Articles Tagged with Royal Caribbean Cruises

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–Sometimes we do not think about what happens if there is a serious accident or injury when a cruise ship is at sea, and the injured person requires immediate specialized medical treatment, such in the case here for a Royal Caribbean crew member. The 20-year-old crew member suffered a serious spine injury performing her regular job duties on board the Legend of the Seas ship.

helicopter-199x300Various news reports discuss how difficult the evacuation proceedings were, which indicates the seriousness of the injuries, and suggests potential paralysis as a concern. Evacuations at sea are very difficult and normally will not be performed except in the most serious situations where the injured person is suffering a potential life-threatening condition, or a condition that must be treated immediately by the appropriate specialists.

Cruise ship companies typically have on board a doctor that have some training in emergency room medicine. Historically, doctors on cruise ships have been from all over the world with questionable credentials. Many were not licensed in the United States, and many did not have a specialty with any relevancy to the type of injuries or illnesses that would typically be faced by a ship’s doctor on a cruise ship. In fact, I remember a incident where a crew member suffered heatstroke at a port, which can be treated successfully, but the ship’s doctor, who was from a foreign country and who had failed a test to become licensed in the United States on three separate occasions, completely misdiagnosed the condition. As a result, the appropriate treatment was not provided and the crew member died.

MIAMI, Florida–On January 14, 2016, passengers from Royal Caribbean International’s Independence of the Seas were onboard a tour bus operated by a shore excursion company in Jamaica, when the tour bus collided with the truck, causing the bus to flip over multiple times. The passengers were on their way back from a day excursion to Jamaica’s Dunn River Falls.  It was reported that the driver of the tour bus operator was driving recklessly on winding roads, when the collision occurred. Passengers were noted to have complained during the ride that they were concerned that the driver was operating the bus dangerously. The answer they received that drivers in Jamaica are known for driving erratically, especially around winding roads, and the manner in which the bus operator was driving was normal for Jamaica.

dunns-300x225As a result of this tragic accident, a passenger was killed and a dozen more were injured. The shore excursion the passengers were participating in was operated by a third party in Jamaica. One might ask what responsibility the cruise ship company has when a third party operating an excursion company acts negligently, or even recklessly, causing injury or death to the passengers of the cruise ship company? A recent lawsuit filed in the Federal District Court in Miami, Florida on behalf of  these passengers will address this legal issue, which is the liability of the cruise ship company for the acts of this shore excursion company, who the cruise company will assert is an independent contractor for which they have no legal liability for.

However, the passengers will try to establish the link with the cruise company by proving that the cruise ship company promoted the shore side excursion, and provided representations that the cruise line had determined that the excursion company was safe and there were no dangers to their passengers. The passengers will point to representations made on the website of the cruise company about shore side excursions that the cruise company recommends based on their experience. The cruise company even suggests that passengers not book port excursions off the ship because the cruise lines will only recommend reputable companies and it is safer to book the excursions directly with them. The appearances that the cruise line is involved with the excursion company, and the representations made suggest that the cruise ship company has determined the excursions to be safe and that the passengers can rely on the cruise’s experience and expertise with the various excursion companies available at the different ports the cruise takes their passengers to.

MIAMI, Florida– 2017 is approaching which means that cruise ship giants Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruises will soon be taking their cruise ships to Cuba. Two of Royal Caribbean’s ships, Royal Caribbean International and Azamara Club Cruises, are scheduled to set sail around late April. All three of Norwegian’s ships, Norwegian Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Ocean Cruises, are scheduled to start sailing to Cuba in May.

cuba-300x225In fact, on Tuesday Norwegian Cruise Line opened up its bookings for its four-day trip to Cuba starting May 1 on the Norwegian Sky. The Norwegian Sky is the biggest United States ship to make its way to Cuba holding 2,004 passengers. Additionally, according to recent reports, the Norwegian Sky is the cheapest cruise ship to Cuba out there at the moment. The Norwegian Sky is scheduled to make five trips to Cuba in May, leaving from the Port of Miami.

It remains to be seen how popular these cruises to Cuba will become. Even though Fidel Castro has passed, Cuba continues to be a communist country with Fidel’s brother currently running the country. Of course, the cruise ship industry always brings a lot of money to the ports it travels to, and what impact this will have on the United States public remains to be seen. It also remains to be seen how our new president, Donald Trump, will handle the new relationship with Cuba that has developed under the Obama regime. Will we revert back to the restrictions? If he does, cruising to Cuba may be short-lived.

Despite growing awareness of cruise ship incidents, including sexual assaults, fires, disappearances, and a host of other problems, an article in the Miami Herald indicates that the cruise ship industry here in Florida is booming.big-ship-300x225 The article reports how major cruise lines are bringing the biggest cruise ships in history to the ports in both Port Everglades, Florida and Miami, Florida. This includes Royal Caribbean International’s Harmony of the Seas, Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Vista, Holland America’s ms Koningsdam,and Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Seven Seas Explorer.

This brings us to the question of whether these mega cruise ships are better than the average-size cruise ships. Is bigger really better? The larger cruise ships will provide a lot more variety as to entertainment, restaurants, and other activities, as well as increased profits to the cruise lines. However, how safe are these huge cruise ships out in the high seas with thousands of passengers and thousands of crew members? What happens in the case of a fire or other disaster where an evacuation must take place? I do not believe anyone has forgotten the images of the Costa Concordia lying on its side in Italy after striking rocks, causing it to capsize. The evacuation process after this happened was a mess. There were many deaths and injuries, with the incident being compared to the Titanic. Although what happened on the Costa Concordia was a rare incident, it does highlight the issue of how safe these new humongous cruise ships really are.

Over the years, with an increasing population on board cruises, we have seen an increasing number of passengers going overboard, as well as an increasing number of sexual assaults and other crimes. This does not include an increase in accidents on board the ships. Do we have sufficient laws and regulations to ensure the safety of all the passengers and crew members that will be traveling on these huge cruise ships? The amount of alcohol consumption taking place on cruises and the mix of nationalities of both the crew and passengers on board the ships are just a few of the many factors that present very challenging safety concerns to the cruise line industry and regulators. In addition, the cruise ship companies enjoy incorporation in a foreign country as well as flying a “flag of convenience,” which means registering their ships in other countries. This allow them to escape certain laws and regulations of the United States, as well as avoid United States tax laws.

gavelIn a recent decision from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, Alberts v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 15502 (5th Cir. 2016), reflecting the pro-arbitration philosophy of the courts, seamen have been given yet another big setback in the pursuit of their right to a jury trial granted to them by the United States statute, the Jones act, 46 U.S.C. § 30104.

The case of Alberts v. Royal Caribbean Cruises involved a crew member working for Royal Caribbean Cruise lines, a Miami-based cruise ship company, who was a United States citizen and resident. There are not many United States citizens working aboard these foreign-flagged cruise ship companies. The crew member brought a case against the cruise line company pursuant to the Jones Act, which allows an employee to sue his or her employer for negligence. The Jones Act is a special grant of a party by Congress, enacted in 1920 to help protect workers on ships due to the unique nature of their employment.

Recognizing that seamen are clearly on unequal bargaining power with their employers, this congressional act is remedial legislation designed to provide seamen with a remedy when they get injured due to negligence on the part of their employer. The Jones Act, being remedial legislation, provides that the employer is responsible for an injury if negligence played any part, no matter how small, in producing the injury. In order to further protect seamen against overreaching by unscrupulous employers, in addition to granting seamen the right to a jury trial for their claim, the act prohibits an employer from contracting away its liability for negligence under the .

lifeboatI have previously written about lifeboat accidents, safety boat accidents, and other types of rescue boat accidents, occurring with frequency on cruise ships. The most recent catastrophe has occurred on Royal Caribbean’s brand-new mega cruise ship, Harmony of the Seas. Unfortunately, I have handled many of these type of cases ranging from minor injuries to fatalities, as well as cases where the accident resulted in paralysis. Other lifeboat and rescue boat accidents have resulted in serious physical and psychological injuries.

I have determined that these accidents are occurring because of the faulty designs of the major safety equipment, inadequate maintenance, and a lack of proper procedures for conducting the safety drills. We had previously written about Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world. It measures about the length of four football fields, and is longer than the height of the Eiffel Tower, carrying 6,780 passengers and 2,100 crew members.

Although this is a brand-new cruise ship, apparently the lifeboat failed during an attempted lifeboat safety drill, breaking loose from its apparatus, falling 33 feet (10 meters) into the sea, resulting in the death of one 42- year-old Filipino cruise ship crew member and four others catastrophically injured.

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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gavelMany years ago, I handled the case of Royal Caribbean Corporation v. Modesto, 614 So. 2d 517 (Fla. 3rd D.C.A 1992). I argued the case before our Intermediate State Appellate Court, the Third District Court of Appeal, where the issue was whether Florida’s Offer of Judgment statute which provides for an award of attorney’s fees if a party makes a Proposal for Settlement to the other side which is not accepted, and then one side or the other fulfills the criteria of the Offer of Judgment statute for the award of attorney’s fees. If a Plaintiff serves a Proposal for Settlement or Offer of Judgment, the Plaintiff must receive a jury award of at least 25% more than the rejected proposal in order to receive attorney’s fees, and if a Defendant serves a Proposal for Settlement, if the Defendant receives a jury verdict which is more than 25 % less than their offer, Defendant is entitled to an award of attorney’s fees.

In the Modesto case I argued, the Defendant argued that awarding attorney’s fees pursuant to the Florida Offer of Judgment statute would conflict with Federal Maritime law. Defendant argued the statute should not apply in a Maritime case because of this conflict. I was successful at the time with the Third District Court of appeal in convincing the court that awarding a seaman attorney’s fees pursuant to the Offer of Judgment statute did not violate any established Federal Maritime law, and enforcement of the Offer of Judgment statute would not contradict any well-established Maritime laws or principles.

Recently, our Third District Court of Appeals heard the case of Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. v. Byron Cox, 60 So. 3d 418 (Fla. 3rd D.C.A 2011) en banc, to reconsider the Modesto decision. The court concluded that in fact the Offer of Judgment statute does conflict with established Federal Maritime law, and that applying the statute would violate the uniformity principles of Federal Maritime law. Accordingly, the court concluded that the Florida Offer of Judgment statute does not apply in a Maritime case.

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