Maritime Injury Guide has discussed weather-related dangers for maritime workers, including hypothermia and changing weather conditions. Now, with several cruise passengers injured after a sudden gust of wind caused the ship to list, we want to discuss how weather conditions could impact passengers and crew onboard cruise ships.
Planning to take a cruise this summer? Consider how changing weather and other variables could impact your plans.
Several Cruise Passengers Injured when Ship Listed
The cruise ship Norwegian Escape was heading from New York to the Bahamas early in March 2019, with around 4,200 passengers and 1,700 crew members. The ship was headed to a port of call in Port Canaveral, Florida when on March 3rd, a sudden and extreme gust of wind hit the ship, causing it to tilt to one side. Cruise officials estimated the wind gust to be around 100 knots, or 115 miles per hour.
The 20-deck ship titled far enough for the life rafts on the low side to become submerged. Passengers on the 10th and 12th floors reported their balconies touching the water. Crew members and passengers reported objects throughout the ship sliding, falling, or breaking. Ship equipment and personal belongings were among the property damaged.
Cruise Passenger Injuries Reported
Among the cruise passengers injured is a woman who fell out of her bed during the tilt, causing a back injury. Another woman was injured when a lotto machine fell on top of her. Officials have confirmed that eight passengers were transferred to local hospitals, and others were being treated by the ship’s medical staff.
Passengers who did not suffer physical injuries may be traumatized after this event as well. Several passengers reported panic setting in as they watched the water come closer to their windows. Others describe the sounds of children crying in fear as they held on to their beds and each other during the ordeal.
The ship was reportedly not damaged in the incident, and was fully operational when it reached Port Canaveral. Inside the ship, however, was another story as tables, chairs, and equipment all slid to one side of the ship causing extensive damage.
Safety Procedures for Cruise Ships During Bad Weather
Cruise lines are aware that bad weather can have a devastating impact on their passengers, crew, and ships. Sudden changes in weather conditions can increase the risk of accidents and injuries, and cruise lines have safety procedures to prevent this from happening. Unfortunately, like the incident described above, some weather changes cannot be predicted in time to take precautions.
Generally, if cruise staff becomes aware of a storm or changes in the weather that could impact passenger safety, certain precautions will be taken. Safety procedures on cruise ships include:
- Closing Open Decks – When wind or surf picks up, it can be dangerous to be out in the open. Port and starboard side decks are the most dangerous in high winds, and cruise staff will rope off these areas during bad weather. Top decks may also be completely closed, or certain activities only, depending on the weather condition.
- Closing Pools – When weather causes the ship to rock, pools will be covered with nets to prevent passengers from swimming. While some people may find the waves in the pool tempting, it is dangerous and can cause injuries due to the unpredictable rocking.
- Preparing for Sickness – Bad weather often causes passengers to become “seasick”. Cruise staff are prepared, and when bad weather hits, they provide guests with seasick bags.
- Stabilizers – Most modern cruise ships are equipped with stabilizers. Stabilizers emerge from the hull of the ship on both sides. They protrude out from the ship, and provide stabilization for the ship in waves or high winds.
- Store and Hold – Cruise ships have many activities, shops, and restaurants. When bad weather is predicted, the captain may instruct shops and restaurants to lock down merchandise, table items, or displays that are breakable. Stowing away glass items, such as liquor bottles, displays, and glasses reduces the risk of injury to passengers and crew.
- Outfit Clinics – If bad weather is predicted, cruise officials may instruct ships to outfit their clinics with additional staff. Cruise passengers injured or ill as a result of bad weather can get treatment in the on-board clinics.
Taking safety precautions is incredibly important. Cruise officials and staff have a responsibility to make sure that passengers are kept safe during emergencies, including bad weather conditions. When safety procedures are not properly followed, the cruise line may have breached its duty of care to passengers. Cruise passengers injured due to improperly secured ships should contact a maritime injury attorney to find out if they qualify for compensation.
How Changing Weather Impacts Cruise Passengers
After planning and paying for a cruise, the last thing you want is for your adventure to be ruined by bad weather. Here are a few ways that changing weather can impact cruise passengers during their trip, and after.
One of the biggest ways that changing weather impacts cruise passengers is by changing plans. Wind, surf, and rain conditions can impact activities like boating, snorkeling, bicycle riding, or helicopter rides – all common at ports and destinations.
High or low water levels can impact inland or river boating trips. Wind and surf can impact small vessels that transport passengers between the cruise ship and the port, which is common in the Bahamas, Caribbean, and parts of Europe.
Cruise ships often navigate around storms or bad weather, which can change the itinerary. Sometimes that means getting to a port sooner, and other times that means skipping a port altogether. Depending on the dangers, the captain may decide to spend more time at sea, and cruise into port after the danger has passed. If it looks like a storm is a continuing threat, a new destination is likely.
Cancellations are rare among cruise lines, but are not unheard of. Cancelled cruises can be frustrating for passengers, and may cost them some or all of their reservation fees. Most often, if you request to cancel, you will lose your reservation fees or a percentage of your total ticket price. If the cruise line cancels, then you most likely will receive a full refund.
Cancelled plans may mean rescheduling time off from work, or cancelling summer vacation altogether.
Ultimately, bad weather can impact passengers in various ways. Financial frustration, mental stress, and physical injuries are all risks.
Information for Cruise Passengers Injured by Bad Weather
According to cruise ship statistics, since 2005, more than 440 major cruise ship accidents have been reported. These accidents resulted in 16 deaths between 2005 and 2011, and hundreds of injuries. Accidents commonly leading to injuries include:
- Falling overboard
- Slip and fall accidents
- Impact with objects (such as during tilting or listing)
- Outbreaks of illness
Current statistics do not breakdown how many of these accidents were caused by bad weather. Nonetheless, it is safe to assume that at least some of them were weather-related. No matter what the cause of your injury was, if you were injured while on a cruise ship, contact Maritime Injury Guide to speak with a maritime injury attorney.
Schedule a free consultation to find out if your injuries could have been prevented, and if you may be entitled to compensation. Contact Maritime Injury Guide by calling 1-866-871-8422, or fill out our online contact form.