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  • Five Things We've Learned About Cruising

    (CNN) -- Days of sipping umbrella drinks have given way to the stench of backed-up sewage, stuffy cabins without power and limited food. The Carnival Triumph engine fire shows that the best-laid cruise plans can veer terribly off course.

    Sometimes it's rough waters forcing the ship's captain to change or skip a port of call at the last minute. And then there are the extreme cases of a days-long stranding, or in the case of the Costa Concordia disaster, the loss of 32 lives. When accidents happen, it's not always clear what the cruise line is required to do next.

    Here are five things we've learned about cruises since the Triumph's engine room caught fire on Sunday:

    Emergency systems aren't designed for a pleasant trip

    It's unclear at this point what systems are in play aboard the Triumph, but we know that generators are supplying power. And from passengers' grim reports, these emergency measures do not a fun vacation make.

    "The emergency generator is sized to provide sufficient power for systems that are necessary for the survivability of the vessel, passengers and crew," according to marine engineer Robert Jackson, who is the chair of the engineering technology department at California Maritime Academy.

    The plumbing systems on the ship are powered by electricity, and passenger accounts of sloshing sewage indicate that there's not enough to operate facilities for more than 4,000 passengers and crew.

    "Since the incident happened on Sunday, technicians have managed to restore limited power on board to operate some toilets and limited functions in certain areas. There is running water, albeit cold water," Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said via e-mail.

    A Coast Guard helicopter delivered an additional generator to the ship on Wednesday to supply more power.

    Itineraries can change without notice

    Cruise lines may change a ship's course mid-voyage. In the case of an engine fire, that's a given, but more routine sailings could also change. Diversions may mean changing a port of call or skipping it altogether, and passengers agree to the unexpected when they purchase tickets. The conditions are included in the cruise line's ticket contract.

    Carnival ships can "deviate in any direction or for any purpose from the direct or usual course, and to omit or change any or all port calls, arrival or departure times, with or without notice, for any reason whatsoever," including mechanical breakdowns, according to the cruise line's ticket contract.

    While terms and language vary by cruise line, according to Dan Askin, senior editor at online cruise community x, "it's pretty standard legalese across the industry that aims to protect the line against every contingency."

    This week Triumph sister ships Carnival Legend, Carnival Conquest and Carnival Elation all diverted to provide provisions to Triumph. However, those diversions did not result in any delayed arrivals or skipped ports of call, Gulliksen said.

    Passenger compensation often is not required

    Itinerary changes after a ship departs are considered part of the "proposed voyage," according to Carnival's itinerary change policy. Under the policy, Carnival is not liable for refunds or damages for post-departure changes.

    But when more than 3,000 passengers are stranded for five days, the cruise line is willing to concede a failed voyage.

    Triumph passengers will get $500 in addition to a full refund for the cruise and most expenses on board, transportation expenses to get home, as well as a credit for another cruise, Carnival said.

    Even in much less dire situations, most cruise lines do offer prorated compensation for cruises that are cut short, Askin said.

    "After that, there's significant variability in compensation, event by event," he said.

    After a bad cruise, can you cruise into court?

    Cruise ship inspections vary by ship and country

    In addition to the regulations of the International Maritime Organization, a United Nations agency, a ship is subject to the laws of the country whose flag it flies. The ship may also be subject to the laws of a country where it stops.

    The Carnival Triumph sails under a Bahamian flag, so authorities there are taking the lead in investigating the incident. But because the Triumph stops in U.S. ports and carries U.S. passengers, the U.S. Coast Guard has some inspection oversight over the vessel. The Coast Guard issued a certificate of compliance for the Carnival Triumph on May 17, 2012, after the ship's annual inspection.

    The Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board have also launched an investigation into the cause of the engine room fire.

    In contrast, the Costa Concordia, which ran aground and sank off the coast of Italy in January 2012, didn't stop in U.S. ports carrying U.S. passengers, so it wasn't subject to U.S. Coast Guard regulation.

    Passengers may have a legal case

    Carnival's ticket contract says the cruise line is not "liable to the passenger for damages for emotional distress, mental suffering/anguish or psychological injury of any kind under any circumstances, except when such damages were caused by the negligence of Carnival and resulted from the same passenger sustaining actual physical injury, or having been at risk of actual physical injury."

    While no physical injuries have been reported, if a passenger contracted a significant disease, such as hepatitis, from unsanitary conditions on the ship, maritime trial attorney John H. (Jack) Hickey believes physical injury could be argued.

    "I think that a case can be made that everyone on that ship is at risk of actual physical injury," he said.

    Will passengers file suit and can they win? Yes and yes, Hickey said.

    Carnival's contract prohibits a class action suit, but Hickey said he's not sure whether it is legally enforceable.

    Hickey has never filed suit over a cruise ship stranding, but he said these circumstances, particularly the reports of sewage on decks, are exceptional.

    "It's a public health disaster in the making."

    By Marnie Hunter, CNN

    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more


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    Before I begin my response to this negative" report" from another lawyer with a subliminal "Let's sue 'em" message, allow me to give a little information about myself. I have embarked on 8 cruises over the years on various cruise lines. These cruises have sailed to destinations from Bermuda to the Western Caribbean as well as the Eastern Caribbean. I have sailed on voyages lasting from 3 day's to 8 day's. I have had inside as well as balcony cabins. Over those 8 cruises, I have sailed on 4 different cruise lines. I do NOT work for or own a travel agency. Although my past experience may dwarf that of some of my fellow passengers on the CruiseCrazies site, I still consider myself a "Cruise Veteran". This story reported by CNN, is the same news agency that covered the travel of a disabled (Carnival Triumph) ship moving six to seven miles per hour for almost a complete day. I watched 15 minutes of their broadcast, which I equate to that of watching ice melt, before finding re-runs of "Little house on the prairie" more interesting. This failing news agency in my opinion is experiencing more distress than the Triumph by broadcasting this event!! Now, let's break down their "report" somewhat in comparison to the other mode of vacation travel. FLYING!!!

    "Emergency systems aren't designed for a pleasant trip".
    YES, generators DO supply power! Some designed for EMERGENCY power. Thus, the limited power after the incident. There was a disruption to most important passenger comfort equipment such as A.C. and refrigeration, but the power needed to supply limited lighting and the "NECESSITIES" were in place. Toilet facilities must be electric powered when you consider the vessel is servicing over 3000 toilets! In a situation such as this, the importance of a vessel being seen and heard, especially at night, while at sea is most important. It is evident that there ARE emergency procedures for power in place in this type of situation but those systems were obviously affected by the fire as well. Airplanes, with their multiple redundant systems, still seem to have crashes. My wife and I had been stranded in Miami waiting for a connecting flight to Aruba a few years ago because the scheduled plane was undergoing "Scheduled" maintaince. Scheduled usually applies to something pre-planned. Why was that plane assigned to a "Scheduled" flight? Did we look to sue the airline, NO! It is reported that flight delays affect over 320,000 flying passengers per year and cost the airlines AND taxpayers over $40 BILLION in gate fees and excessive fuel usage (nytimes.com). It is also reported that over 6,716 flights were cancelled, up 40% from the previous year, in 2010 (travel&leisure.com).

    "Itineraries can change without notice".
    Unfortunately, this is true. You will primarily see these changes for the SAFETY of the passengers. Bad weather such as hurricanes, warring countries and sometimes for vessel malfunctions. How often do you hear of cruise lines cancelling their scheduled cruises? You must keep in mind that your Captain holds the responsibility of the passengers in their hands and must make tough decisions when incidents occur. Also remember that these vessels carry an average of 3200 passengers per week and operate 52 weeks per year!! That's almost 170,000 passengers per year on one ship. And to quote from the story, " This week Triumph sister ships Carnival Legend, Carnival Conquest and Carnival Elation all diverted to provide provisions to Triumph. However, those diversions did not result in any delayed arrivals or skipped ports of call, Gulliksen said. ".

    "Passenger compensation often is not required".
    That may be true, and I'll keep this point short, Carnival will refund the total cost of the cruise PLUS $500 (that's about 150% restitution), a discount on a future cruise and were provided transportation from the dock and lodging in a hotel(s). I could not concieve ANY cruise line refusing to provide some sort of restitution to passengers when an incident such as this occur's regardless of their contractual obligations!! The passengers from the failed Triumph cruise interviewed that cried "I will never cruise again" were most likely first time cruisers that had nothing to compare their cruise to and did not understand that as with ANY vacation, there are risks. A few years ago, we flew to Aruba for our yearly vacation. Aruba is not necessarily considered in the Hurricane belt, yet we indured Hurricane Felix. Did we sue the resort? NO. Did we receive any sort of restituation? NO!!

    "Cruise ship inspections vary by ship and country".
    The Carnival Triumph on their last inspection received a score of 96 out of 100 when inspected on July of 2012 (CDC.gov). Inspectors are paid to find failures during inspections for YOUR safety. Unless a cruise ship is within a few months of being new, you would be hard pressed to find a score of 100. A score of less than 85 is considered a failing score. The cruise ships visiting U.S. ports are inspected, considered surprise inspections, approximately every six months unless they receive a failing score. At that point, they are revisited sooner to ensure the infraction was corrected. These inspections are primarily aimed at the sanitary conditions of the vessel and not the mechanical operation.

    "Passengers may have a legal case".
    Any cruise veteran will tell you that they have read of past passengers filing a lawsuit against a cruise lines, regardless of the restitution being offered, for reasons as minimal as not receiving their luggage to their cabin in a timely manner. Look at the world today, there are ALWAYS people you can't appease no matter what you do and filing a suit against a major company is faster and easier than winning the lottery. There will be suits against Carnival to follow, I can guarantee that. And these cases will cost the taxpayers millions in court fees and will clog up the courts worse than the toilets were on the Triumph.

    Yes, I have experienced some service interruptions on past cruises, with the worst being one in which we had an itenerary change do to the ships turbo charger malfunctioning. Did I file a suit against the cruise line? NO. YET, when I did contact the cruise line and explained my dissatisfaction in the change, they provided me with a discount on a future cruise AND added amenities for that cruise. Did I cruise again after that occurrence? YES! Did I cruise with that cruise line again? YES!
    It was reported last week that this incident on the Carnival Triumph will have no effect on the cruise industry just as after the Costa Concordia accident had no effect. My feelings are that the only bad cruise is when the ship sinks (hence the Concordia)! It is easier for you to find people that thoroughly enjoyed their past cruises than those that explain their cruise as though they were on the Titanic. And, it is easier to find someone that had a bad flight than a good one. No vacation is 100% perfect. But when you look into the amenities you get for what you pay for a cruise vacation, for me it IS worth the very, VERY minimal risk of an incident happening. So come this November, I will be "sipping my umbrella drink" aboard my ninth cruise.

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    Well said Tim!

    Maybe it’s been so long since our first cruise that I just don’t remember not knowing these sorts of things, but it seems to me that:

    Here are five things we've learned about cruises since the Triumph's engine room caught fire on Sunday:

    is sort of a strong statement regarding things that are almost common sense…

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