn’t flush.
Smaller ships, like the Burdigala II, are at the same risk for technical failure and crew negligence that the large international cruise ships like the Opera. On August 19, 2019 the pleasure cruise, based in Bordeaux, crashed into the Pont Jacques Chaban-Delmas after losing control. Ten people were injured, including four seriously. In April 2019, a Viking river cruise called Idun crashed into a petroleum tanker. Five people were hurt.
With a history of failures like these, it’s easy to understand why passengers and governments are increasingly concerned about cruise ship safety. Accidents like the Opera’s have generated demands from local residents that large cruise ships be diverted from historic city centers. Some have even proposed banning them altogether.
Given the impact that the cruise industry has on the economies of scenic ports like Venice, complete bans are unlikely, and political infighting has made reforms difficult. Forbes reports that the media has exaggerated the scope of the proposed changes, and that they have printed stories that falsely equate public statements to current legislation. Large ships will continue to dock in major ports, and smaller vessels continue to gain popularity among people going on cruises.
On Board Assault
One danger on the high seas and on shore is alcohol. In the United States, many states have enacted laws that require bars and restaurants to monitor their customers and refuse to serve anyone who is visibly intoxicated. These “over serving” or “dram shop” laws are intended to help lower the chances of drunk driving and alcohol-influenced violence. Since revenue from alcohol makes up a significant portion of the cruise industry’s revenue, they have little incentive to limit sales.
Unfortunately, excessive alcohol consumption on board cruise ships has resulted in serious injuries for passengers. At the end of a week-long cruise around Norway, a fight broke out near a buffet of the P&O Britannia. The July 2019 clash resulted in the injury of six people, and two people were arrested on suspicion of assault.
Sexual assault is another alcohol-fueled crime that is all too common on cruise ships. In July 2019, a man was sentenced to 78 months in federal jail for sexually assaulting his colleague on a cruise. In 2015, an anonymous minor was raped by a group of men who had gotten her drunk. In the summer of 2019, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that Royal Caribbean could be sued for its failure to intervene on her behalf.
Sickness and Medical Emergencies at Sea
Good sanitation is one of the fundamental responsibilities of cruise ship companies, and also one of the most difficult to maintain consistently. The unique limitations of cruise ships—their isolation while at sea and the resulting lack of freedom of movement for passengers—can exacerbate the spread of illnesses.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) tracks the spread of disease on vessels that stop in the United States, and has implemented the Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) to help mitigate common gastrointestinal illnesses on cruise ships.
Even with these inspections and safety precautions, illness, especially Norovirus, is still common. Perhaps the most significant recent occurrence was on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas. In January 2019, 500 passengers and crew members became ill with Norovirus, resulting in an early end to the trip.
According to news reports, the Carnival Cruise Fantasy got the third-worst CDC VSP grade ever in August 2019 after inspectors found issues like unclean dishes on a galley rack designated for clean dishes and brown water coming out of shower hoses in the medical center.
Once a passenger has fallen ill on a cruise ship, they have only one treatment option: that on-board medical center. While the doctors and nurses that cruise companies employ are supposed to be trained to deal with the full range of possible medical emergencies, their tools are limited. Ships with deep sea capabilities travel far from ports, and, therefore, far from comprehensive emergency medical care.
In 2018, a man was misdiagnosed with a serious heart condition by the on-board medical staff and evacuated via an air ambulance to receive treatment. Once he reached a hospital, he was happy to learn that he had a much less serious condition. But he is still fighting the more than $600,000 bill for his flight.
Contact Louis A. Vucci P.A. for Help After a Cruise Ship Accident
Many people are drawn to promises of adventure and relaxation on rivers and the sea, but the cruise ship industry has continued to put passengers at risk. You deserve to have a safe vacation, and to pursue legal action if the cruise line fails to provide that. Louis A. Vucci is experienced in cruise ship litigation, and has extensive experience fighting the major cruise ship companies on the behalf of passengers.
If you have been injured as a result of the cruise ship industry’s negligence, let the cruise ship attorneys of Louis A. Vucci P.A. help make them accountable. We are ready to discuss your accident during a completely free consultation. Call us at (786) 375-0344, chat with us, or fill out our online contact form.