Cruise Passenger Bill of Rights Introduced

PHOTO: Crippled cruise ship, Carnival Triumph, moves into port guided by tug boats on Feb. 14, 2013 in Mobile, Ala.

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the world's largest cruise industry trade association, announced earlier this week the adoption of a "Cruise Passenger Bill of Rights."

CLIA also will submit the bill to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), requesting formal global recognition and applicability under the IMO's authority over the international maritime industry.

The passenger bill of rights will be effective immediately for U.S. passengers who purchase their cruises in North America on CLIA's North American member cruise lines, regardless of itinerary, CLIA said.

Cruise lines already employ many of these "rights" when problems occur on their ships. For example, it is customary for cruise lines to issue full and partial refunds for cancelled or interrupted voyages.

"The Cruise Industry Passenger Bill of Rights codifies many longstanding practices of CLIA members and goes beyond those to further inform cruise guests of the industry's commitment to their comfort and care," said Christine Duffy, president and CEO of CLIA.

But are there elements in this bill of rights that would have changed things for the passengers on the Carnival Triumph, the ship that stranded more than 3,000 passengers at sea for five days under reportedly deplorable conditions? There's no way the passengers could have disembarked the ship: It was not docked when it lost power, as outlined as a requirement in the first part of the bill.

And as for refunds, Carnival cruise line did more than what was outlined in the new bill of rights: It refunded passengers for the cruise and travel expenses, plus offered another free future cruise.

In March, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) called on the industry to voluntarily adopt a bill of rights. "Cruise ships, in large part operating outside the bounds of United States enforcement, have become the Wild West of the travel industry, and it's time to rein them in before anyone else gets hurt," said Schumer at the time.

The bill of rights includes the following:

The right to disembark a docked ship if essential provisions such as food, water, restroom facilities and access to medical care cannot adequately be provided onboard, subject only to the Master's concern for passenger safety and security and customs and immigration requirements of the port. The right to a full refund for a trip that is canceled due to mechanical failures, or a partial refund for voyages that are terminated early due to those failures.

The right to have available on board ships operating beyond rivers or coastal waters full-time, professional emergency medical attention, as needed until shore-side medical care becomes available.

The right to timely information updates as to any adjustments in the itinerary of the ship in the event of a mechanical failure or emergency, as well as timely updates of the status of efforts to address mechanical failures.

The right to a ship crew that is properly trained in emergency and evacuation procedures.

The right to an emergency power source in the case of a main generator failure.

The right to transportation to the ship's scheduled port of disembarkation or the passenger's home city in the event a cruise is terminated early due to mechanical failures.

The right to lodging if disembarkation and an overnight stay in an unscheduled port are required when a cruise is terminated early due to mechanical failures.

The right to have included on each cruise line's website a toll-free phone line that can be used for questions or information concerning any aspect of shipboard operations.

The right to have this Cruise Line Passenger Bill of Rights published on each line's website.

Cruisers, what do you think about the passenger bill of rights?

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