World’s Largest Cruise Ship, Harmony of the Seas, Raises Questions Over Safety Measures

portThree years and a billion dollars later, the world’s largest cruise ship began its inaugural season from Barcelona, Spain, which will be the ship’s homeport during its Mediterranean voyages this summer. In November, Harmony of the Seas is scheduled to reposition to its permanent homeport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Harmony of the Seas is a larger and more improved version of its sister-ships Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas. At 1,188 feet long and 227,000 tons, Harmony of the Seas is actually longer than the height of Eiffel Tower.18 decks, 20 different restaurants, a 10-story water slide Royal Caribbean is calling the “tallest at sea,” and 20 other water attractions, including a water park, are just some of the new features this ship has to offer.

The ship can accommodate up to 6,780 guests in over 2,700 staterooms, which is not including approximately 2,100 workers.  This is more than the population of many cities in America such as Aspen, Colorado and Carmel, California. It makes sense Royal Caribbean is calling its newest cruise ship a “city,” which is divided into seven unique “neighborhoods.”

This brings us to the question we have repeatedly inquired into: why do cities like Aspen and Carmel, half the size of Harmony of the Seas, have a police force to prevent crimes and respond to those that occur, but Royal Caribbean thinks its “city” does not require such?

Why does a cruise ship that accommodates thousands of people not realize a visible police force or security presence is required to deter crime? Why does the cruise line not put lifeguards onboard to prevent the tragic drownings we have been hearing about? With almost 9,000 people onboard a single voyage, one would think Royal Caribbean would want to take every measure possible to prevent the crimes and incidents we hear about repeatedly.

If Royal Caribbean wants to call itself a city, it should be accountable like one. There needs to be more city-like infrastructures on board cruise ships, such as a police presence. Crimes, including disappearances and sexual assaults, keep on occurring because both passengers and crew members are without a clear police presence and other measures to deter the conduct from happening.

Most believe you can get away with murder on a cruise ship, as many feel happened with George Smith, the young man who went overboard during his honeymoon cruise. Although foul play was suspected from the beginning, the FBI never solved the possible crime, and as a result, no one was ever prosecuted for any wrongdoing. Our firm represented the parents of George Smith and attempted to hold Royal Caribbean accountable not only for the tragic disappearance, but also for the mishandling of the investigation once it was discovered George Smith went overboard.

Brett Rivkind was then asked to come speak to Congress about cruise ship safety and security in order to address this huge problem regarding these floating cities not being held accountable to the United States authorities. This eventually led to the passage of the  Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010, which today is still not adhered to by the cruise lines. For example, the cruise lines are not complying with the law requiring implementation of feasible and available technology to detect when a person goes overboard on a cruise ship.

Additionally the Act made it mandatory for cruise ships to report criminal activity to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and for the United States Coast Guard to make these statistics public. Up until the Act became effective in 2012, it was a secret how much crime occurred on cruise ships. Although we have more information than before, we still do not have a complete picture of the crime occurring on these ships. Actual crime is much higher than the statistics posted. Although the Act seemed like a step in the right direction it still seems to not be enough.

Our firm continues to act as safety advocates for those harmed at sea. Brett Rivkind is an experienced maritime lawyer handling maritime personal injury and death cases for more than 30 years.