U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York wants to command the high seas with a “Cruise Ship Bill of Rights” that would force the cruise ship industry to adopt a plan that would “guarantee sanitary conditions, backup power and medical staff in case of emergencies.
Schumer’s plan was revealed after at least three incidents involving Carnival Cruise Lines in the last few weeks, including the ill-fated voyage of the Carnival-owned Triumph that was stranded in the Gulf of Mexico for five days last month after an engine-room explosion . Passengers went had very little fresh food and were forced to go without bathrooms, showers or air conditioning, according to news reports.
Schumer, according to New York television news WENY, outlined six points in a proposed “bill of rights” for cruise ship passengers:
•Passengers on cruise ships be allowed to leave after a certain time if the impairment to the ship can’t be repaired in a reasonable amount of time.
•When serious medical or technical situations arise aboard the ship, passengers get full refunds.
•Passengers should have access to well-trained medical personnel during an emergency and that there be an adequate number of medical personnel aboard to deal with the emergency.
•Passengers have real time updates on what problem has occurred, how serious it is, and how long it will take to fix.
•Passengers should have a crew well-trained to handle a number of emergencies, including evacuations from the cruise ship.
•Every cruise ship should have a backup generator in case of a power failure.
Under current law, passengers are limited in the recourse they have against a cruise line when a pleasure cruise turns into a trip to regret, says Jackson lawyer John Arthur Eaves Jr., whose firm represents about 150 passengers of the Carnival ship Costa Concordia, which capsized off the coast of Italy last year, killing 32 passengers and injuring dozens more.
Cruise passengers can’t sue for any mental anguish from a bad trip, he says. “All you can do is sue for physical injury and some lost economic damages,” Eaves notes. Nor can you have a jury trial, he adds.
The cruise industry is the only industry that has been allowed special rights that no other industry in the U.S. enjoys, including the ability to contract away their responsibilities, according to Reeves.
That could change with the Cruise Ship Bill of Rights Sen. Schumer is proposing.