Are Your Tax Dollars Making the Cruise Line Industry Richer?

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Although there have been a slew of cruise ship accidents in the past few months – more so than usual – the cruise industry has yet to really suffer financially. For one cruise company, Carnival Corp., it seems as though the funds just keep on coming. But while cruise lines like Carnival Corp. don’t take as big of a financial hit because most are registered in foreign countries and can avoid paying U.S. corporate taxes, now, it seems as though this loophole isn’t enough for the world’s largest liner. Carnival wants to make some more money and it wants to make it off of YOU!

Last month, U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-West Virginia, wrote to Carnival regarding the February cruise ship fire accent onboard the Carnival Triumph and what the line plans on doing to improve maritime safety. While the fire itself didn’t spread across the ship, what has troubled the senator – along with everyone who has knowledge of the incident – is what happened in the aftermath.

The fire knocked out all power on the ship and for five days, over 4,200 people were stuck onboard the Triumph in the Gulf of Mexico, suffering amongst the most deplorable and unsanitary shipboard conditions ever reported in the cruise industry. There were only a handful of working toilets aboard the 101,509-ton ship for thousands of passengers and crewmembers to share. What’s worse is the fact that human waste and raw sewage began overflowing from the toilets, spewing from deck to deck, putting everyone onboard at risk for contracting life-threatening illnesses. Passengers were even given plastic bags to relieve themselves in.


This was far from the relaxing cruise vacation Triumph passengers were expecting. Yet, Carnival has yet to be sympathetic to the plights of the cruise ship victims and the hardships they were forced to endure because the vessel did not have an emergency backup system in place to keep power going in the event of a fire.

Carnival maintains that the cruise line has always catered to the needs of passengers, but where was Carnival when the Triumph was towed to Mobile, Alabama instead of the much closer port of Progreso, Mexico? Where were emergency evacuators who could have pulled passengers off the disabled vessel and flown them to safety? Where was Carnival when the victims reached land and were offered a mere $500 for their troubles?

Carnival was busy finding ways to make those same cruise ship accident victims, along with every other tax payer in the U.S., accountable for their wrongdoings by trying to pass the bill along to whomever could take it.

After spending a ton of money rescuing the Triumph following the fire, Carnival Corp. wants U.S. taxpayers to pick up the tab. In his letter, Rockefeller pointed out that cruise lines never reimburse Coast Guard crews for the resources they spend helping cruise ships in their times of need, but according to Carnival, cruise ships come to the aid of others that are in distress at their own expense, so why should cruise companies have to reimburse the U.S. Coast Guard, the Navy or any other maritime organization?

Maritime Law requires that all vessels that are in the vicinity of a distress situation must assist if they are called upon for aid, unless by doing so they put themselves at risk. According to Carnival, reimbursing the Coast Guard and other agencies would mean that they would profit from the rescue, but how can recuperating money that was spent to aid a cruise ship that was stranded at sea because of the line’s own negligence in spotting a fuel pipe leak be considered a profit?

What does sound like a profit is what Carnival is trying to accomplish by taking tax payers’ hard-earned money.

Sen. Rockefeller explained in his letter that the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard incurred costs of $779,914 just from helping the Triumph. The same organizations spent over $3.4 million in costs when they responded to a similar cruise ship fire onboard another Carnival ship, the Carnival Splendor, in 2010.

“These costs must ultimately be borne by federal taxpayers,” Rockefeller said in his letter last month.

Because the cruise line refuses to learn from its mistakes or take responsibility for its own negligent actions, it appears as though it will do whatever it takes to avoid spending any money for its own mishaps.

Carnival went on to say in the letter to Rockefeller that it has no intention of reimbursing maritime rescue costs spent by the agencies for either of the two cruise ship fire accidents – nor for any future maritime incidents involving its ships – which at this point, given all the accidents that have happened since the beginning of the year, we know will be plenty.

What does Rockefeller think of Carnival’s arrogance? He thinks it’s “shameful.”
But what do cruise travelers think? Has Carnival ever bothered to turn to its faithful guests for their opinion on how to improve shipboard policies or how to spend revenue? The answer, sadly, is no.

According to Carnival CEO Micky Arison, the cruise line remains “committed to the safety and comfort of our guests and we are proud of our ability to provide millions of people with safe, fun and memorable vacation experiences.”

Memorable? Yes. Who can forget the taste of cucumber and mustard sandwiches that were served to guests onboard the disabled Triumph? Or having to defecate in a plastic bag? Or sloshing around human waste?

Safe and fun? Those characteristics are a little more subjective – especially safety, which at this point, Carnival seems to care absolutely nothing about.

While many cruise travelers have expressed disappointment in Carnival, the industry carries on, just as rich as ever, while the victims of cruise ship accidents, injuries, diseases, crimes, and disappearances continue to suffer without obtaining any semblance of justice.

Although it may be years – if ever – before the cruise industry will truly make a change in the way it operates and improve safety fleet-wide, in the meantime, all victims of maritime accidents have a right to turn to a cruise ship accident lawyer to protect their rights and fight for compensation for their pain and suffering.