There is a report of yet again another passenger on a cruise ship reported to have gone overboard, and not found. The latest involves a 32-year-old male from Georgia, a passenger on the Carnival Liberty cruise ship, a Carnival Cruise Line ship, who reportedly went overboard in the early morning hours of Friday, April 7, while the vessel was in Bahamian territorial waters after having left Cape Canaveral, Florida.

carnival-liberty-300x225At this time, the reports are that the United States Coast Guard was participating in the search and rescue efforts, as it does involve a United States citizen, and the ship did depart from the United States port. The Bahamian maritime authority will also get involved since the incident did happen in Bahamian waters.

Statistics that are available indicate there have been a number of passengers who have been reported to have gone overboard on a cruise ship this year alone. Just two weeks ago, we reported on another carnival passenger who fell overboard from the Carnival Victory ship.

MIAMI, Florida–There has been another reported incident of a passenger on a cruise ship falling overboard. This past Wednesday, a 23-year-old male passenger from Florida was reported to have fallen from the eighth deck of the Carnival Victory, a Carnival Cruise Line ship, at around 3 a.m. Since the cruise ship was close to the territorial waters of Cuba, Cuban authorities got involved in the rescue efforts, as well as the United States Coast Guard. After thoroughly searching the area for 16 hours, the Coast Guard called off the search for the missing passenger.

carnival-300x186Unfortunately, we have reported about way too many instances of passengers falling overboard during a cruise vacation, specifically on a Carnival cruise ship. Just last month, a 24- year-old male fell off another Carnival ship. According to Ross Klein, almost half of the overboard incidents on cruises have actually occurred on Carnival ships.

Why do passengers continue falling overboard?

MIAMI, Florida–Two spring-breakers quickly saw the fun and thrill of riding a jet ski turn to the terror of almost getting run over by a cruise ship. This past Saturday, two jet skiers were riding on these personal watercrafts right by the mouth of the Port Canaveral harbor in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, when their jet skis flipped them over into the water. At the same time, the Carnival Magic cruise ship was navigating out of the Port Canaveral Harbor. This meant that the two teenagers, ages 19 and 20, were now in the water, watching the approaching cruise ship come at them.

jetski-300x225Imagine a 130, 000-ton cruise ship coming at you, and imagine the horror of the pilot knowing there was no way to maneuver out of the way of the two girls. There is little ability to quickly maneuver a large passenger cruise ship, which in this case was the cruise ship owned by Carnival Cruise Line. Not only is it hard to quickly maneuver a large cruise ship but it was also hard for the girls to swim out of the way, as a breeze was pushing the woman more into the path of the approaching cruise ship according to the Port Canaveral Harbor Pilot Capt. Doug Brown. Capt. Doug Brown quickly alerted the Brevard County Sheriff’s Deputy who was at patrol boat nearby to come help. Luckily the deputy was able to rescue the two girls, as Brown tried to change the ship’s course.

This jet ski incident is unfortunately one of many, as we have reported on many accidents involving these personal watercrafts, including fatalities. Jet skis are dangerous instrumentalities. They are hard to keep under control, as they are very powerful and can go very fast.

MIAMI, Florida–In a case we previously reported about, where we learned that not only is lack of sleep dangerous for someone driving a car, but also for someone driving a cruise ship carrying passengers, passengers have recently filed lawsuits arising out of the incident. Last August, the passenger cruise ship Spirit of Baltimore was carrying around 400 passengers when it crashed into the pier at Henderson’s Wharf Marina in Fells Point, Maryland, and two moored recreational boats. The crash happened at around 230 a.m. when the ship was returning to its berth after a midnight party cruise.

baltimore-harbor-1528252-300x225A Court Guard investigation revealed that the captain had been working other jobs, and had very little sleep. His mate had to leave the bridge of the ship to deal with a drunken passenger, another common problem on passenger ships.  While away, it is reported that the captain fell asleep at the wheel, resulting in the collision. Following the collision, the captain was fired, and a requirement that captains who feel sleepy must stay standing, notify a supervisor, and  have a mate ride in the bridge, was implemented.

The accident resulted in around 100,000 worth of damages, plus personal injuries to passengers on board the ship. Now, according to recent news reports, 28 passengers are suing Spirit Cruises LLC, with claims ranging from $5,000 to $1 million. Court records indicate passengers suffered a variety of injuries, with the impact of the crash even throwing one passenger into a glass wall.

MIAMI, Florida–The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released their findings regarding the horrible parking job by the captain of the passenger cruise ship Carnival Pride on May 8, 2016, when the cruise ship collided into the pier and an elevated passenger walkway in Baltimore, Maryland. The crash resulted in more than two million dollars in damages.  The Carnival Pride was returning from a 7-day trip to the Bahamas and Florida when this happened.

baltimore-300x225Although we were thankful to report that there were no personal injuries resulting from the collision with the pier, it did raise eyebrows and questions as to why the cruise ship did collide with the pier, with the expert navigation staff onboard and of course the most sophisticated navigation equipment.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigated the incident, and  released its accident report yesterday.  According to the report, Carnival Pride’s staff captain, was maneuvering the boat at too fast a speed and at too steep of an angle. The captain then took control, but at the point, it was too late to prevent the ship’s bow from striking the pier. The report found that the probable cause of the Carnival Pride’s allision with the pier was due to the captain’s oversight and the staff captain’s error, as the cruise ship was traveling at an excessive rate of speed at the time and at an angle that was too steep.  We have all experienced parallel parking where we either bang into another car or scratch our wheels, but here we are talking about a mega cruise ship and over $2,000,000 worth of damages.  It is alarming to know that the captain was faulted for not properly supervising, and that the cruise ship was found to be operating at an excessive rate of speed.

This past Friday the United States Overseas Security Advisory Council, managed by the U.S. State Department, posted warnings for United States citizens traveling to Nassau, Bahamas. It is well known that the Bahamas is a popular destination for cruise ships to take their passengers.  Over the years, I have written about the dangers of shore excursions in foreign countries, that cruise ship companies promote and sell tickets to.  Many passengers traveling to these foreign ports have no knowledge whatsoever about the potential dangers that exist at each of the ports.  Although the cruise ship companies point out that every city has dangers of crime and other problems, the fact is that these smaller ports have known dangers that the cruise ship companies know about, or should know about. However, the cruise lines fail to post warnings or inform passengers about these dangers because of how this will impact their whole persona of a fun filled cruise vacation, which includes these exotic foreign ports.

nassau-300x225The dangers that exist at some of these exotic foreign ports include known criminal activity.  For example, in this posting by the United States Department Bureau of Diplomatic Security, there is a warning about participating in jet ski operations in certain islands in Nassau because of the known danger of being sexually assaulted by jet ski operators.  This would surely be something that a passenger would not know, but clearly is obtainable information for the cruise lines. Cruise ship companies should be charged with investigation into each of the ports that they take the passengers to, in which they enjoy hefty profits by selling shoreside excursions in these foreign ports.

The posted warnings about Nassau also discuss that many criminal activities are the results of the excessive consumption of alcohol, as perpetrators look for easy prey victims who have become intoxicated. Criminal activity, including sexual assaults, can occur also onboard cruise ships.  The cruise ship companies have been aware of the numerous reported sexual assaults on cruise ships over the years, which have risen to such an alarming level that Congress intervened and passed safety legislations for passengers addressing sexual assaults onboard cruise ships.

MIAMI, Florida–Royal Caribbean Cruise lines is now the second cruise lines to step up to the plate and implement the use of lifeguards at their swimming attractions. I commend them for this move, even though there has been reluctance in the past to do so. We have written numerous times about tragic drownings that have occurred on board cruise ships in the swimming pools scattered throughout these mega cruise ships, mostly involving small children. In fact, in the last three years we have heard about at least four other drownings on board a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. This does not include the other cruises, in which we have also heard about multiple drownings occurring in the past few years on board their ships. Although the cruise ship companies seem to feel that a simple warning sign about swimming at your own risk is sufficient safety precautions for their cruise ships, Disney Cruise lines had previously been the only cruise ship company to step up to the plate and utilize lifeguards on board their ships, and even at their private island.

lifeguard-1363200-300x225It’s about time Royal Caribbean has employed lifeguards, becoming only the second major cruise line in the world to have lifeguards. We have learned from recent news reports that all the lifeguards hired by Royal Caribbean will be licensed and trained through StarGuard elite. In addition to employing lifeguards, the cruise line plans on implementing a few more water safety updates to their ships, specially targeted towards young cruise passengers. This includes signs reminding parents that they have swim vests available for young children and there will also be a water safety presentation during the orientation of the Adventure Ocean kids program.

We have always advocated for lifeguards on cruise ships because they are trained in recognizing signs of a drowning about to occur, as well as responding to a drowning situation It is easy for children to get separated from their parents on a large cruise ship with so many people and distractions, and it only takes seconds for a drowning to occur. A trained lifeguard monitoring the pools would be in a much better position to spot a drowning situation about to occur, as well as recognize a situation demanding an immediate response. The lack of lifeguards on board the ship has been, in my opinion, a major source of the tragic drownings we have read about with the major cruise line companies who do not utilize lifeguards. Studies show how fast a child can drown, and often times to the untrained eye, a drowning situation is not as obvious as one may think. Time is critical, and the expertise of a lifeguard observing a problem and responding immediately is critical to the chances of survival.

MIAMI, Florida–In a very strange case, a man employed as an IT consultant, who was on a cruise with his wife and two small children, was arrested in Rome, Italy, where he is suspected of the murder of his wife during an 11-day Mediterranean cruise aboard the passenger cruise ship MSC Magnifica, operated by MSC Cruises.

rome-airport-229x300At the end of the cruise, the husband and the two children left the vessel and were at Rome’s airport waiting for their flight home to Dublin when the arrest occurred. Authorities were suspicious because the tracking of the passengers showed that the wife had never left the cruise ship and had never been reported missing by her husband. After some questioning of the young children, as well as other reports that surfaced regarding an interaction with a gift shop employee and the couple, Belling was arrested in Rome for the suspected murder of his wife.

His attorney has stated that there is an explanation for the disappearance of his wife and the reason it was not reported. This was discussed at the preliminary hearing this past Friday, where Mr. Belling said his wife was not enjoying the cruise and assumed she just went back home to Ireland, as she had done on past family vacations. However, the judge ruled that Mr. Belling should remain in custody because of his “suspect” behavior and the risk that he would leave Italy if released.

MIAMI, Florida–Another tragic incident during a shore excursion on a United States-based cruise ship company has again demonstrated the safety risks involved when booking a shore excursion, even if booked through the cruise ship company, and even if the cruise ship company had represented that the tour was safe and operated by a reputable company. In this recent case, a bus transporting 31 Celebrity Solstice cruise ship passengers, who were a part of the “Farm Wine and Cheese – Sheep Farm and Dog Show” shore excursion, which involved visiting New Zealand farm life and tasting its produce, plunged down a steep bank after colliding with another car on the Akaroa Peninsula. According to reports, the crash left eight people injured, some very severely, who were all taken to the hospital. Of the eight injured, six of them were Celebrity cruise ship passengers from the United States. The most severe injuries were two of the United States passengers who remain in the hospital, two days after the crash. The Celebrity Cruises has since resumed its 13-day trip around New Zealand, arriving in Dunedin yesterday.

akaroa-300x199We have been seeing many reported incidents involving shoreside excursions in foreign countries, where safety laws may be very different from United States safety laws, and the port excursion operators may not be as accountable as tour operators in the U.S. are, therefore not making safety the primary focus of these operators. It seems the operators want to get money from these U.S.-based cruise ship companies by making deals with them, resulting in the cruises selling these excursions, and then sharing in the ticket sales. It becomes a profitable item for both the shore excursion company and the cruise ship company.

But the question is how safe are these shoreside excursions? Most passengers believe that shore excursions are in some way operated by the cruise ship company. At the very least, most passengers rely on the cruise ship company’s expertise in the industry to have adequately investigated and vetted the company and the excursion. In fact, cruise ship giant Royal Caribbean cruise line, owner of Celebrity Cruises, has the following on their shore excursion brochure, which can be found on their website, as one of the reasons to book a shore excursion through them, giving the impression that they have only selected the safest and most reliable excursion companies:  “Discover the heart of the destinations with our knowledgeable and experienced guides. Your excursions are planned by insured partners who adhere to the highest safety standards in the industry.” However, selecting the safety and most reliable excursion companies is clearly not always the case, as we are reading more and more incidents that happened due to some type of danger that the cruise ship company knew about or should have known about if they had done a proper investigation.

MIAMI, Florida–Another passenger has been reported to have fallen overboard from a cruise ship. Unlike the latest tragedy aboard the Carnival Elation, this story ended successfully. According to news reports, a cruise ship passenger aboard Princess Cruises’ Sun Princess fell into Pacific Ocean when the ship was between Brisbane and New Caledonia at around 4 p.m. this past Friday. The ship was on an 11-day cruise from Brisbane, Australia. Once the “man overboard” announcement was made, the ship turned around in hopes of finding the woman. Life rings and a lifeboat were deployed into the water, and about 45 minutes later, the woman was located by the lifeboat and brought back aboard the ship. There are no details as to why she fell overboard and whether the ship had a man overboard system in place. It seems like either someone spotted the woman falling overboard or the ship did have some sort of system in place because of the quick turnaround time between when the woman was reported overboard and her successful rescue.

ocean-195x300With the increasing number of passengers or crew members being reported going overboard from a cruise ship, even two man overboard incidents in one week, the news of such events occurring is not as shocking as it used to be, but obviously still is alarming as ever. On Ross Klein’s website Cruise Junkie, a site that keeps track of cases involving people going overboard on cruise ships, this high number of overboard passengers and crew members is illustrated. This most recent case on the Sun Princess, along with Ross Klein’s statistics, again points to the need for the cruise lines to step up to the plate and comply with the legislation requiring man overboard systems to be installed on the cruise ships. Clearly whatever system cruises currently have in place is not enough.

On a side legal note, most of the cases we hear about where a passenger goes overboard and is never found, results in little or no recovery against cruise ship company because of a law called the Death on the High Seas Act. Most cases happen when the cruise ship is outside the territorial waters of the United States, which triggers the application of the Death on the High Seas Act. This statute unfairly eliminates any recovery for the surviving family members for their mental anguish, grief, and emotional distress, which is referred to as non-pecuniary damages. The Death on the High Seas Act limits recovery to pecuniary damages, which many times will not be substantial, allowing the cruise ship company to escape responsibility. This is a law that is archaic and needs to be changed. Holding the cruise lines accountable if there is negligence, including failure to follow laws requiring implementation of man overboard systems, provides the additional incentive to make cruise ships safer for all. Instead, making companies more responsible under our system of law has been eliminated in the cruise ship industry by applying the Death on the High Seas Act

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