Staying Safe on the High Seas: Our Maritime Lawyers Offer Tips for Cruise Passengers in the Event of an Emergency

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Given the recent string of cruise ship mechanical problems and past accident record of the industry in general, it seems cruise passengers shouldn’t hold their breath waiting for companies to make the necessary improvements to maritime safety. Carnival Cruise Line is just one of the many liners that has suffered equipment failure over the years, but with at least four reported incidents in 30 days’ time, the “Fun Ship” company is taking the brunt of criticism against lack of safety across cruise ships.

While all cruise lines are required under maritime law to provide a safe environment for everyone onboard, accidents continue to happen – and with increasing frequency. There are times in which freak accidents do occur that are unforeseeable, but as history shows, the vast majority of issues experienced across fleets have been due to some form of negligence, whether on the part of the company’s operators or crewmembers.

Although the cruise line industry has suffered major setbacks in popularity since another Carnival Corp. subsidiaries accident made headlines – the Costa Concordia capsizing on Jan. 13, 2011 – cruise travel still remains one of the most popular and economical ways to explore the world.

Knowing this, it’s important for all potential cruise guests to understand that accidents can – and do – happen, so staying safe on their own accord is critical. We can’t just sit around waiting for cruise lines to create a near-indestructible vessel that will provide a 100 percent accident-free environment. This is unrealistic. However, after spending years protecting the rights of maritime victims and gaining expertise in the field of maritime law, including maritime safety and cruise industry regulations, our cruise ship accident lawyers can offer advice to cruisers to help them remain as safe as possible in the event that tragedy strikes on the high seas.

If a cruise ship were to become disabled at sea, the first thing all passengers should remember is to try and remain as calm as possible. Although crewmembers should be trained to handle emergency situations, they are only human, and even the most highly trained crewmembers can panic. There are also times in which cruise lines do not adequately train crewmembers in emergency accident scenarios, leading to chaos and frenzy onboard – similar to what Costa Concordia survivors recounted. This is why it is important for passengers to do their part in protecting themselves from harm.

Even though our natural “Fight or Flight” instincts may kick in, it’s important to take a deep breath, retrieve your life jacket from your cabin, and make your way to the muster station assigned to you during your ship’s lifeboat safety drill. If an evacuation is required, it is much easier to deal with an orderly crowd than with thousands of people running amuck. Help your fellow passengers to also remain at ease if you can, which will help the evacuation process run as smoothly as possible.

If an evacuation is not necessary, keep your life jacket handy as a safety precaution and make sure to pay close attention to any announcements that will be made on the status of the situation. If you have a Smartphone, you can download our “Cruise Ship Lawyer” app, which will help you in the event that an accident occurs. Our app is free for iPhone and Android users, and features a convenient flashlight to help you if the power goes off, forms to help you keep track of any expenses or injuries and even comes with a built-in Wi-Fi feature for Skype so you can contact our law firm as soon as an incident occurs, so we can begin to review the case.

Even though most ships have medical staff ready to help in the event someone is injured, there are many cases of cruise ship doctors being unable to treat injury victims or incidents in which cruise doctors have given a wrong diagnosis, leading to further medical issues for the victim. Even though passengers can’t bring their very own physician onboard with them, you can pack an emergency first aid kit with essentials such as bandages, gauze, alcohol pads, pain relievers and other items that can help if you are mildly injured.

Another recommendation to help passengers stay as safe and healthy as possible in the event of a maritime accident is to bring plenty of water. Cruise ships may have laws against bringing alcohol onboard, but they do allow passengers to bring sealed water bottles. Depending on the vessel’s regulations, water bottles will have to remain under a certain size, but staying hydrated is critical during maritime emergency situations.

Passengers onboard the Carnival Triumph had to suffer through five days worth of meager food provisions, among other unsanitary conditions. Lack of hydration can lead to severe medical issues, especially if there is an outbreak of Norovirus on the ship. Bring as much water as is allowable by the cruise line and if also allowed, pack non-perishable snacks such as chips and nutrition bars to at least have emergency provisions on-hand in case your ship loses power.

These are just a few recommendations to help cruise passengers stay safe. However, the high seas can be extremely dangerous and unpredictable. While no one can foresee a cruise ship accident taking place on a cruise ship with 100 percent accuracy, passengers should know they have rights and can turn to a cruise ship accident lawyer whenever an incident does occur to discuss the possibility of filing a case and claiming compensation for any injuries or losses.

Photo Credits:

Frenzied Costa Concordia cruise ship accident evacuation – blog.bt-store.com
First aid kit – sunwarrior.com