ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO THIS MONTH, in April 1912, the legendary RMS Titanic capped off its maiden voyage by colliding with an iceberg and sinking into the Atlantic Ocean. More than 1,500 people were killed and the tragedy was named one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in history.
You'd think that 100 years later, with advances in technological precision that mariners of days past could hardly have dreamed of, cruising would have become a much safer vacation option for tourists, and that preventable cruise ship disasters would be left behind with the bygone era.
But the year 2012, marking the Titanic disaster's 100th Anniversary, is proving otherwise...
The year kicked off with the worst cruise ship disaster since the Titanic, when the Costa Concordia crashed into a rock and sank off the coast of Italy, killing 30 and injuring many more in mid-January. The Resort Torts reported included lack of evacuation drills before the ship sailed, no head counts once in the life boats, and an "'unapproved, unauthorized' deviation in course" by the captain. Hundreds of millions of dollars in lawsuits have been filed.
In February, hundreds of passengers and crew members on Princess Cruise ships were struck with norovirus, a highly contagious gastrointestinal virus not uncommon aboard cruise ships, which can lead to severe dehydration, hospitalization and even death. Also in February, 22 passengers from the Carnival Splendor cruise ship were robbed at gunpoint during a shore excursion in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. In the Bahamas, a woman went missing from a Celebration Cruise Line ship.
In March, the Costa Allegra caught fire, lost power, and was adrift in the Indian Ocean without lights or air conditioning and more than 1,000 people on board.
The annual Cruise Shipping Miami conference last month presented a "State of the Industry" discussion which focused not on new developments or ship launches as much as cruise ship safety, proper crew training, appropriate precautions and crisis management.
Cruise ships are virtual floating cities and prime locations for resort torts. As maritime hotels, they can lack fundamental safety policies, protocols, and procedures to protect passengers from harm. They generally fly foreign flags, so they do not have to comply with United States laws. Antiquated laws and contractual language limiting passenger rights and remedies can put travelers in a precarious position and require aggressive litigation. To learn more about Resort Torts, visit Leighton Law.
***For those looking to relive a historic tragedy, a memorial cruise will leave Southampton, UK on April 8 and sail the Titanic's exact path, presumably not to the same end. An anniversary cruise departs New York on April 10, taking the reverse route the Titanic would have taken, had it made it to its intended destination.***