Last time, our admiralty lawyer discussed the unfortunate truth behind cruise itinerary changes that stem from unfavorable weather conditions during hurricane season: passengers will likely not get reimbursed. Cruise passengers usually get the short end of the stick when their itineraries are changed for weather-related reasons. For one, most cruise lines specify in their passenger ticket contracts that they will not be held responsible for any changes or cancellations due to unfavorable weather, which means they don’t have to offer passengers any sort of compensation or even onboard credit for their losses. Whatever money the traveler spent will most likely be lost. If lucky, the cruise line will offer a few free drinks or casino credits. But that’s a big IF.
Aside from losing money from their cruise ticket purchase, itinerary changes can cause several other problems for passengers outside the actual cruise line. Some travelers book excursions through outside companies and will almost certainly not get a refund because of a weather-related cancellation – even if it was the cruise line’s decision to make the itinerary changers. Other travelers make plans at certain ports of call, especially when a ship stays at a destination overnight, and reserve hotel accommodations which they may lose their deposit – if not entire payment – for.
Bottom line, anyone who is planning to go on a cruise during hurricane season should always be aware of the very likely possibility that a storm may cause an itinerary change, and thus, cause a monetary loss. Passengers shouldn’t count on cruise lines accommodating to their needs because of a weather-related matter, especially since cruise lines rarely even want to take responsibility when a serious accident or passenger injury occurs due to their own negligent actions. It’s extremely frustrating, that’s for sure. But unfortunately, that’s the way it goes. Cruise lines fill their passenger ticket contracts with several loopholes that allow them to avoid liability for all kinds of incidents, and they often can get away with this because the vast majority of cruise lines are registered in foreign ports and fly foreign flags. This means that the cruise line can evade the penalties associated with U.S. maritime laws, and instead, divert all matters to the foreign country’s laws, which usually tend to be much more lax.
But there is a bright side….sometimes. Sometimes, if a ship were to become stuck at a particular port of call because of adverse weather conditions at that same port or at the next port of call, cruise operators might arrange for alternative forms of transportation for passengers to get back home. SOMETIMES. Most of the time, passengers will be responsible for those costs as well.
Cruise passengers should always review their ticket contracts carefully so they know what to expect. There’s not much an admiralty lawyer can do as far as getting passengers reimbursed for cancelled ports, unless in extreme situations where passengers suffer an injury or illness. When in doubt, it’s always a good idea for cruise passengers to contact an admiralty lawyer, who can review the specific details of the incident and determine whether or not the passenger has a viable case. As a rule of thumb, however, anyone cruising during hurricane season should be aware of the risk of cancelled ports and be prepared to lose money in the event this happens.