Cruise Itineraries Shelved Over Shellfish Violation

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

With all the latest major incidents unfolding in the cruise industry, including cruise ship accidents, fires, injuries, and deaths, attention has been diverted to the more serious matters, as the maritime community struggles to come up with ideas to improve safety for passengers and crew members. Yet, it has been a while since fingers have been pointed at a liner for a commonplace violation.

Last April, our cruise ship lawyers reported on the 1 million Euro fine imposed on Costa Crociere, the owner of Costa Cruises, for the January 13, 2012 grounding and capsizing of the Costa Concordia off  the coast of Giglio Italy.  The administrative fine was issued for the innumerable violations committed both before and during the accident, especially regarding the emergency evacuation procedure, which was nothing short of a complete mess.

Back in January, we also talked about a $20,000 fine levied on Princess Cruises by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) after the Golden Princess vessel was caught violating the Clean Water Act in May 2011. The Golden Princess was discovered dumping waste water from the ship’s pool into the Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska, which is known for its exceptionally clean waters and natural marine ecosystems.

Now,  it seems as though we’ve got a new violation in the maritime community, but this one is definitely unlike any other that has come before it.

A Celebrity Cruise Ship was recently fined for a lobster violation in the Galapagos Islands. Yep, you read that right, a lobster violation.

The Celebrity Xpedition, a small, 98-passenger vessel, was found violating a strict Galapagos Islands regulation regarding lobsters after 12 kg of frozen lobster tails were uncovered outside of lobster season. As a result, the islands have revoked the line’s operation permits in the region, causing the ship’s June 2 sailing to be cancelled.

The Galapagos National Park doesn’t joke around when it comes to their crustaceans. Apparently, several other sailings may also be affected by the violation if the islands do not restore the line’s permits.  If the island’s government refuses to cooperate with Celebrity, the cruise company may be forced to cancel itineraries for the next two-months.

News sources claim the permit was revoked for 45 days, but neither Celebrity nor the Galapagos government has confirmed this information. Celebrity was also reportedly fined $2,000 for the incident.

Meanwhile, cruise authorities contend the lobster was not acquired through any illegal measures. The liner issued a statement to USA TODAY through spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez, who asserted the crustaceans were purchased from authorized distributors in the Galapagos and all transactions have been properly documented.

So much for “Lobster” day for cruise travelers.

Yet, even after such a strange violation was reported, and despite the fact that no harm came to any of the Xpedition passengers, Celebrity, a division of Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., said it will be providing guests who were booked on the June 2 sailing with a  full refund along with a 50 percent discount for a future cruise.  Additionally, the line will be reimbursing guests for any costs associated with airfare.

Celebrity has already apologized to guests and contends it is “committed to complying with the rules and regulations of the Galapagos.”

Royal seems to be on quite the roll when it comes to compensating passengers.  Just last week, the Grandeur of the Seas was involved in a small cruise ship fire, and though no one was injured, the line took swift action to get passengers to safety, issued a full refund for all guests, provided for free air travel for passengers to get back home quickly, AND gave guests a credit for a future cruise.

Although the cruise company, the second-largest in the world behind Carnival Corp., has had its share of mishaps, so far, operators have been doing a fantastic job of compensating guests and containing maritime incidents.

However, in the event that an accident DOES occur on the high seas, it’s important that all passengers understand they have a right to consult with a cruise ship injury lawyer to make sure they obtain the compensation they deserve for their pain and suffering.