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Author: Michael Ehline - Cruise Ship Lawyer

Tips For Passengers Going on an Ocean Cruise

As a passenger on one of these ocean Greyhounds, many of the hazards that can happen on land can also occur aboard ship. Passengers can sustain injuries from other passengers, dangerous conditions aboard the vessel or due to the actions of crew members. Passengers can be assaulted, raped or robbed, while on-board the steamer.

One of the other dangers the ship and passengers can suffer are external, such as attacks by pirates. Armed robbers, using assault rifles and rocket launchers, using high-speed boats, have been an increasing problem for ocean liners, and even commercial ventures, since approximately 2003.

This has resulted in robberies of passengers and even deaths off the coast of Somalia. Even a famous movie with Tom Hanks was made about one such attack here:

Captain Phillips Trailer – Tom Hanks, Catherine Keener

This Maersk Alabama case is nothing compared to the loss of life and critical events that unfold on private floating hotels and their transport shore vessels at sea.

See the Below Video Dealing With Cruise Ship Accident Laws

As noted in the video, these “floating palaces” have a responsibility to ensure the “duty of safe passage” to passengers.

When passengers have been injured onboard a cruise ship, they have the right to:

  • File a lawsuit against the owner of the sea vessel
  • Sue, the company that chartered the cruise ship
  • Sue the company that sold tickets
  • Sue charterer or operator of the boat.
  • These claims may be subject to specific rules, which affect where and when a passenger can file a lawsuit and the applicable laws

Cruise Ship Safety

All vessels on the ocean are subject to inspections, and this includes cruise ships. Most cruise ships are registered in foreign countries and carry the country’s flag. This international registration means they are subject to review according to vessel inspection laws in the country, where the ship is registered.

When these ships board passengers at U.S. ports, the U.S. Coast Guard requires the vessel to meet the standards of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). This standard and other international regulations are strictly followed. These rules are for crew and crewing competency, lifesaving equipment, firefighting, and fire protection.

Vessel integrity, ship control, stability, navigation safety, safety management, and environmental protection, are a part of the strictly regulated international regulations. U.S. passenger ships must have licensed individuals and crew. And they must also comply with U.S. Coast Guard regulations. Further, the USCG sets the standards for training and experience.

What is the Duty of Care for Cruise Line Passengers?

When a ship is departing from U.S. ports, they are considered common carriers, which means they must adhere to the Shipping Act of 1984, 46 U.S.C. § 1702 (6). This act determines that carriers owe passengers a higher duty care in protection from physical harm. So the company remains responsible for ensuring passengers arrive safely at their destination. This includes the passenger’s safety from assaults, rapes, evil crew members, and other types of criminal behavior.

Cruise Ship Disappearances?

If there is a report of a missing passenger, the cruise line company must carry out a reasonable rescue search and rescue efforts. When the missing person is not found aboard the ship, the vessel must return to the location where the person was last seen.

There have been passengers, who have fallen overboard cruise ships for a variety of reasons and have been rescued. And this remains true even when they have been missing for hours. When a passenger is missing, and the cruise line fails to perform a reasonable search and rescue effort, they may be held liable. In fact, they can even be at fault for the disappearance of the passenger. In other words, they failed in their duty of care.

Filing a Cruise Ship Lawsuit – How To?

Passengers who sustained injuries, or have become the victim of a criminal act on-board a cruise ship; have the right to file a lawsuit to recover damages, including medical costs, loss of income, pain, and suffering. The one thing that differs from the same injuries or criminal activity taking place on land is that filing the claim may be governed by the terms on the cruise ship ticket.

Cruise ship tickets contain what is called a forum selection clause and a choice of law provision, which is found in the small print on the back of the ticket. This fine print will specify the state, where passengers must file their lawsuit against the cruise line and the laws get applied in such cases.

The cruise line will define that filing claims for injuries that occurred while on the cruise ship to be filed in Los Angeles, California, Seattle, Washington or Miami, Florida. This situs will depend on where the cruise line is based.

  • Failing to follow the rules in these sections of the ticket means no case.
  • The terms on the ticket are considered a contract between the passenger and the cruise line.

Passengers filing a lawsuit against a cruise line, who object to it being heard in a court outside of their home state can petition to have it moved to a local tribunal. But this challenge is usually denied.

It may be outlined on the ticket that the injured passenger is required to provide notice of the injury to the cruise line, within a specified period. This period is usually six months from the date of the injury. This period is not the same statute of limitations for the filing of a traditional admiralty and maritime claim, which is three years.

The ticket may detail that any lawsuits filed against the cruise line, must be in Los Angeles, California or Miami Florida. In either state, the court may enforce the time limitation outlined in the ticket and deny claims that are filed later than this specified period.

How To Get Money for Injuries Suffered by Employees?

Cruise ship employees are protected by the Jones Act, which applies to seamen who sustain personal injuries or death in the course of their duties.

  • The Jones Act protects most cruise ship employees, and especially those who live and work aboard the ship.

When an employee becomes injured during their employment for the ship, those seamen are entitled to medical expenses. Of course, these must be related to the injury. They are also entitled to living expenses during their recovery.

What are the Relevant Jurisdiction Terms and Laws?

Many of the cruise lines get registered in other countries; as such, they fly the flag of that foreign country and abide by their laws. This registration means these laws could apply to incidences that occur on the cruise ship. When a cruise ship leaves a U.S. port, the laws of the state it departed from apply, as well as U.S. federal laws. International treaties may also apply to incidents that occur aboard ship.

One of these may be maritime jurisdiction, under 18 U.S. Code Section 7. So if a criminal offense has been committed by or against a United States citizen, which occurs outside the jurisdiction of any country it applies. Also, it applies to foreign vessels that have a U.S. departure and arrival port.

When an offense has been committed, California law enforcement and federal law enforcement have particular maritime jurisdiction, if the victim is a resident of California. This residency rule also applies if the suspect of an incident is a California resident onboard the ship.


When over half of the passengers boarding a ship that embarks and disembarks in a California port there is some jurisdiction. Same goes when the crime could have had a ‘substantial effect” within the state of California. Learn more at 633 West 5th Street #2890 Los Angeles, CA 90071. (213) 596-9642. Understanding cruise law is of vital importance for anyone who cares about their safe passage.

Other Citations:

Cruise Ship Developments in the New Year—Carnival 15-Drink Cap

Cruise ship on blue ocean.
Big ships like this are responsible for massive cruise ship accidents.

By Michael P. Ehline, Esq.The International Cruise Victims Association, developments that will be happening in the New Year include:

  • Legislation will come forward during the coming session of Congress. This session will further improve the provisions of CVSSA.
  • European Victim Support

    —the associate member of the International Cruise Victim Association (ICV), is a European umbrella network for national victim support organizations. And ICV remains the only United States-based member of this 32 national member organization.

  • The Australian Chapter headed by Mark Brimble, together with the Australian Government, are beginning to hold hearings. And these will pertain to the need for legislation that needs to be in place. It is akin to the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act. The hearings are in Brisbane, Australia February 1st. They result from a report issued in November of 2010. Said report recommended the Australian Government has hearings. During the hearings, the Australian Chapter Chairman Kendall Carver and Chapter Head Mark Brimble will be testifying.
  • There was a tremendous amount of progress made by the ICV over the past year. It addressed the problems of crimes and accountability on cruise ships.
  • The ICV gets covered by the major media outlets. So look for the International Cruise Victim Association home page under “ICV news.” This website is where the media articles and television show information can be found. Someplace worldwide every few days there is a news story featuring the ICV and the members of the association.
  • One of the issues that the ICV condemns Carnival Cruise Lines for is their initiative to promote a limit on drinks that is not much of a limit at all. After all, it reduces the likelihood of crimes to inebriated folks. ICV thinks “limit” of 15 drinks is absurd. It is too much (probably even for an elephant), along with the fact that there is no police protection for passengers and families. So where the ship remains flagged determines passenger safety at sea.

Carnival Cruise Lines has initiated a daily drink cap or alcohol package. So passengers can pay for all the beverages on a cruise ship in one single payment. According to a Carnival spokesperson, this package is on 13 drinks Carnival ships. So now you can only have 15 alcoholic beverages within 24 hours, from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. the following day.

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