The number of cruise ship passengers whose dream vacations devolve into nightmares grows each day. A casual glance at the news reveals the growing list of calamities occurring on cruise ships. Victims of one particular and recent cruise disaster described the ship as a floating toilet in which the lack of electricity, running water and working plumbing turned the vessel into hell on the high seas. Other examples of cruise ship tragedies include:
- Death due to a fall from a balcony
- Serious food poisoning
- Norovirus outbreak
Floating crime scenes in international waters
While no one is pleased when a cruise ship vacation is unexpectedly ruined, recent reports indicate that there may be far more serious issues on commercial cruise ships than food poisoning and broken toilets. Recent reports indicate that an alarming number of cruise ships are actually floating crime scenes.In perhaps the most disturbing recent case, an 11-year-old girl was assaulted on a Disney cruise, after which the cruise line not only allegedly failed to report the crime, but it spirited the assailant out of U.S. waters and back to his home country on the other side of the world.
According to organizations such as the International Cruise Victims Association, cruise ships are host to a variety of serious crimes, including assaults, kidnapping and even murder. Due to current laws, pinpointing the exact number of crimes is difficult. While the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act requires cruise lines to contact the FBI as soon as possible after a crime, the U.S. Coast Guard is only required to report crime statistics for investigations that have been closed. This has resulted in a decrease in reporting to the public.
Cruise ship crime victims may not only have a criminal case, they may also have a valid civil claim against the cruise line for their injuries. Passengers have successfully sued cruise lines for sexual assault and wrongful death, among other causes of action. Similarly, standard laws of negligence apply on cruise ships, the operators of which are generally liable for slip and fall injuries and other similar accidents.
The law related to incidents on cruise ships is complicated due to jurisdictional issues and unique maritime provisions. As such, a qualified attorney is often necessary to navigate cruise ship-related claims.