Articles Tagged with Anthem of the Seas

wavesWith modern day technology, the cruise ship companies believe they can outmaneuver mother nature, and believe that the fear created by encountering rough seas and rough weather, as well as the unpleasantness and dangers that can result, is not enough to cancel a cruise. I have written many times about cruise ship companies deciding that their mega cruise ships are capable of withstanding storms, and their reluctance to cancel cruises, resulting in passengers being endangered when cruise ships are driven into severe weather, including tropical storms and even hurricanes.

I also have also written about the Anthem of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, too many times this year. This includes its decision to navigate into a storm this past February. For some reason Anthem of the Seas had not learned from its mistakes, and again, the ship decided to not to cancel its itinerary despite Tropical Storm Hermine warnings.

Often times, severe weather causes dishes, plates, furniture, and other items to fly across areas on the ship, creating dangers to passengers and crew. Of course, seasickness is also common during encounters with rough weather. There is also the danger of the ship losing power during a storm, and being at the mercy of strong season winds. In extreme cases, ships have sunk during hurricanes because a ship-owner decided to take a chance and outmaneuver a storm as was in the case of El Faro.

lifeguardIn yet another incident involving a passenger emergency in a swimming pool on board a cruise ship, it has been reported that a 72-year-old lady had to be rescued by bystanders (not a trained lifeguard or other cruise line staff) when she appeared in distress while in a swimming pool on board  Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas.  The Anthem of the Seas may sound familiar when discussing the need for lifeguards, as this is the second major swimming pool emergency this year involving this ship alone! Just last month, an eight year old boy died after nearly drowning in a pool also on board the Anthem of the Seas.

My firm has repeatedly urged that there be requirements for lifeguards onboard cruise ships, where there are many swimming attractions present.  With the thousands of passengers running around all the time, including children, there are many opportunities for a brief moment of distraction, and for a disaster to occur.  A trained lifeguard is an expert at detecting a problem before it occurs, and of course an expert in responding to an incident if it is not prevented, as a timely response to any type of incident involving an individual in distress in a swimming pool needs immediate professional attention.

Cruise ship companies, including Royal Caribbean, have resisted placing lifeguards on their cruise ships, probably because of the expense.  Of course having lifeguards are more expensive and require cabin space, meaning less cabins to sell to passengers.  Again, profits seem to rule the day in the cruise ship industry.  For many years it has been urged to place stricter regulations on the cruise ship industry, and there has been some progress, but not enough.

cruise poolWe have previously reported about drownings on cruise ships. We believe this is a major problem that needs to be addressed. We have handled too many cruise ship drowning cases that we believe could have been prevented.

The most recent tragedy we have learned of is the near drowning of an 8-year-old boy yesterday evening while on board Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas. According to various news outlets, the boy was found unconscious in one of the ship’s swimming pools, after at least 18 minutes without oxygen. Because additional medical attention was required, the ship altered its course and returned to its New Jersey port. Currently, the child is at Staten Island University Hospital on life support.

Maritime attorney Brett Rivkind previously spoke before the United States Congress on cruise ship safety and security. He urged Congress to closely analyze the cruise ship industry, their self-regulation, the laws that apply to them, and the laws that do not apply to them. Without strong safety legislation, passengers have to rely on the cruise ship industry itself to address many of the safety risks that are present on board these ships. Historically, we believe that this is a terrible method to assure safety for passengers, as the cruise ship companies are worried about their image and their profits. Therefore, safety often gets ignored in favor of profits.

stormI previously wrote about Royal Caribbean cruise line’s decision to navigate the Anthem of the Seas into a storm, exposing the ship, passengers and crews to winds in excess of 100 miles per hour and seas in excess of 30 feet high. The incident resulted in damages to the ship, and reported physical injuries to some passengers and crew. Of course, the emotional damages due to this traumatic event is hard to measure, but apparent.

Another storm appears to be forecasted where the Anthem of the Seas was planning to go. However this time Royal Caribbean has announced it is cancelling the itinerary, to avoid the storm.

As I discussed in my prior blog, cruise lines normally do not cancel area cruise despite a forecasted storm, because they believe they can navigate around the storms, or that the ships are invincible. The decision is usually motivated by a desire to avoid the costs associated with canceling an itinerary. Normally, it is a financial decision that ends up exposing the passengers and crew to risk of injury or death when a cruise ship encounters a storm that was forecasted.

As previously reported, the Royal Caribbean cruise ship the Anthem of the Seas suffered damages, and caused personal injuries to passengers, when the cruise ship was navigated into the path of a severe storm. The ship was reported to list (tilted) almost completely on its side. Experts state that this storm was forecasted, and question the cruise ship company’s decision to head into the area. The cruise line defends its actions saying the storm was worse than it was forecasted, and had it known that the winds would get so strong they would never have directed the cruise ship into the area.

storm cloudsI have previously written about the decision of cruise ship companies to not cancel cruises despite forecasted storms. It is very costly to the cruise line to cancel a cruise or change its itinerary, and my experience in handling maritime cases over the past 30 years has been that the cruise line does what it can to avoid this. The companies believe their mega  ships can withstand any type of weather, and take its chances that it will simply be an uncomfortable ride for its passengers.

Several times this decision making process on the part of the cruise lines has backfired, and resulted in serious damages to the cruise ship, passengers and crew.

Maritime Law states that a cruise ship company owes a duty of reasonable care to all of its passengers, which includes a duty to exercise reasonable care in making decisions on the itinerary of the ship, and to provide a reasonably safe and comfortable cruise for the passengers. Clearly heading into a forecasted storm of this magnitude is a breach of that duty.

Once there is a breach of the duty of care owed to the passengers, the passenger then must prove more than merely psychological damages or emotional distress. The passenger ticket indicates that there must be a physical impact or injuries before a passenger can bring a case for emotional distress or emotional damages. The law also requires more than simply claiming there was fear as a result of the storm and therefore emotional damages were suffered.

There is a test called the Zone of Danger Test, which states that if a passenger was within the zone of danger of the physical impact, and suffered emotional damages but no physical injuries, the passenger can recover for emotional damages. This would likely apply in cases such as what occurred with the Anthem of the Seas.

A lawsuit is being filed, claiming compensatory damages and punitive damages. This could be a good case to bring a claim for punitive damages, if  allowed under the General Maritime Law, for being reckless and exposing the passengers and crew to the risks of injury and possibly death by heading into a storm of this magnitude. However, this is a difficult case because often times the Coast Guard and the authorities in charge of investigating such incidents are favorable to the cruise line. My firm once handled a case involving a cruise ship that headed into a well-forecasted storm, and all independent experts agreed it was crazy to go into the storm and risk the lives and safety of the passengers and crew. However, the governmental authority that issued the flag to the vessel, and even our United States Coast Guard, bought the cruise line’s argument that the incident was nothing but an unavoidable encounter with unexpected weather, which is the typical defense.
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rough-day-1380234The attached article discusses the recent adventure with the Anthem of the Seas, a large passenger cruise ship owned and operated by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. The cruise ship company decided to head into an area where weather forecasts predicted severe weather. The cruise ship encountered winds as high as those of a category five hurricane. The ship encountered 30 foot waves. The ship’s propulsion system was damaged.

Obviously, although the cruise ship survived intact, and the more than 4500 passengers returned safely other than the ordeal they had been put through by the ship being navigated into such severe weather, there was a significant risk the passengers and crew were subjected to. A CNN report  indicated that Senator Bill Nelson in Florida has demanded an investigation into why the cruise line headed into the storm and hopefully there will be a magnifying glass on the decision and not simply an acceptance of the typical argument by the cruise line that the storm simply worsened unexpectedly.

There is a history of cruise ships taking chances by continuing forward on planned itinerary and cruises even though severe weather is forecasted. The cruise ship companies believe that their huge mega size cruise ships can withstand anything, and it is very costly to cancel cruises or change itineraries. Therefore, the cruise ship companies deliberately decide to go forward with their planned itineraries or cruises, and have adopted a mentality that these cruise ships are bulletproof when it comes to rough weather. They take their chances on being able to navigate around a storm, prioritizing profit over the comfort and safety of its passengers and crew members.

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