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Cruise Ship Safety and the “Wave Season”

Cruise ship at port.jpgThe “Wave Season” of cruise ship bookings – the period from January to March when the majority of cruises are booked and travel agents offer extra incentives – is fast approaching. This year, wave season comes on the heels of cruise ship safety concerns prominently highlighted in the news and in Washington, DC.

The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, signed into law in July, requires cruise lines to report crimes at sea, train staff to collect evidence of crimes, and install safety features such as peep holes on cabin doors.

The concerns for safety aboard these gigantic floating cities, which now carry up to 8,000 people, are many. Cruise expert Ross A. Klein reportedly testified before a Senate hearing in 2008, stating that the rate of sexual assault on cruise ships is almost twice the U.S. rate of forcible rape – about 56.9 per 100,000. The CDC lists more than a dozen outbreaks a year of gastrointestinal illness cases “evaluated by the medical staff before the ship arrives at a U.S. port, when sailing form a foreign port.” [Those reports only cover cruise ships in which 3% or more of passengers or crew reported symptoms of diarrheal disease to the ships medical staff during the voyage.] And just last month, 4,500 passengers and crew aboard the Carnival ship Splendor were stranded for three days at sea, without air conditioning, hot water, hot meals, or cell phone or Internet service, after a fire broke out on the first day of a seven-day Mexican cruise.

Kendall Carver, president of International Cruise Victims, has expressed concern about increasing risks on increasingly large cruise ships. In an article published by the Palm Beach Post, Carver says: ‘…as ships get bigger and bigger, essentially becoming floating cities, they put more and more people at risk should the worst happen.’

Vacationers need to be aware of the risks related to their travel plans, particularly when the goal is to relax and let go of everyday worries. Resort Torts are cases of civil liability for negligent or criminal acts that arise out of a resort, vacation or recreational setting. These can involve aspects of hotel and motel safety, cruise ship litigation, pleasure boating and jet ski incidents, amusement, aquatic, diving and swimming incidents, foreign travel and medical emergencies, gaming and casinos, aviation (commercial and general), rental car liability, moped, bicycle and motorcycle safety, buses and tour guides, travel industry liability for crime victims, and medical care provided to vacationers. Resort Torts can encompass a vast array of types of cases but they all have one thing in common: tourists, business travelers and locals alike are all exposed to risk while traveling, vacationing or engaging in resort or pleasure activities.