Passengers aboard Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas were involved in an accident when a tour bus from the cruise-sponsored shore excursion crashed into a ditch in the island of St. Martin. At the bottom of this posting, our cruise injury lawyers explain maritime law as it relates to shore excursions. It is important to know that we prepare and try our own cases and we have successfully handled many shore excursion cases.
The cruise passengers were on their way to Loterie Farm for a treetop ropes course and zipline adventure when the accident occurred. One of the passengers on the tour bus, Matt Steed, told Today (a St. Maarten Newspaper) that after they went through Loterie Farm gate, they “felt the driver hit the brakes but no brakes, and then the bus just started careening down.” He went on to say that they hit a speed bump, everyone hit the ceiling and the bus continued rolling down the hill.
While the tour bus was going downhill, a taxi was driving uphill on the same narrow road. According to Matt Steed, they “ran into him, flipped that vehicle over and then ran straight down into the ditch…. Everyone was screaming manically, we thought we were plunging to our deaths but the tree saved us.”
According to reports, the passengers only received minor injuries. The driver of the taxi pictured to the right, however, was reportedly seriously injured including a broken foot. Seven emergency vehicles, five of which were ambulances, picked up the injured to transport them to the Louis-Constant Fleming Hospital for initial treatment and further observation in some cases.
Dutch Tours has not yet commented on the incident, but an unidentified “lady” told Today that they “don’t know what happened yet.” To the best of our knowledge, Royal Caribbean has given no indication that it will terminate its partnership with Dutch Tours. “This was a traffic accident, a type of which can happen anywhere and is no reflection on the bus company,” Royal Caribbean spokeswoman reportedly stated. “The bus driver had to take an evasive maneuver to avoid an oncoming vehicle.”
Cruise lines are under a duty to provide their passengers with reasonable care under the circumstances and to warn them of any dangers they knew or reasonably should have known about. This duty extends beyond the port to places passengers may be expected to visit, for instance, during shore excursions. Maritime attorneys have long argued that operators of the shore excursions should be considered the cruise lines’ agents, apparent agents, partners, and/or joint venturers. Cruise lines actively promote, advertise, and sell the shore excursions aboard their vessels and through their employees. Cruise lines allow their passengers to believe that employees of the excursions are their own employees. And cruise lines share in the profits generated by the subject excursions. In this case, for instance, if that relationship were found to exist between Royal Caribbean and Dutch Tours, any negligence on the part of Dutch Tours could be imputed to Royal Caribbean.