Contributors

Charles R. Lipcon
Charles R. Lipcon is the firm's founding attorney and has been handling injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims for over 40 years. Read More »
Jason R. Margulies
Jason R. Margulies is an experienced maritime lawyer and an active trial attorney handling personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims. Read More »
Ricardo V. Alsina
Ricardo V. Alsina is an active trial attorney, handling personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims. Read More »
Michael A. Winkleman
Mr. Winkleman is an active trial and appellate attorney handling all personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims, as well as complex business disputes. Read More »

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Security on cruise shipsStatistics show that over 200 cruise passengers and crew have gone overboard since 1995. Though several factors can play a role in these tragic accidents, including intoxication or foul play, cruise line security and safety continues to be subpar – despite recent advances in technology that have led to the creation of overboard passenger radar detection. Unfortunately, the vast majority of those who are involved in overboard accidents do not survive. The sheer fall from a ship alone can be fatal, but other factors, such as exposure, tides, and marine life can also contribute to an overboard victim’s death.

The maritime lawyers at our firm have represented several grief-stricken loved ones whose family members and friends have fallen overboard from cruise ships. And what’s most striking is the fact that in many of these cases, there was no footage of the actual incident. These days, cruise ships are designed to carry well over 2,000 passengers and hundreds of crew members. Most cruise ships are equipped with surveillance technology, but then how are there no records of these accidents? Moreover, why aren’t there any crew members monitoring public areas to prevent these accidents in the first place?

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St KittsThe new cruise season is approaching, and many are getting ready to hit the high seas in full force. However, given the fact that the last few years have been riddled with criticism for the cruise industry, any experienced maritime lawyer might wonder if there will even be a significant turnout of passengers.

Results from recently conducted Harris Polls reveal that trust in the cruise industry has severely declined due to an increase in the number of accidents and crimes in the past few years. The Costa Concordia tragedy of 2012 and the Carnival Triumph fire of 2013 were two of the accidents that had the most significant impact on cruiser opinion. The Concordia accident, which involved the vessel crashing into a large rock off the coast of Giglio, Italy and subsequently capsizing, led to the deaths of 32 individuals. The Triumph fire was the result of a fuel leak, and the incident left over 3,000 people stranded in the Gulf of Mexico with meager rations and zero working toilets. Sadly, both of these accidents could have been prevented had a greater amount of care been given to ensuring the safety of passengers.

But while the public’s opinion on cruising has diminished, one nation projects a pretty significant spike in the number of cruisers that will call on its port.

According to a recent article on the Caribbean Journal, St Kitts, one of the most popular cruise destinations, expects around one million cruise passengers for the 2014/2015 cruise season, a 31.5 percent increase over last year’s totals and an overall 500 percent increase over the past eight years.

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Caribbean cruiseIn our last blog, our maritime attorney discussed some of the ways Caribbean cruises can pose threats for cruise passengers. Many destinations in the Caribbean, especially the Bahamas, Honduras, and Belize, are wrought with danger and skyrocketing crime rates. But while it’s impossible to completely eliminate these hazards, there are a few things cruisers can do to reduce their chances of becoming the victims of a crime while on a cruise to the Caribbean – or any foreign destination in general.

One way to stay as safe as possible in foreign ports is to avoid areas that are very far from port, where it can be difficult to find fast transportation back to the ship. It is also advisable to visit areas that are out in the open, such as restaurants close to port or beaches close to port. Passengers should avoid alleys and small areas, where it is much easier to fall victim to a criminal attack than in wide open spaces. Additionally, passengers should avoid traveling alone – especially women. Criminals tend to focus on easy targets, and there’s nothing easier than a single traveler. Traveling in large groups means there’s a much greater chance cruise passengers can defend themselves against one or two assailants and the assailants, usually, will prefer to make a quick getaway and avoid large groups that may pose trouble for them.

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Cruise ships in Grand TurkThe Caribbean has long been one of the most popular cruise destinations, and for good reason. The allure of basking beneath the warm sun, swimming with dolphins, or just kicking back with a cocktail beneath a swaying palm is not something anyone can easily deny. But as any offshore injury lawyer at our firm can tell you, even the Caribbean, with all its splendor and promise of adventure, can pose a threat to cruise travelers.

Both journeys to the Caribbean aboard a cruise ship and experiences ashore can be dangerous for several reasons. On board a ship, accidents and crimes can happen at any moment just like they do on land. Though cruise lines have a responsibility under maritime law to protect those onboard from harm, again like land based hotels and resorts, they don’t always do a good enough job at fulfilling this duty. The ratio of ship board security people, surveillance equipment and monitoring and the level of training, experience, and resources that the ship board security staff has is considerably less than that available in most land based hotels and resorts. Remember, once that vessel is at sea, getting outside help to assist the shipboard crew can take hours to accomplish if it is accomplishable at all.

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Alcohol on cruise shipsLast time, our cruise ship rape lawyer discussed how alcohol can play a large role in sexual assault crimes on the high seas. Alcohol can lower inhibitions, and given the new unlimited alcohol packages that cruise lines are now offering passengers, the chances that a sexual assault or rape will occur on a ship are much higher. Let’s explore the reasons why.

These new alcohol packages allow cruise passengers to pay a flat fee and enjoy an unlimited number of alcoholic beverages including beer, wine, and other assorted cocktails. Knowing that the drinks can just keep on coming means that passengers are much more likely to order more than their usual number of alcoholic drinks and get much more intoxicated than even they would expect.

Several cruise passengers have had their drinks spiked by sexual assailants, and the fact that these unlimited alcohol packages are available means two things: 1) there is a much higher chance for assailants to spike drinks because more drinks are being ordered in general, and 2) the fact that unlimited drinks can lead to over intoxication means that a potential victims’ judgment is much more impacted, preventing them from being able to notice their drinks being spiked to begin with.

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cruise ship drink packagesAny cruise ship rape lawyer at our firm can tell you that sexual assault has long been a problem for cruise lines. In fact, sexual assault is the highest reported crime on cruise ships. And the worst part is that victims can be of any age.

There are many reasons as to why there are frequent sexual assaults on ships. For one, cruise ships are extremely confined. Attacks can easily occur because there are dozens of hidden corridors and spaces that make an assault that much easier. Additionally, surveillance on a ship is poor. Though most cruise ships are equipped with surveillance cameras, they aren’t always monitored to ensure passengers are kept safe. Also, there are no actual police officers on board ships to help detect the signs of a possible assault in progress or to assist with investigations. Sexual crimes are far more complicated than an average incident on a ship. These terrible crimes impact victims for their entire lives, causing unspeakable trauma and pain. Yet, in spite of the alarming statistics regarding sexual assault and rape on the high seas, cruise lines haven’t done much to reduce these horrible crimes from occurring.

Perhaps one of the most common factors that many sexual assaults at sea have in common is the fact that many of the victims are drugged. Perpetrators often spike a victim’s drink with dangerous substances that can lower their inhibitions or make the victim unconscious, facilitating the assailant’s ability to assault the victim. Given that many cruise lines push for high sales of alcohol, as alcohol is one of the cruise industry’s leading forms of revenue, could all these new “booze packages” be contributing to the rise in sexual crimes on ships?

From the standpoint of an experienced cruise ship rape lawyer , the answer is yes.

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Lower chances of getting sick on a cruiseIn our last blog, our maritime lawyers discussed a suspected measles outbreak in Alaska. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Anchorage Quarantine Station, a cruise ship crew member allegedly came into contact with “a confirmed measles case aboard”. Despite the fact that the CDC did not specify which ship the crew member was on, the organization did report that the crew member showed the “classic clinical symptoms of measles” and additionally had come into contact with others while on international and domestic flights.

The CDC conducts two yearly sanitation inspections on all cruise ships calling on U.S. ports, and many have repeatedly failed. This means that there is a very possible risk that if the crew member did in fact have measles, the crew member may not have been quarantined, nor the areas he or she was exposed to. And given the fact that measles is extremely contagious and can spread through airborne exposure to the virus, it is imperative that anyone considering going on a cruise to Alaska understand the risks of being exposed to measles, as well as their options for staying as healthy as possible. Our maritime lawyers have a few tips for potential cruisers to avoid the chance of contagion. Continue reading →

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sick cruise passengerThis year was one of the worst that each maritime lawyer here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. has seen when it comes to illnesses at sea. There have been a record number of Norovirus outbreaks that have left thousands of cruise passengers, including the largest Norovirus outbreak in cruise ship history, which occurred aboard Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas. More than 600 people fell ill with the infamous “cruise stomach flu,” suffering a range of uncomfortable and potentially fatal symptoms, including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Since it’s a virus, there is no medication currently available to specifically treat Norovirus, so victims must wait it out, staying as hydrated as possible to ensure a fast recovery.

Unfortunately, one of the worst characteristics of Norovirus is the fact that it can spread so easily. The virus can be transmitted by ingesting food and drink that has been contaminated (such as by sharing food with an infected person) or by coming in contact with surfaces that have been contaminated. And because of the fact that cruise passengers are confined to their ships, the virus can spread extremely fast, leading hundreds of people to become ill in a manner of hours. Continue reading →

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Cruise itinerary changesLast time, our admiralty lawyer discussed the unfortunate truth behind cruise itinerary changes that stem from unfavorable weather conditions during hurricane season: passengers will likely not get reimbursed. Cruise passengers usually get the short end of the stick when their itineraries are changed for weather-related reasons. For one, most cruise lines specify in their passenger ticket contracts that they will not be held responsible for any changes or cancellations due to unfavorable weather, which means they don’t have to offer passengers any sort of compensation or even onboard credit for their losses. Whatever money the traveler spent will most likely be lost. If lucky, the cruise line will offer a few free drinks or casino credits. But that’s a big IF.

Aside from losing money from their cruise ticket purchase, itinerary changes can cause several other problems for passengers outside the actual cruise line. Some travelers book excursions through outside companies and will almost certainly not get a refund because of a weather-related cancellation – even if it was the cruise line’s decision to make the itinerary changers. Other travelers make plans at certain ports of call, especially when a ship stays at a destination overnight, and reserve hotel accommodations which they may lose their deposit – if not entire payment – for.

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Weather related cruise itinerary changesIn our last blog, our admiralty lawyer Michael Winkleman discussed the many ways in which adverse weather conditions can affect a cruise ship’s itinerary. Though cruise lines would often prefer to take their chances with a storm than cancel an entire itinerary and lose revenue, there are times when weather conditions are so dangerous, cruise lines don’t have a choice. Given that we are right at the peak of hurricane season, it’s important for potential cruise passengers to know what they can expect in the upcoming months.

If a major storm threatens the Caribbean in the upcoming months, which is where the vast majority of cruise itineraries are focused, travelers booked on cruise vacations may notice a change in the ship’s ports of call. Some cruise lines may opt to visit an alternate destination in lieu of the dropped port, or, as happens frequently, may decide to just spend the day at sea – much to the dismay of cruise passengers who have spent time planning their vacations expecting to visit certain destinations and who have paid (in many cases) a significant amount of money for their cruises.

A substituted port, while not the original destination a cruise passenger might have had their hearts set on, is at least a fair exchange. However, when a cruise line decides to just skip a port – or cancel a cruise completely – and offer passengers no recourse, that’s when tensions start to build.

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