A cruise is a popular choice for vacationing Americans, with millions of people each year setting off aboard a cruise ship in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, to Alaska, and in other popular destinations. A cruise can be a lot of fun. These vacations offer travelers the ability to see new places and try exciting new activities, or to just relax and enjoy sun, sand, and water. And of course, it’s a huge industry, so cruise ships offer plenty of jobs for servers, cooks, cleaners, deckhands, and other maritime professionals.
Unfortunately, accidents that cause injuries and even fatalities happen all too often aboard cruise ships. Negligence causes most of these accidents, which could means they could be avoided if proper precautions were taken. Cruise ship passengers are also vulnerable to crime. If you have been injured or attacked while trying to enjoy your vacation, find a lawyer who understands maritime law and can help you get compensation for your medical expenses and other costs. A lawyer can also help you if you work aboard a cruise ship and have been injured.
The Joys and Dangers of Cruising
Cruises are so popular with vacationers for many reasons. They weren’t always accessible to most people and held an exotic allure. These kinds of trips were expensive, and cruising on big ships and yachts used to be reserved for the wealthy. The appeal of luxury is one of the reasons people love to take these kinds of vacations. In the last few decades the price of a typical cruise has dropped as cruise lines built bigger ships and crammed more passengers in to them. Now most people can afford to take a cruise to the Caribbean or anywhere else in the world.
And who wouldn’t want to go on a cruise? A cruise ship today is like a moving island with all the amenities and just about every kind of activity you can imagine. Ships have multiple restaurants with all different kinds of foods, dance clubs, entertainment for kids and adults, swimming pools, movie theaters, ballrooms, spas, gyms, and even climbing walls and wave pools. Cruises can be themed too. There are singles cruises, senior cruises, Disney cruises, and everything in between.
Cruise ships also stop at multiple destinations so passengers can disembark and see more places than they otherwise would be able to on a more conventional vacation. Cruises appeal to everyone and this is one thing that has helped to make them so popular as a vacation destination.
Cruises can be great fun, but on the other hand, they can also be risky and dangerous. Cruise ship passengers and workers have suffered injuries, illnesses, assaults by other passengers or crew members, and even deaths. Accidents include falling overboard, fires, food poisoning, slips and falls, assaults and other crimes, recreational accidents, bed bug infestations, falling objects from unsecured cargo, drownings, and any number of other incidents.
Examples of Recent Cruise Ship Accidents
It may seem unlikely, but ship fires are common on cruises. In fact, a cruise ship fire can be more dangerous and disastrous than fires on land in a building. If a ship fire is big enough it can force passengers to take to lifeboats for an escape, which can be dangerous and cause drownings and accidents. There are many examples of cruise ship workers being injured and even killed just in practicing using lifeboats. Although they may be vital, they are hazardous.
Fires aboard cruise ships also lead to panicking and stampeding passengers. This kind of herd behavior can lead to injuries and deaths. A fire can also cause health issues from exposure to smoke. In 2013 a Royal Caribbean ship caught fire, forcing the evacuation of over 2,000 passengers and crew members. Luckily the fire was extinguished and only minor injuries were sustained.
Illnesses are also a serious problem aboard cruise ships. Contaminated food can cause food poisoning on a massive scale. Contagious sicknesses are also a major issue because there are so many people trapped in one place. One sick person can contaminate hundreds or thousands of others. A Royal Caribbean ship faced this problem in 2014 when hundreds of passengers and crew members came down with a mysterious gastrointestinal virus that caused diarrhea and vomiting. Norovirus is common on cruise ships where contamination in the kitchen can ruin an entire buffet at which thousands of people eat.
Crew members are as susceptible to accidents aboard cruises as passengers are. Life boat injuries are not uncommon, especially while crew members are being lowered into the water in life boats for maintenance or safety training. A Princess Cruise ship experienced such a disaster in 2014 when workers on a lifeboat were dropped into the ocean after a cable broke. One crew member died. Another similar incident occurred near the Canary Islands in Spain in 2013. A lifeboat fell and five crew members were killed.
Crimes can also lead to accidents, injuries, and fatalities aboard cruise ships and may be more common than many realize. A study found that overboard accidents and crimes on ships are vastly underreported. These criminal incidents include physical assaults, sexual assaults, and situations in which someone gets pushed overboard, whether intentional or accidental. Fights break out on cruise ships often, sometimes between passengers, other times between crew members. Alcohol often plays a role in these incidents and people almost always get hurt.
The Role of Negligence in Cruise Injuries
The vast majority of accidents, illnesses, and injuries aboard cruise ships are preventable and can be attributed to some type of negligence on the part of the cruise ship company, the captain, or the crew members working on the ship, who represent the company. These people have a responsibility to take all reasonable measures to ensure the safety of passengers. Laziness or carelessness can cause injuries and even deaths.
Crew members aboard a cruise ship should be trained to use equipment, to operate the ship, and to respond to emergencies, like fires, collisions, and man-overboard situations. The ship is also supposed to be adequately stocked with safety gear. If training is insufficient or equipment is missing or not well-maintained, passengers and crew alike may suffer accidents and injuries.
Another area in which negligence may occur is in the handling and preparation of food. When feeding so many people in a contained environment, any contamination can and does cause major outbreaks of illness. One person in the kitchen who has not washed his or her hands and then handles food may cause hundreds of other people to get sick. Unsafe practices with food in the kitchen, such as storing meat at the wrong temperature, can also spread sickness.
Crime should also be prevented by providing adequate security aboard cruise ships. Crimes happen just about everywhere and with thousands of people on one ship, it is almost inevitable to happen sometimes. However, cruise ships have a responsibility to provide security and to have workers trained to deal with potentially dangerous situations.
Getting Legal Help for Your Cruise Ship Injury
If you have been injured or made sick aboard a cruise ship you may be able to sue for damages. Injuries and illnesses on a ship can lead to expensive medical bills, lost wages if you can’t return to work immediately, mental anguish, and possibly even permanent disability. You may be entitled to compensation to cover these costs, especially if negligence on the part of the cruise ship staff can be proven. To find out what your options are and how best to pursue legal action, contact a lawyer experienced with maritime law, personal injury, and cruise ships.