Articles Tagged with Shore Excursions

Recently, various news outlets have reported that Royal Caribbean Cruises was removing some of their ships from the port of Falmouth, Jamaica. However, it is not clear what is going to happen as several cruise ships of Royal Caribbean do travel to this port, and RCCL has invested money in helping to develop the port for bringing more cruise ships there.

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What is interesting are the reasons for the decision to bring less ships to Falmouth, Jamaica. One is harassment of the passengers by local vendors. One of the other reasons for bringing less ships to the port of Falmouth was the dangers of the tour bus operators. Tour bus operators have been an issue in the past. Last year a tour bus filled with Royal Caribbean passengers crashed, leaving one dead and many injured.  Again, this illustrates dangers at a port of call known to the cruise line, where the cruise line directed passengers to. These types of dangers are present at many port of calls, and we must rely on the cruise ship companies to do a better job of vetting these excursions to prevent further accidents and injuries during these shore excursions.

The question when something happens to a passenger injured during the shore side excursion is whether the cruise ship company will be held accountable if the accident was due to some unsafe or dangerous condition, or due to negligence of the shore side excursion company. Typically, for a company to be held liable for the acts of another company or individual, the company or the individual must be determined to be an agent of the company for purposes of imposing liability on the company. Therefore, it has been argued that the shore excursion companies are agents of the cruise ship company because the cruise ship companies hire the shore side excursion companies to take their passengers on excursions during a cruise. However, the laws become well-settled that because the cruise ship companies do not control the shore excursion companies activities, and a separate shore side company actually is conducting the operations, the excursion company is not considered to be an agent of the cruise line. In fact, the cruise line puts in their brochures and ticket that these shoreside companies are actually independent contractors, which the law has so held.

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–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–We have recently heard of two separate tragedies resulting from two separate excursions in New Zealand. When signing up for a shore excursion in a foreign country, we do not always consider the fact that the country we are in for the day may not have the same type of laws and safety protocols we are used to. We also do not consider that if something does happen to us during a shore excursion in a foreign country, what recourse we may have against the wrongdoer. As an American citizen abroad, we may in fact have limited ability to obtain justice against a wrongdoer whose negligence causes us harm.

newzealand-300x225These tragedies occurred during tours organized for the passengers on the Celebrity Solstice cruise ship that was docked for the night in New Zealand on November 22, 2016.  The first incident involved a tour bus full of cruise ship passengers crashing into a driver of a Mazda. The driver died as a result. The second incident involved a 71-year old cruise ship passenger on a cycle tour who was hit by a truck. She also died as a result of the accident.  Although injuries and deaths are not unusual during a shore excursion, as we have recently reported of another tragic accident on a shoreside excursion in the Dominica, two deaths on the same day from two different excursions is very unusual.

We understand that there is a risk of being hit by a car anywhere, and also, simply because there are risks associated with taking a cruise that travels internationally across the high seas, does not mean in any way that we suggest you do not take a cruise. Going on a cruise is a great way to spend a vacation, to relax, and to have fun. There are numerous activities both on board the cruise ship, and at the different ports the cruise ship visits.

MIAMI, Florida–A British cruise ship passenger has died and nine others have been injured in a tragic bus crash during a shore excursion in the Caribbean island of Dominica. The bus was on its way back from a tourist attraction when the accident happened. The cause of the accident is still not known. The passengers were from the P&O ship Azura.

dominica-300x198It is not uncommon to hear of passengers on cruise ships injured during accidents involving transportation of passengers to and from the site of the excursion, whether involving a bus, boat or other type of vehicle. In a case like this we would want to investigate the history of the shoreside excursion company, the longevity of the relationship the cruise ship company, in this case P&O Cruises, had with this particular company, and whether there were any prior problems with this company that the cruise company knew or should have known about.

The main question I receive is whether the cruise ship company can be held accountable for the negligence of the company operating the shore excursion. The maritime law has addressed this issue many times, and there is no simple answer to the question. However, it boils down to the usual question whether there is negligence on the part of the cruise ship company.

dunn-300x225A big aspect of the money earned by cruise ships is on shoreside excursions passengers take. Many passengers believe these are run by the cruise line, and the cruise line will stand behind these excursions if there are any problems or accidents. However, many times a passenger is surprised, after having a problem or an accident, to hear the cruise line deny responsibility on the basis that they do not operate the shoreside excursion that the operators are independent contractors, and the cruise ship company has no liability for the negligence of the shoreside excursion company. Since the shoreside excursions occur in foreign countries, the passenger is then left with the prospect of trying to pursue a foreign shoreside excursion company who may not be subject to jurisdiction in the United States, and who may not have any insurance.

However, maritime attorneys knows that he or she can come up with a few theories of liability against the cruise ship company for the shore excursions, including an argument that the cruise ship company should at least be aware of the dangers, if any, and then warn the passengers of these dangers. This is one theory of liability which imposes direct liability on the cruise ship company for negligent failure to warn of dangers. This would require proving that the cruise line knew, or should have known of the dangers, based on past experience with the shoreside excursion company.

In a recent case out of the Southern District of Florida, a passenger filed a lawsuit against Royal Caribbean  Cruises for an injury suffered when rock climbing in Dunn’s River Falls.

She was only 49-years-old. Christina Cassin was with her husband Scott Turco during an 11-day cruise onboard the Celebrity passenger cruise ship the Equinox.

The Equinox docked in Cozumel on March 28th.

The husband stated: “We went for a group dive. At some point I turned to the dive master to tell him she was going to the surface and when I turned back towards her, she was gone.”

Carnival Cruise Lines confirmed that a 14-year-old passenger aboard the Carnival Cruise Line passenger cruise ship VICTORY was shot during a shoreside excursion while the teenager was  in Coki Point Beach, St. Thomas. Apparently, Coki Point Beach is a very popular area in St. Thomas.

stthomas-225x300The teenager was with her parents on a safari bus at the time of the shooting. She was caught in a cross fire during a shootout reported to have been taking place between local gang members.

While this tragic incident appears to be a random act of violence, under the maritime law if a cruise line has knowledge of an unsafe area that passengers may travel to during a cruise, there would be a duty to warn the passengers of any such dangers. Therefore, if the cruise line was aware, or should have been aware, of an unsafe area at one of the ports the cruise line takes its passengers to, they would have a duty to warn the passengers of the dangers.

A maritime law case previously held that a cruise line could be responsible for a shooting of a passenger at a port where the cruise line knew or should have known that the area the passengers foreseeably traveled to was an area that was known to have a lot of criminal activity.

Under the maritime law, the cruise ship owes passengers a duty to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances, and that duty would include warning passengers of any dangers known to the cruise line that may risk the safety or lives of the passengers.
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