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.

Grounding Of Costa Concordia Brings New Rules For Cruise Travel

After the grounding of Costa Concordia in January, the governing organizations of the cruise industry ordered an Operational Safety Review both in response to the troubling Concordia grounding and as part of the industry’s continuous efforts to review and improve safety measures. Now, the review is complete and has resulted in three new policies that promise to address safety concerns.

These three new policies, which go beyond international regulatory requirements, address safety issues related to passage planning, personnel access to the bridge and lifejackets. Each of these three policies will be reported to the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization (IMO) for consideration at their next session in May.

“As highlighted by these wide-ranging policies, we continue to take proactive measures to improve the safety of passengers and crew across the globe,” said Christine Duffy, president and CEO of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) in a Wall Street Journal statement.

The three policies answer questions asked about specific topics concerning the Costa Concordia grounding:

Passage Planning – The topic of “passage planning” came up concerning reports that the captain of Costa Concordia had chosen to take the ship off course as a salute, a show of respect, for a retired captain that lived ashore.

Under the new policy each passage plan is to be thoroughly briefed to all bridge team members well in advance of its implementation and it is to be drafted by a designated officer and approved by the master.

Personnel Access To The Bridge – At one point in the investigation of the Costa Concordia grounding, it was believed that unauthorized personnel were on the navigational bridge at the time of the incident.

To minimize unnecessary disruptions and distractions on the bridge, the new policy states that bridge access is to be limited to those with operational functions during any period of restricted maneuvering or when increased vigilance is required.

Lifejackets – Although there were plenty of lifejackets on board Costa Concordia, the nature of the accident caused some passengers and crew members to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and not have one.

Under the new rule, in addition to the statutory requirement of carriage of lifejackets for each person onboard, cruise lines have adopted a policy of carrying additional adult lifejackets.

The number of additional adult lifejackets to be provided must not be less than the total number of persons berthed within the ship’s most populated main vertical fire zone. This ensures that the number of lifejackets carried is far in excess of the number of persons actually onboard the ship.

These three rules are in addition to a new emergency drill policy requiring mandatory muster for embarking passengers prior to departure from port. That new policy was released previously and also consistent with the industry’s announcement January 27 of a complete safety review in response to the Concordia grounding and as part of the industry’s continuous efforts to review and improve safety measures.

The Cruise Lines International Association, European Cruise Council, and the Passenger Shipping Association put forward the new policy with the support of their member cruise lines.

Under the new muster policy:

  • A mandatory muster of all embarking passengers will happen prior to departure from port.
  • Late arriving passengers will be promptly provided with individual or group safety briefings that meet the requirements for musters applicable under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS).
  • The policy is designed to help ensure that any mandatory musters or briefings are conducted for the benefit of all newly embarked passengers at the earliest practical opportunity.

The Cruise Industry Operational Safety Review also included a comprehensive assessment of the critical human factors and operational aspects of maritime safety. The industry’s efforts also are consistent with the framework and spirit of the International Safety Management Code.

“We look forward to working collaboratively to identify any additional operational issues that will achieve our longstanding goal of continuous improvement and innovation in shipboard operations and safety,” added Duffy.

[Flickr photo by darkroom productions]

Is it the end of the line for Antarctic cruise ships?

Over the past decade, Antarctica has become an increasingly popular destination for adventure travelers with a penchant for visiting remote places that few others have the opportunity to see. To meet that demand, more and more ships have ventured into the frigid and treacherous waters along the Antarctic coasts, giving tourists a glimpse of the frozen continent, which had in the past seemed like a destination that was unapproachable for the average traveler. But those large cruise ships have raised concerns about potential threats to the fragile polar environment, and now there are measures being proposed that may prevent the vessels from venturing into those waters at all.

The International Maritime Organization has issued a ban on the use and carriage of heavy fuel oils around Antarctica. Those fuels are the ones that pose the greatest threat to the environment should a spill occur, and they also happen to be the fuel that powers the larger ships in the region, which sometimes carry 500 passengers or more. The IMO ban is scheduled to go into effect next August, thus the upcoming season could be the final one for large cruise ships to sail those waters. The Antarctic season generally runs from November to February.

Several high profile cases in recent years have helped to spur this ban, including the sinking of the M/S Explorer , which hit an iceberg back in 2007, and two separate incidences of ships running aground last year. But intrepid travelers looking to visit the frozen continent shouldn’t panic. There will still be options to visit the Antarctic, albeit on much smaller ships. The trip may get a bit more expensive (as if it wasn’t already expensive enough!) however, with fewer options and operators to choose from.

[Photo credit: The International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators]