Contributors
Charles R. Lipcon

Charles R. Lipcon is the firm's founding attorney and has been handling personal injury, cruise line sexual assault and wrongful death claims for over 40 years.Read More »

Jason R. Marguiles

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 »

Articles Posted in Cruise Ship Law

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Can cruise ships handle the worst weather hazards at seaCruise passengers are often warned about the risk of crime at some ports of call. Yet, a recent Royal Caribbean cruise delay that left Ohio State coach Urban Meyer and fans stranded at sea draws attention to another hazard cruise passengers face at port: acts of nature.

The Journal of Meteorological Applications studied factors that could create hazards for the U.S. Navy fleet. The study was performed because hazardous weather is a concern to all ship captains. Strong winds, high waves, fog, and thunderstorms were cited as particularly hazardous to ships. These hazards are especially dangerous when ships near ports because ships are required to navigate around or under bridges and other structures. Additionally, because of the increased number of vessels near a port, there is a greater risk of collision with other vessels.

Let’s face it, it is inevitable that a cruise ship will encounter hazardous weather conditions either at sea or at port. The question is not if, but when, a ship will encounter severe weather. Yet, are cruise ships equipped to handle the worst of Mother Nature? This is a loaded question. We’ll let the facts speak for themselves.

In 2010, two passengers died and 14 people were injured when 26-foot-high waves crashed through the windows of the Louis Majesty cruise ship while the vessel was off the coast of Spain. Last year, an elderly passenger was killed after a huge wave hit the MS Marco Polo cruise ship, causing several windows to shatter. Sure, waves of this height are rare, and cruise ships avoid regions where these kinds of waves are present, but rare doesn’t mean impossible. Any meteorologist will tell you that the ocean is part of a dynamic system, and rare events can occur at sea. Large waves that appear to come out of nowhere are often referred to as ‘rouge waves’, and can reach heights around 100 feet.

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Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas cruise ship

Our cruise lawyers here at LMAW have been lucky that, being in Miami, FL, we haven’t had much to deal with in the way of bad winter weather. Unfortunately though, there have been several areas across the United States that have experienced extremely hazardous weather conditions. And these conditions don’t stop at the shore, they extend all the way out to sea.

In fact, we’ve just come to learn that a Royal Caribbean cruise ship carrying Ohio State football fans and coach Urban Meyer was stranded at sea due to heavy fog. The adverse weather closed the Tampa port and resulted in the cruise ship’s delay. The vessel was scheduled to return to port on Monday.

Ohio State football fans were celebrating an annual cancer charity fundraiser on Royal’s Brilliance of the Seas ship. But thanks to the fog, it looks like the cruise lasted a little longer than everyone expected.

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Cruise ship rape, sexual assault, discrepancy in reportingWhen most travelers board a cruise ship, they have a lot on their minds. ‘What activities should I do first?’ ‘Where can I get some food?’ ‘Point me to the nearest bar.’ It’s highly doubtful that any cruise passenger’s prevailing thoughts are centered on what crimes they could possibly suffer from or how unsafe they might be on their ship. But sadly, this is something all cruise passengers should be thinking about because safety isn’t always guaranteed. Unfortunately, there is a very real threat of danger with any cruise vacation –one of the largest being the threat of sexual assault.

Our cruise ship rape lawyers here at LMAW have reported on several acts of sexual assault on cruise lines that have transpired over the past few years, many of which have involved crew members and even young children. And sadly, many of the victims of these incidents did not have the chance to obtain justice – and may never be able to. Why? Because of an unfortunate, yet all too common practice among cruise lines – withholding evidence.

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Cruise ship medical emergency, Coast Guard medevac, Norwegian Getaway, Puerto RicoA cruise vacation can be a lot of fun for kids. Between the numerous kids’ lounges and “clubs”, water slides, and endless supply of pizza and ice cream, it’s no wonder that the trend in cruising has undergone a major shift from a mostly adults type of vacation to one that is more family oriented. But unfortunately, the fact that there are a lot more children cruising means that cruise ship safety has to be held at an even higher standard than usual. And, even more unfortunately, it appears as though this need is being overlooked.

So far this year, there have been numerous incidents involving young children on the high seas, including the near-drowning of a four-year-old boy who was sailing aboard Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas last month. Our cruise ship lawyers are, quite frankly, shocked that most major cruise lines have yet to start employing experienced lifeguards on ships, despite the fact that a large number of accidents involving children are occurring. And now, we’ve come to learn of yet another cruise ship medical emergency involving a child.

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Valentine's Day cruise safetyValentine’s Day is quickly approaching, and for many, love is definitely in the air. Some of you may be celebrating several years of happiness together, while others are enjoying the start of a blossoming relationship. And then there are those of us who are either seeking to find a new connection with that special someone that has yet to come into our lives, or who couldn’t be happier enjoying the single life and use the holiday as a way to commemorate their independent lifestyle.

Though we may all be looking forward to different things this Valentine’s Day, sure enough, there will be a large number of people who will be spending the holiday out at sea on a cruise vacation – and for good reason. After all, few things can compare to watching a glowing sunset from the shores of a tropical beach in the Caribbean, or a sunrise from a private balcony stateroom with your special someone. Indeed, cruise vacations can be quite romantic and a wonderful way to spend a holiday with those whom we love. Unfortunately, though a Valentine’s Day cruise is wrought with an abundant amount of opportunities to experience an unforgettable moment with our significant others, there’s more to the holiday than chocolates, flowers, and being swept off your feet – especially when out in open waters.

Any cruise ship attorney at LMAW well knows that there’s a big downside to cruising on Valentine’s Day, and anyone considering a holiday sailing this week should exercise extra caution. The holiday embodies love and passion, but there’s always another side of the coin. Some travelers may very well be in love – or looking for love – on a Valentine’s Day cruise, but others are looking for trouble.

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LifeguardAfter a young boy nearly drowned in an Oasis of the Seas wave pool last month, the need for cruise lines to hire trained lifeguards to work on board ships is more apparent than ever before. Lifeguards are specifically trained to look for certain signs of danger and can respond to an emergency the moment it happens. With the current trend in cruise ship size favoring larger, aka “mega ships”, able to carry well over 3,000 passengers, the chances of a drowning or near-drowning accident are much higher.

Our cruise ship accident lawyers here at LMAW have often stressed just how critical it is for cruise lines to have lifeguards on board, yet, as it currently stands, there is no maritime law in place that actually requires cruise lines to do so. Why is that?

Well, though cruise lines haven’t actually come clean about their reasons for not employing lifeguards on ships, we can speculate as to why they haven’t done so. Let’s explore some of these possible reasons.

Cost

Though building a mega ship like Oasis of the Seas costs quite a pretty penny (we’re talking a billion dollars), as does the wide range of entertainment options provided on these vessels, cruise lines don’t tend to invest the same amount of revenue on safety features – lifeguards being a main factor in the preservation of passenger safety. Sure, they have no qualms about dishing out the big bucks on those “wow” factor features, like AquaTheaters or FlowRiders, but in the grand scheme of things, the cost of hiring lifeguards is a miniscule expense when compared to the amount spent on all the glitz and glam. If cost really is a factor, then maybe it’s time cruise lines reprioritized. Establishing a safe shipboard environment should be the primary area where funds are allocated to because all the cool attractions on a ship won’t mean anything if no one wants to sail on a ship that isn’t safe.

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Cruise ship travel in VeniceOur cruise ship lawyers here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. have written about the environmental impact of the cruise industry and the lack of transparency of the industry in reporting pollution and waste management on board cruise ships many times before. The problem has become so serious that certain countries have gone as far as to ban cruise ships from docking or to limit the places and beaches where cruise ships can dock.

In 2014, Venice banned large cruise ships from travelling in Saint Mark’s basin and in the Giudecca Canal. The decision was made to protect Venice and the environment from damage that these large ships can cause. The ban was put into effect as a result of the Costa Concordia disaster. Fox News reports that celebrities, including Michael Douglas and Cate Blanchett supported the ban, citing the fact that large cruise ships can increase the risk of flooding in Venice. The city is already subject to serious flooding on a regular basis.

Yet, recent news reports reveal that Venice has had a change of heart about the ban. Tourism groups rallied to support a ban—but only after alternate canals and infrastructure has been put in place to properly re-route cruise vessels. The Contorta Sant’Angelo Channel, when completed, will afford larger cruise ships a safer passage through Venice.

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Seven Seas Mariner, RegentIn Fincantieri shipyard in Genoa, Italy, the keel was laid for what is touted to be the most luxurious cruise ship in history. The 750-passenger Regent ship will be an all-suite luxury vessel unlike anything that has come before.

The keel laying ceremony was the epitome of opulence. Master sommelier, Michela Cimatoribus popped the cork on a magnum bottle of Krug Grande Cuvée, which triggered a laser, which then cut the first piece of steel for the Seven Seas Explorer ship. During the ceremony, a Rolls Royce Phantom also delivered three symbolic coins to commemorate the commencement of construction. The coins were welded into the construction of the vessel. The archbishop of Genoa also blessed the metal.

The ship will offer passengers more space and privacy than any other ship before it. Additionally, its Regent Suite is billed to be the most opulent suite on board a cruise ship. At 3,875 square feet, its master bedroom features a wall of windows overlooking the ocean, and a private onsite spa. The room will reportedly cost passengers $65,000.

But perhaps the best news our maritime attorneys have heard about the ship thus far is the fact that it will employ cutting-edge environmental protection measures. Just the other day, we talked about how several major cruise lines are avoiding environmental safety protocols and polluting marine habitats and the air with harmful substances, chemicals, and wastewater.

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Elderly Woman Lives Aboard Crystal SerenityCruise vacations can bring wonderful memories when cruise lines take proper safety precautions and when nothing goes wrong—but one woman took her love of cruise vacations to the next level.

Lee Wachtstetter is an 86-year-old widow who has been living on a cruise ship for the last seven years. Her rent comes out to about $164,000 per year, after tips, drinks, and the cost of each cruise – a pretty hefty price, but she doesn’t seem to mind. After her husband passed away, Wachtstetter sold her estate in Fort Lauderdale and decided to become a permanent resident on a cruise ship, at the suggestion of her daughter.

It was actually Wachtstetter’s husband who introduced her to cruising. During their fifty years of marriage, they took 89 cruises together. The day before her husband passed away from cancer in 1997, he asked her to not stop cruising and Wachtstetter honored his request. Since his passing, Wachtstetter has taken over a hundred cruises and says that she stopped counting countries she’s visited once the tally reached 100.

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cruise ship, cruise ship lawyer, cruise pollutionCruise ships have long been known to be major air and water polluters. One New York Times correspondent recently wrote a column about the problem, citing lack of proper regulation as the main contributing factor to both accidents and pollution on the high seas.

According to The Guardian, the cruise industry burns millions of tons of fuel, and produces over a billion tons of sewage. Exhaust and sewage must be treated or it can fog the air and pollute the water. Some cruise destination countries like Belize are so concerned, that they’ve limited cruise ships to only one area of the beach in order to prevent pollution of more pristine areas. These beaches are often “sacrificed” to allow for cruise tourism to continue. Other countries want to prevent cruise travel from reaching their shores entirely. In fact, cruise ships that use large amounts of fuel are currently banned from traveling to Antarctica because an oil spill there would be disastrous to the environment.

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