Created on: February 23, 2013
Cruising is becoming an increasingly popular way of vacationing. In 2011, despite the recession, cruise ship packages made up just over 11% of the total overseas package holiday market. Its attraction is obvious; usually for a reasonable set price, passengers get their food, drinks, comfortable accommodation and entertainment provided, while getting to see a variety of locations during the course of the cruise. Unfortunately for the passengers of the Carnival cruise ship Triumph, the attractions didn’t turn out to be quite as they had planned.
During February 2013, the engine room of the Triumph caught fire. It was quickly dealt with and no-one was hurt, but the ship lost propulsion as a result and the 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew members on board were left adrift while plans were made to pull the ship to the shore, which at the time was some 150 miles away. Even worse, food and water shortages, as well as appalling toilet facilities, made it difficult for passengers and crew to keep their spirits up. Many were frightened of becoming ill as a result of the poor hygiene.
After five days at sea, those on board were finally able to step onto dry land at Mobile, Alabama, relieved by the idea of going home and recovering from their ordeal. The Carnival management were quick to apologise. CEO Gerry Cahill spoke at a news conference and on the public address system as passengers were disembarking, saying:
"I appreciate the patience of our guests and their ability to cope with the situation. And I'd like to reiterate the apology I made earlier. I know the conditions on board were very poor. We pride ourselves on providing our guests with a great vacation experience, and clearly we failed in this particular case."
Carnival later announced that, as well as a full refund and vouchers for future travel, passengers would also be receiving $500 in compensation. For some passengers, however, that was clearly not enough and at least two passengers have filed a lawsuit against Carnival. Their claim is that the company promised to provide a seaworthy ship, which it clearly didn’t, and that, by taking the ship to Mobile where it will be repaired, the company extended the ordeal by a substantial amount of time – it would have been much quicker to take the ship to a closer Mexican port.
However, Jim Walker, a lawyer who has previously represented a number of cruise ship clients, believes that passengers would be advised to take the money Carnival is offering. As he explains, cruise ship companies make it very hard for anyone to sue them by using the tickets as a form of binding contract. In this case, it is likely that passengers will have to file their lawsuit in Miami, even though they may live much farther afield.
It will be interesting to see if any of the passengers do successfully complete their lawsuits. However, as Josh Eidelson points out following an interview with Ross Klein, a cruise expert, it is the crew members who have suffered the most and do so on a regular basis. International law regulating cruise workers is lax enough that they can work 11 hour days for minimum pay – less than $2 an hour in some cases. The Carnival management is apparently able to do this because the company is registered in Panama. Many workers rely on tips to make up their pay packets – but while being adrift on the Triumph for five days, it is highly likely that they lost out – and there has been no mention of whether the $500 offered to passengers is also being given to workers.
Maybe it is time for the cruise ship industry to pull up their socks in more ways than one.
Learn more about this author, Sun Meilan.
Click here to send this author comments or questions.
Below are the top articles rated and ranked by Helium members on:
Cruise ship passengers bring civil suit against Carnival
Cast your vote!
Click for your side.