Will You Be On the Olympic Cruise Ship This Winter?

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

olympicsThere are a lot of different itineraries travelers can take when going on a cruise vacation. The Caribbean is a popular destination, as is Europe and even Asia. In a few days, several cruise ships will be celebrating Super Bowl Sunday, and guests will have the opportunity to enjoy special meals and drinks. But this year, another kind of event will be celebrated on the high seas – the Olympics.

Beginning next week, the Winter Olympics will be held in Sochi, Russia, and millions will be watching the game around the world. But some will be watching from the comfort of a cruise ship. The Thomson Spirit, a TUI Thomson cruise ship, is the first of seven ships that will come into Port Sochi Imeretinsky and remain docked during the Olympic and Paralympic Games. These “Olympic Game Cruise Ships” will serve as floating hotels, offering 627 cabins to accommodate 1,254 passengers.

Doesn’t sound like too shabby of a way to enjoy the Olympics. And with over 500 crew members, 3 restaurants, 6 bars, a night club, casino, two swimming pools, and several other entertainment features aboard each ship, it will be a little hard for those onboard to focus on the games while they have a ton of onboard facilities to enjoy.

Given the high level of security at the Olympics, one would think that passengers will be completely safe during the games. But can we really say with accuracy that nothing will happen?

Maritime safety in the cruise industry has been called to question on more than one occasion since the Costa Concordia capsizing accident in January, 2012. Despite the innovative technology available to cruise lines that can protect and prevent tragic accidents, most cruise lines refuse to incorporate these technologies, leaving room for error and for someone to get hurt.

We are still in the first month of the year, and already the number of overboard accidents is at an all-time high. Reports have also shown that many major lines have yet to incorporate all the policies stipulated in the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act of 2010 (CVSSA), including training crew members to better handle emergency situations.

As maritime attorneys, we know that it’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to a cruise line. There’s really no such thing as too much security when the lives of thousands of people are at stake.

Interestingly, the port where the seven ships will be docked is actually a cargo port. It was designed to handle cargo for the construction of the Olympic facilities. Only after the Olympics are over will the cargo port be converted into a yacht marina.

Should we be concerned for the cruisers? Cargo ports are very differently equipped than cruise ports. There is also much more of a chance for accidents to occur. Cargo docks are constantly loading and unloading equipment, most of which is heavy and can lead to injuries. If highly trained cargo crews can get hurt, we can only imagine what would happen to cruise passengers.

We wish the best for the cruisers and hope their time will be well-spent. But the attorneys at our firm can’t help but worry for their safety.  With so many people already at the Olympics and thousands onboard these seven ships, there are numerous things that can go wrong.

There are a few things cruise passengers can do to keep themselves as safe as possible, but sometimes there are accidents that cannot be foreseen nor prevented. Our maritime attorneys recommend for passengers to bring their own small first aid kits, walkie talkies for communication, bottles of water, and to establish a buddy system. The chances of getting hurt or being the victim of a crime onboard a cruise ship are much smaller when cruisers are traveling in groups. For cruisers who have smart phones, our firm provides a free app called “Cruise Ship Lawyer”, which allows users to document incidents, track expenses, use Skype, and even communicate with our lawyers here in Miami in the event an emergency occurs.