According to estimates from the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), 17.2 million passengers from around the world sailed on an ocean-going cruise ship, 68% from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Most vacationers enjoy trouble-free voyages, but thousands of illnesses, criminal acts, accidental injuries, and deaths do occur on board these floating palaces. Most of these incidents take place in international waters, although they can occur at any point during a cruise. Often, these incidents happen as a result of a company or captain’s negligence, a ship’s state unseaworthiness, or misconduct by ships’ crews or fellow passengers.
Soured Dreams: Vacationers and Cruise Ship Injuries and Illnesses
For much of the 20th Century, vacation cruises were mostly reserved for persons with ample financial means. However, the successful ABC-TV series “The Love Boat” created a growing interest in pleasure cruising among the general public. Nearly 40 years later, cruising is one of the most popular vacation activities. According to a travel industry news site, over 20 million people from around the world went on a cruise in 2012. More than half (11.5 million) sailed in the North American market.
However, thousands of vacationers experience incidents that mar their idyllic trip on what can be called floating cities. Cruise ships offer many of the amenities of a tourist city, including restaurants, movie theaters, swimming pools, ballrooms, saunas, and much more. Nevertheless, as luxurious as they are, cruise ships are also places where passengers can get sick, injured, or killed at any point between boarding and disembarking.
Noteworthy Cruise Ship Incidents
On January 26, 2014, CNN reported that the Royal Caribbean liner Explorer of the Seas was returning to its home port 48 hours early after 600 passengers and crew became ill when an outbreak of gastrointestinal illness aboard. The cause was suspected to be a norovirus, a highly contagious virus which infects people when they eat contaminated foods, such as leafy greens or shellfish, or when they come into contact with an infected person. Noroviruses can spread easily on cruise ships with poor sanitary conditions or work procedures in kitchens and serving areas.
On Feb. 4, 2014, a four-year-old boy drowned and his six-year-old brother was hospitalized in a North Carolina hospital after both children were found in a pool aboard the Norwegian Breakaway. The FBI has launched an investigation because the incident involved U.S. citizens and took place in international waters. Though no cause has been clearly established, the boys may have been in a pool without the supervision of a lifeguard.
On Feb. 14, 2014, an Indonesian worker aboard the Holland-America line’s Nieuw Amsterdam sexually assaulted a 31-year-old American woman and attempted to murder her by throwing her off a balcony. The woman defended herself and managed to get away. Ketut Pujayasa, 28, claimed the passenger had insulted him earlier during the day.
Common Dangers Faced by Vacationers on a Cruise
Vacationers on a cruise expect to have a good time aboard a ship, but they should remember that ships and cruising are not free of risks or dangers. These are some of the most common cruise ship dangers that cause injuries, illnesses, or deaths among cruisers:
- Negligence by cruise ship staff or company representatives
- Food poisoning
- Legionnaires’ Disease
- Slip and fall accidents
- Swimming pool accidents, including drownings and diving board incidents
- Elevator and escalator accidents
- Toxic chemical injuries
- Recreational accidents while participating in activities sponsored by the cruise line
- Broken railings and ladders in disrepair
- Bedbug bites
- Unsecured objects that fall from upper decks or overhead compartments
- Cruise ship fires
- Wrongful death
If vacationers are injured while aboard a cruise ship, they have the legal right to file for damages. For more information, see our articles Death on High Seas Act and Jones Act Lawyer.