Cruise Passenger S.O.S., Cruise Ship Law

What Every Cruise Passenger Should Know Before Booking a Sailing


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Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. is comprised of attorneys that are nationally-recognized industry leaders in the field of maritime and admiralty law. Our team of lawyers has over a century of combined experience, has successfully handled over 3,000 cases, and has recovered over 300 million dollars in damages for our clients.

What Cruise Passengers Should Know Before Booking a SailingBefore embarking on a cruise vacation, prospective passengers have but one thing on their minds: fun. Travelers are excited to visit new, exotic destinations, to relax, and to spend time with loved ones. Most people are busy thinking about all the activities they will enjoy, not what could possibly go wrong. Unfortunately, the reality of the matter is that things can – and often do – go wrong.

So, if you’re considering taking a cruise anytime soon, there are some important factors to consider. Here’s a look at what every cruise passenger needs to know prior to booking their sailing.

Your cruise ticket can be deceiving

As the popular saying goes, “things aren’t always what they appear to be.” When it comes to the cruise passenger ticket, this saying couldn’t apply more. From the moment a cruise passenger purchases their ticket for a sailing, things can start to go downhill. Cruise operators don’t take the time to thoroughly inform prospective travelers of the “fine print” in their ticket contracts or to explain them what the cruise line is actually liable for. As a result, when passengers find themselves in need of assistance following an accident, injury, or medical emergency, they are often left high and dry without receiving any assistance from the cruise line. Take the time to read through the entire ticket before inadvertently signing your rights away and always opt for travel insurance to give yourself an extra “safety net” in the event that you or a loved one suffers an emergency.

Medical assistance is limited at best

In the unfortunate instance that you might find yourself hurt or ill while on board, it’s important to understand that you may not obtain the best of medical services. Cruise ship “doctors” aren’t always fully licensed or thoroughly trained physicians and the resources available in cruise ship infirmaries are limited to only being capable of treating minor injuries or illnesses. When a true emergency occurs, passengers are likely to be medically evacuated from the vessel and transported to the nearest hospital or health facility at the next scheduled port of call. However, although there is a process for requesting a medevac one is not always available and even if available by the time the emergency crews arrive, it may be too late.

Just as the cruise line has to follow certain procedures when a passenger requires medical treatment, passengers should be aware of what they can do prior to an emergency, as well as the best steps to take when injured on a ship or when feeling ill.

For example, if you suffer from a preexisting condition, be sure to do your homework and research the type of doctor that will be on board your vessel of choice. Some onboard physicians and ship facilities are better than others. If you find that one particular cruise line or vessel is better equipped than others, opt for a sailing aboard that ship. Also, be sure to bring any medication you are currently on or medicine that you might need in the event of an emergency. In addition, you should also inform the customer service desk upon embarkation of your condition and provide them with any information that will help them better serve you if you become injured or ill, such as what medications you are taking as well as any allergies you have so you are not administered a medication that may cause an adverse reaction.

Cruise lines are not on your side

The vast majority of cruise lines are registered in foreign countries and fly foreign flags. This means that they generally are not subject to the same laws that you would apply if you were being treated in the U.S. following your accident, injury, or crime aboard ship. In addition, the cruise line will always look after their own interests before looking out for the interests of their passengers if those interest are adverse and once you have been injured or are sick or have been the victim of a crime your interest are always adverse to those of the cruise line. When something goes wrong, they will try to document the situation in the light most favorable to them and may get rid of evidence damaging to them but necessary for you case, or they may delay in notifying the Coast Guard or federal authorities, or may even fail to report the matter entirely.

Bottom line DO NOT RELY ON THEM TO LOOK OUT FOR YOUR BEST INTEREST. You need to become your own advocate. Take pictures, refuse to fill out any document you do not understand, do not write or say anything that could later be used against in, make sure your read and understand fully anything you are asked to sign before signing it.

With this in mind, every passenger should know that they have a right to contact a cruise ship lawyer at any point during the sailing. If you are hurt or ill and the cruise line is not attending to your needs as you believe they should, you don’t have to wait until you reach land to speak with an attorney. The faster you seek legal counsel, the sooner your lawyer can work offer you advice and start working on your case.

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