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.
Economic considerations often override safety. For instance, Leesfield Scolaro cases arising from medical negligence on board ship as well as the cruise line refusal to either evacuate tragically ill passengers or otherwise change the itinerary and course of the ship. Now, and just recently, the courts have recognized legal action for the cruise line’s failure to appropriately provide medical treatment and assessment.
It is now customary for cruise lines to enter into contractual arrangement with onshore excursion operators splitting the profits, but trying to completely dodge the responsibility when the excursion goes wrong.
The cruise line’s failure to investigate and secure the safety of passengers with excursion operators’ due diligence, observation and search of the activity and a lack of danger assessment is often common, as the cruise lines try to make each trip more exciting, thrilling and unique.
In addition, cruise lines will provide onshore beaches, scuba activities, jet skis, unsupervised water sports, beaches without lifeguards, parasailing adventures, snorkeling excursions, bus trips, and other dangerous activities which are sold on board the ship or when the initial cruise package is purchased.
Passengers should ask questions! How are these activities monitored? What are the safety considerations? Is the equipment safe and updated? The most frequent problems arise from lack of personnel and instructors for passengers, often leaving them to their own devices.
The cruise may now be a “theme park on water” as pointed out by Justin Shapiro, a partner at Leesfield Scolaro. An online review and internet research can help to prevent unnecessary tragedy.