Articles Posted in Cruise Ship Excursion

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The cruise ship industry is plagued by norovirus and other multiple claims of sickness and illness from unsanitized standards and crew practices. Fortunately, those incidents are often temporary and transient. However, in an effort to aggressively compete, each major cruise line has made their ship a “recreational or theme park” resulting in more serious injuries, drowning accidents and deaths on board and through excursion packages.

Where is the ship that doesn’t have tennis and basketball courts, Jacuzzis, water slides and an entire array of poorly planned and non-supervised activities to keep passengers fully occupied. “The experience is no longer the cruise, but rather the activities aboard the cruise ship,” according to noted maritime lawyer, Ira Leesfield. An online search of the diverse and dangerous activities for each vessel does not reveal the failure to provide lifeguards, safety officers and crime deterrent, uniform and non-uniformed cruise personnel.

Recent rise in cases through the cruise industry is commensurate with the tremendous increase in the number of passengers and the obvious profit incentive of shepherding the largest number of passengers with the smallest number of staff.

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Last week, Theresa Meuers was untimely killed in a horrendous motor vehicle accident that occurred on George Price Highway in Belize. You may read Theresa’s obituary published in the Star Tribune.

Accident0009.jpgThat day, in the late morning hours, Theresa and Sam Schulte, her companion, were in the back seat of an SUV driven by Tour Guide, Leon Rodriguez (some have reported that the driver’s name is Leon Garcia of Big John’s Tours.) Before noon, Rodriguez overtook an 18-wheeler that was transporting oranges, and several seconds later returned in the same right lane. At this point, there are different witness accounts, mainly from Rodriguez, and the driver of the truck, Miguel Angel Arriaga. Rodriguez told the authorities that he slowed down to make a right turn, while Arriaga said that Rodriguez came to a complete stop in the middle of the road, with no turn signal indicating he was going to make a right. Arriaga told Police that he was unable to stop the truck in time and he rammed the 18-wheeler into the rear of the SUV at great speed.

Theresa and Sam were both stuck in the completely destroyed SUV for almost one full hour before an ambulance arrived at the scene of the accident. They were both taken to the hospital, but Theresa did not survive her injuries and was pronounced dead at the hospital later that day.

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Article written by Robert D. Peltz and Carol L. Finklehoffe of Leesfield Scolaro, P.A. Published in the Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys Journal.

The allure of exotic foreign ports and exciting new excursions form the centerpiece of the advertising campaigns of cruise lines, whether in the broadcast, print or electronic media:

• Parasailing in St. Thomas • Zip lining in Costa Rica • Snorkeling in the lagoons of Bermuda • Jungle trekking by ATV in Cozumel • Alpine hiking on Alaskan glaciers
Port excursions are not directed to just the adventurous, but to even the older and more timid passengers, extolling the virtues of

• Driving the scenic mountains of Tortola • Learning the secrets of the cooks of Caribbean by visiting local villages in Dominica • Visiting the Mayan ruins at Tulum
Over the past decade, the number of passengers cruising with North America’s largest cruise lines has literally exploded. According to industry figures, the number of passengers has dramatically increased from 9.5 million in 2003 to over 16 million passengers forecasted to cruise in 2012. As the industry itself is quick to admit, at least to its shareholders and tour excursion partners, the continued development of new and existing excursions has played a major role in this growth.

Nevertheless, at the first sign of an excursion gone awry, the cruise lines have been quick to try and disassociate themselves from responsibility for their own creations. In an effort to insulate themselves from liability, the cruise lines have utilized a system of disclaimers, which attempt to hide the true character of their relationships with their tour operating partners. These disclaimers are typically buried in the fine print in the passenger’s ticket of passage and in self-serving statements inserted into the cruise lines’ contract’s with their tour operators.

There is typically a wide divergence, however, between these self-serving statements and the facts on the ground when it comes to describing the cruise lines actual relationship with its excursion partners. Overcoming these inaccurate self-serving and inaccurate descriptions contained in the carrier’s written and electronic materials therefore typically becomes the first order of business.

Click here to read more about out firm’s cruise ship litigation practice

Contrary to these disclaimers, the most accurate description of the relationship between the carrier and its tour operating partners is best characterized by the joint venture. Nevertheless, because of the degree of control maintained by the carrier, various other agency relationships are equally as applicable in most cases. This article will discuss the nature of these various relationships, strategies for holding both the carrier and tour operator responsible for their conduct and the discovery which will be helpful in the process.

Holding the Tour Operator Responsible

Although most of the attention in excursion cases is typically focused on holding the cruise line responsible for its negligence, it is important not to overlook the case against the tour operator. Sometimes, one gets lucky and the tour operator is located in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico or some other domestic location. Most of the time, however, that is not the case. Nevertheless, that is not reason for despair.
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Royal Caribbean-operated cruise ship, Freedom of the Seas, was in the middle of a 7-night Caribbean cruise originating from Port Canaveral, when it stopped in Pic Paradis, St. Martin.

As is customary, passengers are invited to spend their dollars on cruise excursions while the ship is docked for several hours in the island. One of those excursions is the Loterie Farm Treetop Adventure Tour, which consists of a treetop ropes course and zipline adventure. Passengers had to board a bus, operated by Dutch Tours Enterprises N.V., from the dock to gain access to the location, and that is when an incident happened, in the words of Matt Stead, a Freedom of the Seas passenger present on the bus:

bus.jpg“Just after we went through the Loterie Farm gate we felt the driver hit the brakes, but no brakes and then the bus just started careening down. About half way down we hit a speed bump and everyone hit the ceiling and then the bus just continued rolling down the hill. There was a guy driving coming up the hill while we were going down so we ran into him, flipped that vehicle over and then ran straight down into the ditch. Tree branches got into the bus and many people received whip lashes from the branches. Everyone was screaming manically, we thought we were plunging to our deaths but the tree saved us.”

Another Freedom of the Seas passenger wrote in a message board: “I was on the bus sitting front row, directly behind the driver. My twin boys were sitting front row on the passenger side … It was the most frightening experience of our lives and one which will haunt us forever. I got seriously banged up and required stitches, as well as one of my sons. Had I not dove over to protect them and absorb their impact before we hit, they would have been much more seriously injured. How no one was killed is a miracle.”

From these two accounts as well as multiple others, it seems that passengers feel the driver was negligent in his operation of the 49-seat tour bus, or possibly that the bus itself had not been maintained properly when its brakes seemingly failed at the worst time.

tourists-make-the-long-walk-up-hill-after-accident.jpgWhat is also customary is the way Royal Caribbean and the local authorities, who depend on the cruise line industry to bring them tourist money, will spin what truly occurred. Already a spokesman for RCCL is portraying the driver as a life-saver: “This was a traffic accident, a type of which can happen anywhere and is no reflection on the bus company. The bus driver had to take an evasive maneuver to avoid an oncoming vehicle.
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Leesfield Scolaro recently filed two lawsuits against Celebrity Cruises and Caribbean Water Sports for the wrongful death and catastrophic personal injuries sustained by two cruise passengers in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

To read more about the lawsuit against the cruise line and parasailing tour operator: Lawsuit Filed against Celebrity Cruises and Parasail Operator for the Wrongful Death of Cruise Passenger

Below is a news report broadcasted on the local CBS affiliate.

 

 

After this tragic incident, parasailing excursions, which were traditionally sold to passengers before a cruise on the cruise’s websites or during a cruise aboard the ship, were indefinitely suspended by the majority of the cruise lines, including Celebrity.

Celebrity Cruises, owner and operator of the ship Celebrity Eclipse, announced the cancellation of all parasailing excursions in the Caribbean indefinitely less than a week after the death of one of its passengers.

Celebrity’s Public Relations Department made sure that the announcement at the time was well-publicized and relayed in as many media outlets as possible. “All parasailing shore excursions in the Caribbean have been cancelled indefinitely, pending the outcome of the investigation,” said a Celebrity Cruises spokesperson.

Celebrity Parasail.jpgIt was surprising today to find out that, with a simple search of Celebrity’s watersports activities, parasailing excursions are still being sold to cruise passengers.

While Celebrity’s PR Department made sure to that its announcement last November canceling all parasailing activities was published in every newspaper and relayed by every media outlet in the aftermath of the death of a Celebrity passenger, there has not been any news release or news conference announcing that parasailing excursions have resumed.

Celebrity has not communicated to members of the public and customers what its investigation revealed and the steps taken to ensure that such a tragedy does not occur again.

To read more about the dangers of parasailing and prior cases of parasail operator negligence: Lawsuit Filed against Parasail Operator in Wrongful Death of Cruise Passenger
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For any media inquiry, please contact Ira Leesfield by email or by phone at 305-854-4900.

Leesfield Scolaro filed a lawsuit in federal Court against Celebrity Cruises and Caribbean Watersports & Tours, for their respective alleged negligence which resulted in the wrongful death of cruise passenger Bernice Kraftcheck.

Celebrity_Eclipse.jpg
On November 12, 2011, Bernice Kraftcheck and her daughter Danielle Haese boarded the Celebrity Eclipse for an Eastern Caribbean Cruise departing from Miami, Florida. During the cruise, the mother and daughter purchased a shore excursion offered aboard the cruise ship, a parasail excursion which would take place after the ship docked in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

Tragically, the parasail excursion which was supposed to be a thrilling experience turned out to be a nightmare for the Kraftcheck family. After Bernice and her daughter were sent up in the sky by the parasail operators, the rope broke off due to heavy winds and dangerous weather conditions. This resulted in the two occupants to plummet into the water at a very high rare of speed. The force of the impact caused Danielle to sustain massive injuries, her mother Bernice sustained fatal injuries and ultimately passed away.

A lawsuit was filed today in Federal Court for the alleged negligence of Celebrity Cruises and Caribbean Watersports & Tours.

As a cruise operator who offers shore excursions to its passengers, Celebrity owes a duty of reasonable care for the health, welfare and safety of its passengers. Click here to obtain a copy of the complaint.

Cruise lines can be held legally liable when they advertise shore excursions while representing to members of the public and to its paying passengers that shore excursions are safe and a passenger sustains an injury as a result of the excursion operator’s negligence.

caribbean watersports.jpgIn the event that cruise lines select an excursion operator and fail to verify the operator’s safety policies and procedures, cruise lines will be held liable for their negligence and misrepresentation.

In its promotional literature, Celebrity Cruises represent the following to members of the public, potential cruisers, and passengers already aboard one of their cruise ships:

“This is your vacation – and with our Shore Excursions you can be sure it will be one to remember.”

“To purchase your Shore Excursions, view full tour descriptions, images and videos, or download our Shore Excursion brochures

“Whether you are looking for a high-energy adventure or a laid back, relaxing day, we have a Shore Excursion for you

Our shore excursions provide the best each port has to offer with a wide variety of activities and options to chose from”

We’ve done the work of planning your day so that you don’t have to – just choose which adventure to embark on

On its website, Celebrity made further representations regarding “our Shore Excursions”, including:

“Whether you prefer the thrill of parasailing – soaring 800 feet over the beaches below – or just basking on those beaches, Celebrity offers the perfect activity for every sun lover

“There are lots of things you can do to make this cruise all about you . . . looking for something to do off of the ship? We have lots of different shore and land excursions in every port

We offer many different shore excursions from every port. They are a great way to experience the culture and history of the various ports of call”

“When you give us your precious vacation days, we give you a world of modern luxury. That means you don’t have to worry about a single thing

“From our exhilarating shore excursions at every port, to our inspiring onboard activities, everything is created with your ultimate enjoyment in mind.”

No matter which of our incredible shore excursions you choose, you will be surrounded by some of the most astonishing vibrant and beautiful sites anywhere in the world.”

Our Shore Excursions will help you discover the hidden retreats and unspoiled masterpiece mother nature created”

Celebrity offers a wide variety of excursions

Celebrity passengers rely upon the cruise line’s representations regarding shore excursions offered on Celebrity’s website and aboard its cruise ships.
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Bernice Kraftcheck, a Celebrity Cruises passenger, fell to her death while parasailing in tandem with her daughter off the coast of St. Thomas. Danielle Haese, Brenice’s 34 year old daughter was also very seriously injured during the incident.

After several days of investigating the facts of this tragic incident, the theory that squalls and wind gusts that afternoon may have caused the mother-and-daughter tandem to fall from the sky and crash into the waters of St Thomas. Celebrity Cruises announced that it was terminating parasailing excursions pending the result of the investigation. Other Cruise companies followed suit and Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean have also suspended their parasailing excursions across the Caribbean. Carnival Cruise also canceled its parasailing excursions in St. Thomas, but not in the rest of the Caribbean.

parasailing1.gifBernice Kraftcheck and her daughter were passengers on a Celebrity Cruise and booked a cruise excursion through the cruise company’s website. Cruise lines offer passengers to book excursions, such as parasailing, either directly on the cruise lines’ website, or while on the ship at any time during the cruise.

Deadly and catastrophic accidents occur every year when cruise passengers are on excursions, and this incident, as tragic as it was, was not the first time a cruise passenger died while on a cruise excursion.

The cruise lawyers of Leesfield Scolaro have been representing passengers who have been injured during shore excursions, as well as the families of cruise passengers who died during an excursion. These shore excursions are operated by companies independent from the Cruise companies. There is however a financial relationship between the cruise lines and the local tour companies who offer excursions to cruise passengers. Cruise lines offer their paying passengers to book directly from the cruise lines’ websites an excursion, or to book it at the excursion desk located on each and every cruise ship. In exchange, the local tour companies agree to pay the cruise lines a percentage of their sales that are generated by cruise lines.
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