Cruise ship vacations can be among the most fun and exciting for adventurous travelers of all ages. However, cruise lines can also be a breeding grounds for accidents to take place, both at sea and in port. While there are many factors that can lead to a maritime accident, it is important that cruise operators take the proper precautions in avoiding disaster at all costs before someone sustains an injury and requires the help of a cruise ship accident lawyer to seek damages for their pain and suffering.
Our attorneys at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. have witnessed the aftermath of many accidents that take place both on the high seas and in port for a wide range of reasons. Some accidents are caused by crewmember inexperience while others are the result of a violent attack. However, one of the most common causes of cruise ship accidents is unfavorable weather conditions.
Although cruise line operators are supposed to carefully monitor the development of new storms and whereabouts of current ones, there are times in which the ship’s operators take the vessel out to sea despite warning that tides are high or that lightning and thunder are nearby. When a ship’s crew does not heed warning of a storm or other unfavorable weather conditions and purposefully takes the vessel into harm’s way, they may be found at least partially liable for any accidents and injuries that ensue. Because cruise operators have a responsibility to protect everyone onboard, the decision to outrun or evade a storm is not a wise one. Storms can quickly change course and cause severe injuries – if not death.
This is precisely what happened in 1998 to the crew of the Windjammer Fantome. The vessel had been out at sea at the same time that Hurricane Mitch was creating its own path of destruction. The vessel stopped in Belize and all 100 passengers safely disembarked. However, the ship’s crew, on company orders, attempted to sail the vessel out of the storm’s path, which proved to be a fatal mistake. The hurricane changed course unexpectedly and destroyed the ship, killing all 31 crewmembers.
This tragic accident serves as an example of just how important it is for cruise operators to ensure the safety of all whom are onboard their ships, especially because if an injury or fatality occurs, they may be found liable to pay victims damages and medical costs.
Recently, a cruise line took safety into consideration when it decided to alter its course and avoid being left stranded in the ocean to experience storms and other unfavorable circumstances. Carnival Cruise Line’s vessel, the Destiny, changed the itinerary of its five-day cruise, which departed from Miami on January 21, due to technical problems with its stern thrusters.
Instead of calling on Grand Turk and Half Moon Cay, as had been originally scheduled, the Destiny will stop in Key West and Freeport, Bahamas instead. Neither of the original ports has the tug boats that are needed to assist the ship in the absence of its stern thrusters, and had the Destiny arrived at those ports and a storm had taken over, disaster could have certainly struck, leaving many people onboard injured and stranded.
A stern thruster is a part of the ship’s propulsion system that makes vessels more maneuverable, especially beneficial while docking. It allows the captain to move the ship sideways to port or starboard without also moving forward, preventing ships from crashing – another cause of cruise ship accidents.
Luckily, passengers and crew are in no danger as all of the ship’s safety systems are functioning normally, said a Carnival spokesman, and repair work on the stern thruster is already underway.
“We are hopeful that the repair will be completed and the scheduled itinerary will be operated for the next cruise which departs from Miami on Saturday,” said the spokesman.
The Destiny is scheduled to return to Miami on Jan. 26 and passengers who chose to continue with the sailing received a $50 per person onboard credit. Passengers also had the option of completely cancelling and receiving a full refund.
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