Top Cruise Accidents of 2015 and How to Stay Safe in 2016

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

cruise ship accident lawyersIt’s a new year, new you, and a new start to exciting experiences. Now that it’s 2016, you are probably wondering what it is that you can do to make this year more enjoyable than the last. Planning for a cruise vacation may of the things you are considering to get the new year off to an excellent start.

However, before you make any plans, it’s important to remember that cruising isn’t all fun and games. As our cruise ship accident lawyers well know, last year was wrought with numerous maritime tragedies that prospective travelers can learn from, and hopefully, allow cruisers to become more aware of the potential dangers they can face on the high seas in in foreign ports in order to stay as safe as possible.

Let’s take a look back at some of the cruise ship accidents that made headlines in 2015, including major incidents, deaths, shocking revelations, and minor setbacks, so you can be better prepared for your 2016 cruise travels and adventures.

  • Shore Excursion Accidents – On December 6, 20 Celebrity Summit cruise ship passengers fell victim to a tour bus accident in Tortola. As the bus was traveling along the Cane Garden Bay main road – a very steep and dangerous path – it crashed. Eighteen sustained injuries and two were killed. This was one of the latest shore excursion accidents to transpire, but perhaps the most highly publicized incident was the tragic floatplane shore excursion accident in Ketchikan back in June that killed eight Holland America cruise passengers and the pilot. Unfavorable weather conditions were considered to be the cause of the crash. These, and all other shore excursion accidents, serve as a warning to cruisers that not all tours are regulated, nor are all tour operators experienced or abide by the highest standards in safety. It’s important to research tour operators and their safety records before embarking on a cruise ship shore excursion.
  • Fake Doctor Working Aboard – According to a report on CruiseJunkie.com, on December 6, a Berlin man who was hired to work aboard an Aida Cruise ship as a doctor was arrested after falsifying documents stating he was a licensed physician. While the man had attained an education in nursing, he had been “practicing” as a doctor on ships for the past five years. The newspapers also reported he claimed his expertise to be in anesthesia and intensive care. What does this mean for cruisers? For one, it’s important to understand that cruise ship “doctors” are contractors, and are not required by law to have a specific medical degree. Also, neither ship doctors nor onboard medical facilities are fully equipped to handle major medical emergencies. This means that if you suffer a severe accident or condition that requires extensive treatment or special medications, you probably won’t get the help you need on board. There’s no real way to prep for an unexpected medical emergency, but bringing a first aid kit with important medications and other injury treatment items on your cruise can help in the meantime before you are able to obtain professional health care ashore.
  • Mishandled Medical Emergency – CBC news reported on November 10, a retired couple from Toronto required medical assistance while aboard the Royal Princess when the husband suffered a brain aneurysm. While he did receive medical attention on board, the couple received no assistance in getting to a hospital the next day when they docked in St. John’s. The cruise line didn’t provide the couple with transportation to the hospital, nor did they allow the couple to disembark at 8:00 A.M., when the cruise ship first began allowing passengers ashore. Not only did the couple spend 46 days waiting to get back home while dealing with a life-threatening medical emergency, they also racked up a countless number of unexpected bills. This happens all the time. One way to at least offset the costs associated with obtaining medical treatment in a foreign country is to purchase travel insurance that specifically covers medical expenses. Neither cruise lines nor foreign countries tend to accept personal medical insurance, so the more prepared you are to cover unexpected medical costs, the lower your out-of-pocket expenses will be.
  • The Slew of Overboard Accidents – The laundry list of overboard accidents that plagued the cruise industry in 2015 is more than we can count. One of the most tragic was the death of one of our clients, Bernardo Elbaz. Elbaz was sailing aboard Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas ship when he fell to his death after he was overserved alcohol and had an altercation with crew members following anti-gay remarks. Cruise lines have a responsibility of maintaining safety on board, but a lack of security and surveillance, along with overserving alcohol, has often led to several passengers (and even crew members) falling overboard. To prevent a cruise ship overboard accident, try to limit your alcohol intake and report any altercations you might have with other passengers or crew before they escalate. You can also contact a cruise ship attorney if you have any concerns or if you believe you were the victim of harassment or assault.

Many incidents on cruise ships occur unexpectedly, but bringing awareness to the fact that accidents can – and do – occur can help you and your loved ones stay safe on your next sailing. Should you find yourself in a dilemma while traveling on a cruise this year, our cruise ship attorneys are here to guide you through it and will file a claim on your behalf if you have a viable case.