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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cruise ship drink packagesLast time, our maritime lawyers discussed a seemingly exciting promotion that is – on the surface – aimed at helping cruise passengers save money. Norwegian Cruise Line has introduced an All-Inclusive package for 2015 sailings that features all the extras cruisers love, including unlimited dining, special internet discounts, and of course, unlimited drinks. But while it might save cruise passengers some money initially, it may end up costing them a lot more in the end.

The All-Inclusive deal comes with an “unlimited beverage package” offer, which for many, is great. As part of the package, guests can enjoy unlimited beverages from a wide selection of sodas, beers, wines, cocktails and other spirits. For those of us who have cruised before, we know drinks do not come cheap. If a glass of soda can run you $5, a cocktail can cost well over $15. On any given cruise, passengers may end up paying hundreds of dollars in drinks alone. Naturally, for cruise guests who enjoy alcoholic beverages, this package certainly has its appeal.

However, from the standpoint of a maritime lawyer, a cruise package that offers unlimited alcoholic drinks can be a ticket to disaster for some passengers. In our last blog, we talked about some of the effects of shipboard alcohol intoxication, and how it can lead to accidents, injuries, fights, sexual assault, and even death. If a cruise passenger who pay for each individual drink tend to drink more on board than on land, imagine how exponentially higher the likelihood of over-drinking is when there’s no cap on the number of drinks you can consume for money you have already paid out and will not be getting back. It is the same as going to a fixed price buffet, human nature takes over and people tend to over indulge. Continue reading →

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Alcohol on cruise shipsWho doesn’t love a hot deal? We all like to save money, especially after booking an expensive cruise vacation. Cruises don’t come cheap – and neither do the add-ons. Shore excursions, alcohol, specialty dining and spa packages all come at an extra cost, but now, one cruise line wants to ease the brunt of that cost for travelers.

Norwegian Cruise Lines has just introduced a new, all-inclusive package as part of a limited-time promotion on 2015 sailings. The all-inclusive deal covers many of the extras that aren’t included in the basic cost of a cruise ticket. It comes with an unlimited beverage and unlimited dining package, bottle of wine, internet package, gratuity coverage, along with a slew of other appealing discounts. Who wouldn’t want to book it…right?

At first glance, the package looks enticing, especially for cruisers who enjoy all the extra perks like tours and beverages other than the standard tap water or coffee options provided on most ships for free. But as with many things, looks can be deceiving. From a legal standpoint, this package is a ticking time bomb.

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IcelandFor some time now, we’ve known that cruise lines haven’t exactly been abiding by the highest standards of safety. Accidents and crimes involving cruise lines have been happening with what appears to be greater frequency than ever, and not so much so because of the actual number of incidents befouling the industry, but largely because cruise ship accident and crime reporting has become much more transparent over the past few years due to the efforts of Senator John “Jay” Rockefeller.

But while it’s not breaking news that cruise lines have not done what is in their full capacity to improve safety for both passengers and crew members, a new and very disturbing practice among a number of cruise lines in Iceland has come to our attention.

According to news reports, the Icelandic Coast Guard is investigating various cruise ships that have been using their vessels’ rescue boats to take passengers on sightseeing tours. It appears as though these tours are being led by the cruise line’s own crew members who don’t even have sufficient knowledge of the area and who are not taking experienced guides with them during these so called “excursions”. The fact that these crew members do not appear to have a concern over what could possibly go wrong is extremely appalling in and of itself, but from the standpoint of a shore excursion accident lawyer, this practice is a gross violation of maritime safety laws as well.

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What is admiralty law? Admiralty law, which is also commonly referred to as maritime law, is a complex combination of international and U.S. laws that govern injuries, contracts or offenses that occur on navigable waters. Traditionally, the laws focused on ocean-related issues; however, this body of law has been expanded to govern just about any public body of water, to include rivers and lakes. Your admiralty lawyer knows that admiralty law generally covers things such as injuries at sea, collisions between ships, a captain’s obligations to passengers and his or her crew members, and the rights of those crew members such as to wages.

Admiralty law regulates things such as navigation, shipping, towage, commerce, ship hijackings that are perpetrated by private entities on both international and domestic waters, and recreational boating.

In short, Admiralty of maritime law will govern any injury claim at sea, whether it be a cruise passenger or cruise ship crew member, as well as a significant majority of maritime workers.

The History of Admiralty Law

Admiralty law literally goes back thousands of years, to as early as the Middle Ages with the Laws of Oleron. In the U.S., the law stemmed primarily from British admiralty courts. Originally, “admiralty” referred to a certain court in England and the American colonies that maintained jurisdiction over contracts and torts on the high seas. Eventually, the Judiciary Act of 1789, as well as Article III, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, provided federal courts with exclusive jurisdiction over admiralty law.

Believe it or not, there are still cases from the 1800s that are cited in admiralty and maritime cases today.

Admiralty law in America used to be applicable to “American tidal waters” only; however, the law now extends to any navigable water within the U.S. that are used for purposes of foreign or interstate commerce. Your admiralty lawyer is aware that admiralty jurisdiction will also include certain maritime issues that do not involve interstate commerce, to include recreational boating.

Who Might Be Subject to Admiralty Law?

Generally speaking, individuals who make admiralty claims are either seamen or non-seamen. Seamen are typically professionals who historically enjoyed the highest level of protection with respect to death and personal injury issues. Such individuals are entitled to certain special protections and are often deemed “wards of admiralty” because they are usually away from their homes for long periods of time and subject to dangerous working conditions and abuse. Non-seamen are usually passengers who are onboard a vessel. These individuals are , in most cases, entitled to a ship operator’s duty of ordinary, reasonable care.

There are a variety of cases that can be brought under admiralty law, to include cases that deal with commercial shipping accidents, injured foreign workers, cargo claims under the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act, and many others. What is crucial in these types of cases is discovery and early investigation because a victim’s ability to recover just compensation for his or her injuries often hinges on the sufficiency of the evidence obtained. Companies and owners often start working right away to limit their liability by attempting to destroy crucial evidence and/or change accident scenes. That said, it is imperative for anyone who has suffered harm that may be subject to admiralty law to seek assistance from a knowledgeable attorney who knows the ins and outs of admiralty law.

If you believe that you have a case that may be subject to admiralty laws, contact an admiralty lawyer at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. today.

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Life saver Last time, we talked about how cruise lines have been hiding a grim reality from passengers for many years – the fact that cruise ships are not as safe as travelers might imagine. It took major accidents like the Costa Concordia and Carnival Triumph incidents to really shed some light on what was really happening within the cruise industry. Little by little, these accidents showed the world that cruise lines don’t necessarily have the strictest maritime safety laws in place, nor do they always abide by the highest standards of safety. The accidents also revealed that there are many more tragedies that were not being reported to the public. Though the efforts of some legislators, like Sen. John Rockefeller, have made drastic improvements to the cruise industry as far as safety goes, there is still a lot that needs to be done. And even though crime and accident reporting is much more transparent these days, it’s still not 100 percent accurate.

Why is that? Well, for one, because many accidents and crimes that occur on board a cruise ship are the result of negligence on the cruise operator’s part, and this means that the cruise line may be held liable if someone was hurt or killed. If a cruise line is held liable, then they will most likely have to pay a settlement to the victim or their surviving loved ones, and thus, lose money. Add to that the negative press the cruise line would receive from the matter itself and the public’s realization that the cruise company may not be as safe as they thought, and you’ve got even more revenue loss in the long run.

But then why don’t cruise lines just invest money to improve safety before an accident or crime occurs in the first place? Again, the answer is money. Because of the loopholes that are in place for cruise lines (i.e. registering ships in foreign ports, including fine print in cruise ticket contracts that allows cruise lines to avoid liability in the event of an accident, etc.), the cruise lines have a pretty big safety net and they know this well.

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Life saver In our last blog installments, our maritime attorney Michael Winkleman talked about some of the things cruise lines don’t want you to know about the hidden fees associated with a cruise vacation cancellation and how there’s no guarantee the itinerary you think you’ll be enjoying will be what you actually experience. Today, we’ll talk about what cruise lines don’t want you to know about safety on board a ship.

Cruise ship safety is a hot commodity these days. Or at least that’s what it appears to be, since cruise lines aren’t doing much to improve on board safety for passengers. Though it seems as though there’s a new accident or crime on the high seas each week, cruise lines aren’t doing much about it. Why is that?

Cruise lines are required by maritime law to provide the most reasonably safe shipboard environment possible for their guests as well as their crew. Given this fact, one would think that every ship would be equipped with the most advanced security equipment, best trained security guards, accident-proof engine systems and what not. On any given day, over 3,000 people might be sailing on a ship and of course, the last thing those people are thinking is that something is going to go wrong. No one embarks on a cruise ship thinking the worst will happen. They are grappling with having to choose between a margarita or beer, spa treatment or shore excursion. And with as high as some cruise vacations come, they are definitely not thinking that safety will not be included in the cruise ticket price.

Sadly, the truth is that cruise vacations are not as safe as travelers might imagine. In fact, there are numerous opportunities for mishaps to occur, whether they be related to a ship’s mechanical failure, a crash or a crime on board the ship. Cruise lines want their passengers to think they are safe. After all, who would want to sail out into the middle of the ocean if they are at risk for harm?

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cruise line itinerary secretsLast time, we discussed the secrets cruise lines don’t want you to know about your itinerary. Though passengers may think their itinerary is locked in, truth is, cruise lines can make changes any time they want and without any viable explanation, and sometimes, at the expense of the passenger. Passengers may lose tons of money because of an itinerary change, but that doesn’t mean the cruise line will take that fact into consideration and offer their guests compensation for the changes.

Each cruise lawyer at our firm knows just how difficult it can be for a passenger who has suffered an injury or for those who have lost loved ones due to tragic cruise ship accidents to obtain compensation from cruise lines. If cruise lines will fight tooth and nail to avoid responsibility for an accident caused by their own failure to maintain a safe shipboard environment, and which led to serious or even fatal injuries, you can imagine that the cruise lines will likely not even take a complaint about an itinerary change seriously.

Listed in the fine print of a cruise ticket contract, you’ll find a disclaimer on itinerary changes. The disclaimer will say something along the lines of the cruise line reserving the right to cancel, postpone or substitute a port at any minute and without prior notice. It will also say something to the effect that the cruise line will not be responsible for such itinerary changes and will not be held liable for any losses a passenger may suffer as a result of said itinerary change.

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Cruise itinerary changesOk, so you just booked a cruise and are so excited you already started packing. You’ve never been to any of the destinations featured on the itinerary and cannot wait to explore new and exotic ports. What could go wrong, right?

Well, try not to get your hopes up, because one thing cruise lines don’t want you to know about is the fact that port calls are not guaranteed. This may come as a shock, but truth is, cruise lines may cancel or modify itineraries as they please. It is up to the cruise line itself to make any changes, and sometimes, the captain can make decisions to change or cancel a port call as well.

What’s up with these changes? Well, for one, many port visits are cancelled due to unfavorable weather conditions. This we can understand. If there’s a dangerous storm or extremely rough sea conditions, cruise ships will usually make the call to cancel a port call if it means putting those on board at risk. There are also times when a port call is cancelled because of political turmoil or a high crime rate. These are also very good reasons for collations because as with inclement weather, docking in an area where there is a high rate of violence can mean a potential for violence against passengers and crew members while exploring the destination.

Unfortunately, there are times when cruise lines cancel itineraries and don’t give any sort of explanation. This is something the maritime lawyers at our firm see time and time again. Passengers are left dejected because they expected to enjoy a specific port, or may have even booked a cruise because a specific port was part of the itinerary. What’s worse is what happens next.

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Cancellation of tripOur maritime lawyers here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. have been talking a lot lately about cruise accidents and crimes, as well as the overall lack of safety on ships. Last week’s Senate Hearing held by Senator John “Jay” Rockefeller highlighted the continuing need for tighter regulation of the cruise industry in general, in order to reduce the likelihood that those on board will be injured or the victim of a crime.

In our last blog series, our maritime attorney Jason Margulies discussed how cruise lines have long been able to get away with violating safety policies due to several reasons, including the fact that most ships are registered in foreign ports, which allows them to avoid the penalties they would in the U.S. when a safety violation has occurred. Accidents such as the Costa Concordia capsizing tragedy and the Carnival Triumph fire have brought to light the fact that cruise lines have been keeping critical information from guests, including the real number of accidents and crimes that transpire, because of these loopholes.

But aside from concerns over safety and accurate crime and accident reporting, there’s a lot more that cruise lines keep from passengers that anyone might imagine. This blog series will explore some of these “secrets at sea” in detail, starting with cancellation policies. Continue reading →

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JayRockefellerAs we discussed in Part 1 and Part 2 of our blog series, cruise ship accidents have seemed to occur with greater frequency lately, but it’s not necessarily because a greater number of accidents are happening. It only appears that way because cruise ship accident and crime reporting has become much more transparent in recent times – something that was propagated by the Costa Concordia capsizing tragedy in 2012.

When the Concordia accident brought to light that cruise lines were not disclosing full information on accidents, were not doing everything within their power to protect passengers from harm, and were severely lacking in safety operations in general, it became obvious to many, including each maritime lawyer at our firm and Senator John “Jay” Rockefeller, that cruise lines were out to protect themselves above all else.

Sen. Rockefeller has been extremely vital in the fight for improved safety within the cruise industry. Just this past Wednesday, he called a second hearing (the first having been held last year) on cruise ship safety to discuss the fact that cruise lines are not doing their part to drastically reduce accidents and crimes on board ships. Last year, he introduced a legislation called the Cruise Passenger Protection Act, which would require cruise companies to accurately disclose accident and crime reports as well as to simplify the language in passenger ticket contracts, which, as it stands, is extremely difficult to understand. In the very, very fine print, a passenger ticket contract allows cruise lines to avoid liability for many incidents that occur on ships, the vast majority of which result from the cruise line’s own negligence.

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