I have written many times about the dangers associated with shore side excursions. The cruise ship companies continue to promote and sell excursions in foreign countries not governed by the same safety standards as the United States while sharing in the profit and then relying on the foreign company to operate the excursion.
Passengers are encouraged to purchase the shore side excursions directly from the cruise line under the false pretense that they have been vetted for safety and security. Historically there have been many accidents as a result of dangers associated with foreign excursions and the poor safety history of the excursion companies endorsed by the cruise line.
We recently reported on the tragic bus accident in Mexico, involving Royal Caribbean, when a bus transporting passengers on a shore side excursion rolled over, killing 11 passengers. Initial reports stated the accident happened because the driver was speeding on very narrow roads, and it is believed there is a history of safety violations associated with the excursion company.
We are currently handling a case involving a similar bus accident during a shore excursion in New Zealand. Several passengers were severely injured during the excursion. In this case, the foreign company chosen by the cruise line to operate the excursion had a poor safety history, including a previous instance involving fatal accident with a subsequent criminal investigation.
What happens when a passenger is injured during an excursion in a foreign country? In an attempt to avoid any liability for the accident, the cruise line quickly argues that the excursion company is an independent contractor. Small print in the contracts issued to the passengers typically states that the excursion companies are independent contractors and the cruise ship company accepts no responsibility for them. However, the cruise line simultaneously represents these foreign partners as safe and encourages the passengers to purchase the excursions directly from the cruise line.
Ultimately, there are complex legal issues that must be navigated under maritime law in order to hold the cruise lines liable for shore side accidents involving an excursion company. If it turns out that the excursion company has not been properly vetted, of if there were dangers associated with the excursion that the cruise line knew or should have known about had they properly vetted the excursion company, the cruise line can be held accountable for any personal injuries or deaths that occur to passengers.
The latest incident involves a diving excursion in Mexico where a boat transporting cruise ship passengers sank and the passengers had to be rescued by the Mexican Navy. While initial reports claim no physical injuries, numerous personal belongings were reported lost, not to mention the psychological torment of being aboard a sinking ship and surviving a daring rescue by a foreign navy. The safety record of the foreign company operating the excursion is unknown at this time. Did the cruise line adequately vet this excursion company? Or did they blindly represent to the passengers that they did so while collecting the passengers’ money and assuming none of the responsibility for ensuring their safety?
Our law firm continues to focus on representing those who are harmed at sea, including passengers who are harmed during a cruise. Brett Rivkind has been a maritime lawyer for more than 34 years in Miami, Florida, the cruise ship capital of the world, and has appeared before the United States Congress during hearings addressing cruise ship safety and security, as an invited maritime expert.