With the major cruise lines docking their ships for at least the next 30 days, perhaps this break can be a time for introspection and self-examination for an industry that has enjoyed unprecedented legal protection, exponential growth and profits.
As a cruise ship injury Plaintiff’s attorney as well as an avid cruiser and husband of an cruise line director of sales, I support and care for the industry, but am all too aware of its flaws.
It has only been within the last five years that cruise lines have had to answer for the medical negligence of their on-board medical staff. Their ticket contracts restrict when and where lawsuits can be brought. Maritime laws and 11th Circuit case law favor the cruise lines. Evidentiary rules make it next to impossible to prove cases of food poisoning or norovirus sickness. All of the foregoing, has given the cruise lines a significant advantage vis a vie their passengers that they have seized upon and utilized in budgeting for issues of medical and passenger safety and sanitation.
To be sure, the pendulum is beginning to swing in the other direction, but outbreaks of norovirus still persist, passengers have medical incidents and injuries on virtually every sailing and the current pandemic highlights the vulnerability of the cruise industry to the spread of pathogens.
The current crisis has yet to peak and the future of the industry remains uncertain, nevertheless what is clear is that the cruise industry will have to fundamentally change. Change will be demanded by the authorities as a pre condition to disembarcation and by the cruising public, who will need to restore their faith in the safety of cruising. The cruise lines will need to convert safety, sanitation and medical competency from their biggest dirty secret into their biggest and proudest sales tool in order to bounce back from this crisis.
Although that is likely to take a bit more than 30 days, this hiatus represents a valuable opportunity to implement and begin plans to market such programs. I would hope that such plans are already in the works.
David H. Charlip, B.C.S.
Charlip Law Group, LC