By Richard Tribou, Orlando Sentinel
A class-action lawsuit against Royal Caribbean was filed last week claiming the company’s decisions during the approach of Hurricane Harvey to Texas put customers in danger.
The lawsuit, McIntosh v. Royal Caribbean Cruises LTD., filed in the U.S. District Court’s Southern District of Florida on Sept. 28, seeks damages for cruise passengers that were scheduled to depart from Galveston on board Royal Caribbean Liberty of the Seas.
The sailing, which was slated for Aug. 27, was eventually canceled after Hurricane Harvey struck Texas on Aug. 25, but then lingered over the state with record rainfall and flooding that caused the deaths of more than 75 people and billions of dollars in damage.
While cruise lines often have to alter itineraries and sometimes shorten or cancel cruises altogether because of tropical weather, the lawsuit takes aim at Royal Caribbean’s timing for decisions as the storm approached.
In the filing, the allegations read: “This Class Action lawsuit involves Defendant RCCL’s knowing and intentional decision to effectively force individuals who had purchased a cruise aboard the Liberty of the Seas leaving August 27, 2017 to fly to Texas while it was in a state of emergency due to Hurricane Harvey, because RCCL would not cancel or modify its planned cruise. In so doing, RCCL forced hundreds of would be passengers, including children and the elderly, to be subjected to catastrophic flooding and potential loss of life.”
And it also reads: “These passengers were strong armed into travelling to Houston based on RCCL’s assurances that safety was the primary concern and the voyage would sail as scheduled; combined with RCCL repeatedly advising passengers that if they cancelled they would lose the entire cost of the purchased cruise.”
Basically, the lawsuit takes issues with the cruise line’s communication to passengers as the storm approached. At first, the cruise line communicated the Sunday turnaround for Liberty of the Seas was still a go; then a decision to attempt to sail on a shortened cruise departing Monday was made; finally the cruise was canceled.
The lawsuit, though, claims the timing of the communications and lack of initial offers for refunds, and late-timing of eventual offer for refunds for those affected by the hurricane, forced its client, Nikki McIntosh, a resident of Canada, to fly to Texas lest she lose the money paid for her cruise. The end result was that she, and as the class-action lawsuit claims, other cruise passengers like her, were then left to ride out the storm and its related aftermath for up to six days.
The lawsuit seeks a trial by jury and actual and punitive damages. You can read the lawsuit at the plaintiff’s lawyer’s website at lipcon.com.
A Royal Caribbean spokesperson said the company does not comment on pending litigation.