Technically, Cruise Travel Is Safer Now: Do You Care? (POLL)

After the grounding of Costa Concordia, the world of cruise travel took a good hard look at everything they were doing in the way of safety. A comprehensive Operational Safety Review of passenger safety measures resulted in new policies that promised to address safety concerns. Those policies were adopted by members of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), which covered most of the major cruise lines we know about. Recently, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which oversees those and other cruise lines worldwide, adopted the same rules for all ships sailing, effectively standardizing safety rules for all.

Cruise lines hope that refreshed safety rules as well as a new Cruise Industry Passenger Bill Of Rights will reassure first time cruise travelers having second thoughts after safety-related events turned them off.

But seasoned cruisers who have sailed a number of times, those who were undeterred by safety-related concerns, don’t seem to care all that much and have continued sailing, as planned, without hesitation.

What about you?


Cruise Traveler Rights Detailed In New Bill

Travelers’ rights are often difficult to define. We know about the so-called Airline Passenger Bill of Rights, designed to give air travelers some relief in a deregulated airline industry when things go wrong. When held on the tarmac for too long, passengers now have the right to get off the aircraft. Bumped against your will? You might be entitled to denied boarding compensation in the form of a check or cash. But what about cruise travelers? What rights do they have when things go wrong? The new Cruise Industry Passenger Bill Of Rights has answers.

Released this week by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the cruise industry organization that includes cruise lines, industry suppliers and travel agencies, the Cruise Industry Passenger Bill Of Rights details what should happen when things go wrong on a cruise ship. Unlike the airline version though, the cruise passenger bill of rights is more of an explanation of what cruise lines normally and customarily have been doing, as opposed to a set of laws for which fines can be levied against a cruise line that breaks them.

Still, there is value to cruise travelers in what the bill holds, if for no other reason than to educate buyers about what to expect. Experts agree.

“CLIA’s Passenger Bill of Rights is a very good policy for passengers and the cruise industry as it crystallizes rights and responsibilities in a consistent manner across all member cruise lines,” cruise expert Stewart Chiron, CEO of CruiseGuy told Gadling.
“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 in a press release this week.

Indeed, the full text of CLIA’s Bill addresses issues that may have kept first-time cruise travelers, concerned about recent headlines ranging from the grounding of Costa Concordia to the sensationalized Carnival Triumph “poop cruise” event, from booking their first cruise vacation. The bill covers 10 rights that passengers now have when sailing a CLIA-member cruise line, and it does a good job of easing the concerns of travelers new to the world of cruise vacations.

“By formally adopting industry practices into a ‘Passenger Bill of Rights,’ CLIA is further demonstrating consistent practices and transparency across CLIA member lines. The cruise industry is committed to continuing to deliver against the high standards we set for ourselves in all areas of shipboard operations,” said Duffy.

Passenger rights include the ability to disembark a ship if essential provisions can not be provided, sailing with a crew trained in emergency procedures and insuring that ships have an emergency power source in the case of a main generator failure.

Further validation of CLIA’s Passenger Bill of Rights may be gained by its possible adoption by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), United Nations specialized agency charged with improving maritime safety and preventing pollution from ships.

The Cruise Passenger Bill of Rights is the latest effort by CLIA to focus on passenger safety, comfort and care. Previous, recent efforts include an industry-wide Operational Safety Review in 2012 and a Preparedness Risk Assessment in 2013 along with a complex multi-agency cruise disaster drill, called Operation Black Swan, held last month.

“Despite the fact that most major cruise lines exceed these provisions, it lays the foundation for consistency, peace of mind and continued evolution of a maturing industry,” concludes Chiron.

Here is the text of the International Cruise Line Passenger Bill of Rights:

The Members of the Cruise Lines International Association are dedicated to the comfort and care of all passengers on oceangoing cruises throughout the world. To fulfill this commitment, our Members have agreed to adopt the following set of passenger rights:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. The right to a ship crew that is properly trained in emergency and evacuation procedures.
  6. The right to an emergency power source in the case of a main generator failure.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. The right to have this Cruise Line Passenger Bill of Rights published on each line’s website.

The Legacy of Titanic- A bright future for cruising

Today’s cruise industry exists and operates in many ways as a result of the Titanic tragedy. This week we take a look at the legacy left behind in ways that affect cruise passengers on every sailing of every ship.

In the whole business of safety at sea, there are several major players and topics to consider. In today’s world, modern ship technology aims to prevent another tragedy like Titanic from ever happening again. But also in today’s world, security surrounding ships in port and at sea has come clearly into focus to address a threat of terrorism not thought of in the days of Titanic.

“The cruise industry’s highest priority is to ensure the safety and security of their passengers, crew and vessels” says the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the world’s largest cruise association, dedicated to the promotion and growth of the cruise industry. CLIA is composed of 26 of the major cruise lines serving North America and is an organization that operates pursuant to an agreement filed with the Federal Maritime Commission under the Shipping Act of 1984 and serves as a non-governmental consultative organization to the International Maritime Organization, an agency of the United Nations.

But long before CLIA, International Convention for the Safety of Life At Sea (SOLAS) was a treaty passed in 1914 in answer to the sinking of the Titanic. It addressed the lifeboat issue along with specifying emergency equipment and procedures including radio watches.

Today’s cruise ships meet or exceed increasingly more stringent safety standards set before them. Cruise lines today are engaging technology like never before too.

Celebrity Cruises recently rolled out a new design of ship built from not the passenger’s point-of-view like Titanic but from the hull up. A new teflon-like coating on the hull reduces fuel consumption by allowing the ship to sail more smoothly through the water.

Cruise ships are “plugging in” when docked too. The Port of Los Angeles recently became the first with the ability to provide shoreside power to three different cruise lines. Using the Alternative Maritime Power system, ships from Princess Cruises, Disney Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line can now turn off their polluting engines while in port.

On the matter of security, cruise ships give safety in this area high priority as well.

“Security procedures include the 100 percent inspection of all passengers, their carry-on baggage and luggage. Each crew member holds a U.S. seafarers visa and has thus undergone a U.S. State Department background check prior to visa issuance. In addition, all crew members and guests are placed on an official manifest and may embark and disembark only after passing through a security checkpoint. Once a ship is underway, only documented employees and fare-paying passengers are on board” adds CLIA.

We often focus on flashy events like Kid Rock hosting a theme cruise, a new emphasis on fitness at sea or tips for those about to go on a cruise. But at the end of the day, all hoopla aside, these are still very large ocean-going vessels that often sail very far away from the safety of land.

You better believe cruise lines have safety as their top priority.

Even with today’s modern technology, even with all we know and have learned since Titanic, even today’s cruise ships are no match for an angry mother nature.

Flickr photo by Mecookie

3 tips to catch the best cruise price

Wave Season has begun. It’s the time of the year when many travelers book cruises and usually runs through about tax time. Here are 3 simple but critical rules of the road to get your best value.

  1. Don’t wait, Book right now– Prices are predicted to go up early in the year. You could wait until they go down later, and they will, but availability of cabins will never be as good as it is right now. That’s important so you don’t get one of the lousy cabins located right under the fitness center that translate to no sleeping in for you.
  2. Use a Travel Agent– Never before has there been more reason to use a good travel agent. With all sorts of changes coming up in the way cruise lines do business, you need a pro on your side. Click around on line to get an idea of what you want, but contact your travel agent. The golden rule of cruise reservations: The Internet is for looking, Travel Agents are for booking. Don’t have a travel agent? We have tips on how to get one ranging from testing a potential agent to qualities you should look for in one. See the video below for more.
  3. Keep looking– as the cruise industry rapidly evolves, other ships, sailings and choices will become available. A cruise booking should be a fluid work in progress all the way up to final payment as far as planning goes and all the way until it’s over and beyond as far as your travel agent is concerned. Down the road, that budget-busting balcony you wanted might come down in price, special offers not available when you booked might pop up or an entirely different ship and sailing might interest you more.