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 Maritime Matter of the Week

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Quantum of the SeasRoyal Caribbean has just rolled out with a brand new toy – a rather large toy. It’s got all kinds of high tech gadgets, premium features, and even robots. So what exactly is this seemingly incredible feat of architectural genius? Why, Quantum of the Seas, of course. And this masterpiece of a cruise ship (well, more like a space ship) is looking to take your breath away.

Quantum of the Seas is first of three ships in its class, with Anthem of the Seas slated to set sail next spring, and Ovation scheduled to arrive in the fall of 2016. Like a proud parent, Royal Caribbean boasts that the super vessel is “the most technologically advanced cruise ship in the world.” The cruise company does have a point, though. Among the ship’s numerous innovations is the ability to use mobile devices and tablets. Quantum of the Seas offers a special luggage tagging system that allows guests to track their bags from the moment they drop them off at the pier until their arrival at the guest’s stateroom via their smartphones. Tablets located around the ship offer the added convenience of making dining reservations, spa services, and other activities. But that’s not all, tablets record guests’ preferences from diet restrictions to how someone takes their coffee.

The vessel also boasts the world’s first “skydive” at sea, RipCord by iFLY, aka a glass vertical wind tunnel that offers a skydiving-type of experience and pretty nice views. Our maritime lawyer wrote about another one of Quantum’s nifty features, the world’s first robotic bartenders at sea. At the “Bionic Bar”, thirsty guests can order cocktails prepared by none other than animatronic bartenders. Then there’s the first-ever roller rink and bumper car venue at sea. Sound like fun? You bet. That is, until things start to go wrong.

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NorovirusThere’s a plague in our midst; one that’s been invading cruise ships for years. It’s sly, evasive, and cannot seem to be controlled. This little bug is fast-spreading and potentially life-threatening. Friends, we are talking about Norovirus. That pesky bug that affects hundreds of cruise passengers – and crew members – every year, leaving victims literally sick to their stomachs.

Attention has been mostly focused on the recent Ebola outbreak, but we can’t forget about Norovirus, because like Ebola, it has the potential to be fatal. This virus is basically a form of the stomach flu, with symptoms (including vomiting and diarrhea) lasting about three days. Doesn’t seem too bad at first, but the symptoms can become extremely severe, leading those who become infected with the virus to become quarantined in their room.

Most people who are sick don’t even realize they have the virus until symptoms manifest, but they are still contagious. And even those who do show symptoms don’t usually think much of it, dismissing the entire ordeal as just regular food poisoning or a bad stomach ache. So, these individuals will board a cruise ship not thinking twice about being contagious. They then proceed (inadvertently of course) to spread the virus via contact with inanimate objects that others on board will likely touch as well, including door handles, tabletops, and rails. They might even share food or eating utensils with loved ones. And before you know it, voila, you’ve got a Norovirus outbreak on a cruise ship.

Unfortunately, Norovirus does spread extremely fast – especially because a cruise ship is one giant floating box, filled with confined spaces and corridors and lacking sufficient ventilation outlets. Continue reading →

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Prince George Wharf in Nassau Harbor

Thinking about cruising to the Bahamas? Well, you might want to rethink that decision after hearing about the latest travel warning that’s been issued.

Any maritime lawyer can tell you that some of the ports cruise lines call on are not what you’d call the model of safety. We’ve often discussed how certain destinations in the Caribbean have been wrought with crime and have posed a danger not only for cruise passengers, but for crew members as well. One of these ports is the Bahamas.

For years, the U.S. government has been trying to alert potential travelers as to the dangers of visiting the Bahamas. Crime has been escalating at an alarming rate, causing some cruise lines, like Carnival, to hand out warning letters to its guests when docking in the island nation. Both cruise lines and the U.S. government have also provided travelers with a list of areas in the Bahamas prone to crime so travelers can steer clear of them, and have advised travelers to remain as close to port as possible. But with every warning there seems to be an equal, if not greater ratio of crimes that continue to occur throughout the Bahamas. Despite all the efforts that have been made on the Bahamian government’s part, such as increasing police forces in Nassau, nothing seems to work. Crime rates are higher than ever, which leads us to wonder: If the Bahamian government is taking the crime problem as seriously as they should?

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Robotic bartenders on Quantum of the SeasWe’ve all seen our fair share of sci-fi movies where some kind of creature or artificially intelligent creature is taking over the planet. Though these flicks can sometimes leave us with the tiniest bit of curiosity over whether any of the extraordinary events detailed on the Big Screen can actually occur in real life, in the end, we know it’s just the magic of the movies taking over our thoughts – or is it?

A recent revelation regarding the cruise industry has left us thinking otherwise. And maybe, just maybe, robots might be staking their claim over humans after all. Well, at least where the cruise industry is concerned.

If you’re the kind of reader that cringes at the idea of mechanical beings roaming amongst the living, then look away. But if you’re brave enough to venture into the future of cruise travel with us, then buckle up, you’re in for quite a ride.

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HalloweenIt’s that time of year again. Time to get dressed up and hunt for candy. Time to enjoy friendly tricks for treats. It’s Halloween and there’s plenty of fun to be had, whether you are young or young at heart.

Some of us will be spending the holiday with our kids while some of us may decide to attend a ghoulish party or two. And then there are those of us who will be celebrating Halloween aboard a cruise ship. And, for those of us who have elected to spend the holiday on a ship, you’re in for quite the thrill. Since Halloween happened to fall on a Friday, there are several three and four day cruise sailings that are going to feature special activities for guests, anywhere from costume contests to specialty drinks to pumpkin carving. Many ships even offer trick or treating opportunities for kids. But while it can be easy to get lost in the excitement of the costumes and games, it’s important to remember that Halloween can also be a very dangerous holiday.

Accidents and crimes at sea can take place at any time, but on a day like Halloween, there’s a much greater chance that cruise ship guests can get hurt. Between the large number of people that will be on board a ship this weekend having a good time, the costumes that can cause perpetrators to more easily get away with committing a crime like sexual assault, and the fact that many adult passengers will be drinking (many to an excess), trouble is a lot more likely to strike on a Halloween cruise. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t reduce your chances of getting hurt or becoming the target of a crime. Our maritime lawyers have a few tips that will help you stay as safe as possible.

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cruise passenger evacuationAccidents can happen anywhere you go, be it land or sea. But at least on land, if you suffer an injury, help is available much more readily. It’s a lot easier for victims to obtain medical assistance or even assistance from nearby persons when an accident happens on dry land as opposed to at sea because persons on a vessel are isolated. Telephone and other communication services may not be working, which means emergency crews may not be reached until hours later. Even if they are reached quickly, a vessel may be out at sea in the middle of nowhere, and it can take several hours for an emergency team to reach the victim. Furthermore, not every vessel is equipped with onboard medical facilities. On land, victims who are injured can be transported to a number of hospitals or clinics, but that’s not the case at sea.

And on top of the fact that obtaining medical treatment and help for an offshore injury is much more difficult than for those who suffer an accident on land, the types of injuries victims can suffer vary greatly as well. So what are these kinds of injuries and what types of accidents can cause them? Let’s take a look.

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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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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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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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