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 »

Articles Posted in Cruise Ship Law

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BelizeThough the threat of Ebola remains unclear on land in the United States, the horrific virus continues to cause problems for the cruise industry. Last week, the industry dealt with a mass panic aboard the Carnival Magic, aka the “Ebola Cruise”, caused by a Dallas hospital lab worker’s less than sound decision to board the ship (carrying over 2,000 people) after potentially being exposed to the virus at her job. (Thankfully, she tested negative for Ebola!) And now, the popular cruise port of Belize is reportedly giving cruise lines a bit of a headache after the island nation has decided to impose new and understandably strict measures for screening cruise passengers for Ebola.

According to an article from 7 News Belize, the nation’s Ministry of Immigration announced it will soon require cruise passengers to undergo screenings for Ebola at the Belize Harbor. However, rumor has it that the two cruise industry tycoons, Carnival and Royal Caribbean, have supposedly “threatened to pull scheduled cruises” from Belize as a result. What could possibly be the problem here?

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Ebola_virus_emIt seems like all anyone can talk about these days is Ebola. Sure, we can understand why. I mean, we are in the midst of the largest Ebola outbreak in history. And, there have been a number of Ebola-related cases (one of them fatal) in the United States. Let’s not forget the fact that Ebola is one of the deadliest viruses on the planet. Even for the very, very lucky few who recover from Ebola, the virus can still cause lifetime complications with health.

Naturally, it’s safe to say everyone’s pretty shaken up right now and worried about Ebola. The same goes for each maritime attorney at our firm. But while over 5,000 people have already gotten sick (mostly in West Africa), the fear and threat of becoming infected with Ebola is exponentially higher for travelers. There is no world-wide travel ban, which means that an infected person may board a plane, Greyhound bus, or even a cruise ship. Steps are being taken to prevent travel of those who might be infected. Still too early to know if this can help or not.

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Carnival MagicA few days ago, our maritime lawyers reported on the so-called Ebola Cruise, aka, the Carnival Magic. One of the passengers on board had worked at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas as a lab worker, where a patient died of Ebola, and made the not-so-wise decision to go on a cruise, potentially putting thousands of people at risk for infection.

Well, the ship has now returned to its homeport of Galveston, Texas. According to reports, the passenger eventually tested negative for the virus, but that doesn’t mean that what happened is okay or that something similar won’t happen again. And it sure doesn’t mean we should all just sit back, throw our feet up and call it case closed.

If a health care employee did not have the common sense to steer clear from others, knowing well that she had worked in the hospital where there was, in fact, an Ebola case, who’s to stop others from doing the same? Furthermore, who’s going to ensure cruise lines quarantine passengers (or crew members) displaying symptoms?

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Ebola virusJust last week, we evaluated whether cruise passengers faced the risk of contracting Ebola while on a cruise ship. While it seemed that the risk wasn’t high, we wondered if the cruise lines had a protocol if this were to happen. Or better yet, did they have a protocol to prevent something like this from happening in the first place.  

Now, it is clear that one passenger on board the Carnival Magic may have been in contact with the disease. It was reported that the cruise line offered only $200 to each passenger and a 50% discount in future cruises in compensation to passengers who found themselves on this Ebola-cruise.

For passengers who bought into a week of rest, relaxation, and sunshine, but ended up cowering in fear in their cabins, this just doesn’t seem right.  It was reported that the cruise line also failed to keep the channels of communication open when it came to keeping passengers informed, raising red flags about how cruise lines may handle similar situations in the future. The National Post reported on the debacle, explaining that even when the captain initially publicized the quarantine, he failed to mention that it had anything to do with Ebola.

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Where Jay-Z vacationsThe Caribbean offers a variety of vacation opportunities to cater to every taste. With over 30 islands in the area, you can have a primitive, off-the-beaten-path adventure, relax at an all-inclusive resort, or party all night long with the well-heeled in a salsa club. Just like civilian folk, celebrities’ tastes encompass the whole range of vacation options available in the Caribbean. You can see the rich and famous lounging on fancy beaches, partying at exclusive clubs, or “roughing it” on some of the lesser-developed islands.

Of course, when celebrities travel, many choose to bring along their security personnel to ensure that their vacations are safe and relaxing. For common folk who are injured while vacationing or find themselves in difficult situations, contacting an offshore injury lawyer can mean the difference between having justice served and suffering in silence.

For those of us who want to follow the footsteps of the stars through fine dining and exquisite shopping, St. Barts may be a good choice. The island is a veritable celebrity hive! Jay-Z was caught dining at the Carl Gustaf Hotel. The island was recently featured in a Real Housewives of New York episode. After taking in the white-sand beaches and seeing the glorious sunshine featured in the show, who could say no, to St. Barts?

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Ebola_virus_emWith Ebola having killed over 3,000 people in west Africa, and having killed one victim already in the U.S., some cruise line passengers may wonder whether traveling might put them at risk. Given the fact that cruise ships are filled with small, confined spaces and up to thousands of people in one sailing, they are often a breeding grounds for diseases.

The maritime lawyers here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. have seen a wide range of outbreaks affect cruise passengers, but by far, the most frequently reported of all infectious disease incidents are associated with Norovirus, a gastrointestinal illness that is extremely contagious. The fact that cruise ships offer such close quarters, once Norovirus starts spreading, an outbreak becomes likely, resulting in ship quarantines and sick passengers. Additionally, the fact that cruise ships often maintain subpar sanitation, the likelihood with which a virus can spread is exacerbated.

So, given the fact that disease can spread quickly on board a ship, are cruise passengers at greater risk for contracting Ebola? Yes and no.

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CaboLast Saturday, the Star Princess cruise ship called on Cabo San Lucas, Mexico to deliver supplies to residents after the area was devastated by Hurricane Odile. According to news reports, the Princess Cruises’ ship brought bottled water, milk and paper products, among other supplies.

“The residents of Cabo San Lucas form one big hospitality community that regularly welcomes our ships’ guests. We want to return that hospitality by giving back to them as they work to recover and prepare to receive visitors once again,” said Princess President Jan Swartz.

Though we applaud Princess’ decisions to assist the devastated city, we can’t help but wonder where this same sense of urgency and consideration was when another Carnival Corp. vessel, the Carnival Triumph, was in need of assistance?

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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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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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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 →