On May 22, 2013, the Cruise Line Industry Association (CLIA) adopted a formal Cruise Line Passenger Bill of Rights designed to protect the rights of cruise line passengers in the event of mechanical failures and other emergencies. Less than a week later, on the morning of May 28, the Bill of Rights was put to the test when a large fire broke out on Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas. The ship was headed south after departing Baltimore when it became engulfed in flames. According to a detailed account of the incident written by a passenger and published in the Baltimore Sun, the ship’s crew acted quickly to put out the fire and insure that all passengers were safe.
The new Bill of Rights was adopted at the CLIA Convention to alleviate passengers’ concerns about cruise ship safety in the face of a number of accidents and mechanical failures that have occurred in the last year and to counter the negative publicity generated by them. Among the most notable incidents were the sinking of the Costa Concordia, which resulted in the deaths of a number of passengers, and the engine failure which left passengers onboard the Carnival Triumph stranded without power for several days. (For more information on recent cruise accidents, see the blog post below from March 18, 2013).
While the Bill of Rights has been called a step in the right direction by maritime lawyers representing both passengers and the industry, it also has been criticized for not going far enough in addressing a number of recurring problems. And while the Bill of Rights does lay out specific rights passengers traveling onboard member cruise lines have in the event of emergencies , and what kind of service they can expect while cruising, it does not provide for the adoption of any new regulations. A memo released by the CLIA to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) does make clear, however, that the Bill of Rights will apply to all United States passengers who purchase their tickets in North America, regardless of their itinerary.