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11.18.2010
Passengers emerge from
Carnival Splendor in San Diego

Carnival Splendor Lawsuits?
The question of whether there will be any lawsuits over the recent Carnival Splendor fire has come up several times. I have said that it would not surprise me, because anyone can sue for anything in the U.S. However, there are the reasons why a civil case brought by passengers who merely feel they were too inconvenienced and uncomfortable for three days will never see the light of day.

One prominent maritime lawyer, James Walker of Miami, FL, wrote on his blog that a lawsuit against Carnival for this mishap "has no basis under these circumstances," and says anyone thinking of pursuing this action is "wasting their time and money."

The first reason Walker cites is that there must be a personal injury. "Taking cold showers, smelling toilets that can't be flushed, eating Spam sandwiches in the dark or other similar "cruise from hell" stories are not compensable," he writes.

Next, Walker outlines the most important reason why a lawsuit would likely fail; "the fine print" in the cruise contract every cruise line includes in the purchase agreement. Carnival and other cruise lines now have most cruise contracts delivered and signed electronically over the Internet. When you purchase a cruise, as with so many online contracts today, there are several pages of stipulations you say you have read, understand and agree to by checking a box.


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These contracts generally say that a cruise line has the right to refund the ticket price if they experience mechanical difficulties rendering them unable to provide the cruise as promised.

Carnival went above and beyond refunding the cost of this failed cruise to Splendor passengers. The line not only refunded the cost of the cruise, but according to a passenger's letter posted on the blog of the ship's cruise director, John Heald, the cruise line went far beyond what they were legally required to provide.

The cruise line also negated all onboard charges for the first day and night of the cruise, including casino losses, alcohol, gift shop purchases and all photographs taken during the first day. During the three days of no power they opened up the bars and even the minibars inside the rooms so people could have free drinks the entire time.

Carnival not only paid for all transportation costs to get people home, but they also made the reservations and provided transportation to the airports. If people wanted, they were allowed to stay in San Diego for a night in a paid hotel room and even received stipends for meals.

Finally - everyone was given a free cruise credit equal to what they paid for the cruise that went wrong.


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Walker also notes that the cruise contract limits the time period for filing a lawsuit to one year from the end of the cruise, and courts have upheld this limitation. The contract also states you must file your lawsuit in the state where Carnival Cruise Lines is located - Florida. Other cruise lines located in other states and have their own respective venue restrictions.

Now, if there were any personal injuries that resulted from this incident, such as someone tripping in the dark and breaking a leg, or someone getting physically ill from the lack of proper hygiene facilities that would be a different matter, but no one has come forward with any such claims.

In John Heald's blog he says he was constantly advising passengers, during his hourly ship-wide intercom updates, to tell a crewmember if they saw any problem they thought required the attention of the ship's staff. This was a very smart thing to do - it means that if there was any kind of accident or health issue during the crisis the cruise line should already know about it - and no injuries or illnesses resulting from the shipboard event were reported.

Still, will there be lawsuits from this incident? It is possible that someone will create a class action suit to claim something, but if they do they may be in for a long fight with very little reward. Why? As Walker says, "Most jurors will not have much patience for vacationers complaining about eating Pop Tarts on a cruise ship, when some of the jurors cannot afford a cruise in the first place and our U.S. troops have been eating MRE meals in the middle of the desert in Iraq and Afghanistan."


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Here is my point of view; going to sea is still an adventure, even if the modern cruise experience is less focused on that than it used to be.

Appreciating modern cruise ship technology is a big part of the new cruise experience. It isn't just a water slide, ice rink or gourmet restaurant, it is all of these things "at sea." The stupidest, yet somehow most challenging question I ever got from a mainstream media reporter (Wall Street Journal) had to do with all the attractions on new ships that make "the ship a destination." He asked, "Well, if it is a destination unto itself, then why make it a cruise ship?"

The answer is that the excitement and adventure of being at sea should still be the first and foremost reason for taking any cruise. A cruise ship is not just a transportation vessel; it is the ultimate transportation vessel. If a jet could provide you with gourmet food, live Broadway shows, full screen movies, private tubs and European duvets it would still be a means of conveyance and you would still have turbulence.

Cruises take place on ships at sea, and if you aren't excited about the accompanying beauty and adventure that comes with the experience of being at sea then you probably shouldn't take a cruise.

Discuss Carnival Splendor Media and Passenger Responses here.

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new feature articles

Things You Can Do To Ensure A Smooth Cruise Vacation
Amazingly one can find many people who’ve booked a cruise and when asked don’t know what ship they are going on blue arrows

Dedication of the Carnival Crew
The Carnival Splendor crisis showed the non-cruising public what we dedicated cruisers already know - a major reason cruising is so popular is because of the amazing crewmembers. blue arrows

Fire At Sea - Every Sailors Worst Nightmare
David Beers' excellent analysis of the Splendor fire, tough decisions by the captain and the heroism of cruise director John Heald. blue arrows

Interview with Carnival Splendor Passenger
New Video - Updated Carnival Splendor passenger Barbara Dillon has plenty to say about how Carnival and the Navy handled this cruise. blue arrows

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NEW CRUISEMATES CRUISES!

Let's Get Lei'd 5.0
We're doing yet again - for the fifth time (because these cruises do so well) - We are going to Hawaii on a Princess ship, this time the mega-Sapphire Princess. We sail from Los Angeles and return to the same. Eight days at sea and five beautiful ports of call - four of them in Hawaii, plus Ensenada. February 26, 2011.

Allure of the Seas
Join your CruiseMates on the newest world's biggest cruise ship on October 2nd, 2011, on the sister ship to Oasis of the Seas slated to debut in early December of 2010. We have great prices and plenty of onboard fun in store for you!