LEE COUNTY, Fla. - Carnival and Royal Caribbean CEOs were grilled during a Senate hearing Thursday following months of incidents on board cruise ships. Among the topics discussed was how to avoid repeats of February's Carnival Triumph disaster which left passengers stranded at sea for five days due to a mechanical failure. Cruise leaders claim the new Passenger Bill of Rights addresses the problem.
Some passengers are taking legal action against Carnival, despite signing a contract that protects the cruise line.
All cruisers agree to them. You don't even have to sign a dotted line. Once you reserve your cruise, you enter into a legal and binding agreement that can make it hard to sue. Before you cruise, take time to know your rights.
Cruising is considered one of the best values for vacation. "Where else can you go an go to sleep at night and wake up in a different country?" said Ed Brozosky of CruiseOne in Fort Myers. "Explore the culture of that country all day, come back, your bed is made. Then, you wake up the next morning in another country.
CruiseOne ships locals all over the world. When it comes to fine print, not everyone is interested. "The contract? No, they're more concerned with how many meals they can get in, what their dining time is, the shows on the ship," Brozosky said.
We read through a pile of contracts to let you know your rights before your cruise.
According to Princess Cruises' passage contract, "Doctors, nurses or other medical or service personnel work directly for Passenger and shall not be considered to be acting under the control or supervision of Carrier, since Carrier is not a medical provider." If malpractice leads to injury or death, the cruise is off the hook.
"Because of weather, the cruise Captain can change the itinerary of that ship," Brozosky said.
According to Royal Caribbean, if they don't make it to port and you already paid for an activity on land, they aren't responsible.
Carnival has the right to search your room or safe without notice. If you refuse, you may have to leave the ship with no refund.
Dee Tucker of Cape Coral, who was stranded on the Carnival Triumph has joined others in suing, claiming Carnival was negligent.
"Anything that you would have put on the ticket, this is above and beyond," Tucker told WINK in April. "I don think you should be able to write your free ticket to do whatever you want, or lack thereof>
If you sue, contracts say you'll have to travel to the company. For Disney, you might go to Brevard County. For Holland America, it's Washington State.
Despite a year of less-than-positive cruise industry news, Brozosky says business is better than ever and cruise lines are working to be better than ever.
"It's still going to be the all-time record number of cruisers this year," he said. "It's continually gone up."
Travel Experts recommend buying travel insurance before you sail. It can cost less than $100 and covers things like health insurance, trip delay and lost luggage.