What started as a welcomed getaway has ended with thousands of cruise ship passengers and crew members stranded in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico in foul, sickening conditions.
Our Fort Lauderdale cruise injury lawyers understand that while the Carnival Triumph ship is slowly towed by tugboats into an Alabama port, the company’s public relations team is in crisis mode, trying to spin this as an exceedingly rare occurrence.
Certainly, it’s far from the pristine images these companies want to project, but it’s not really all that rare – at least with regard to the kind of fire that caused this mess in the first place. Nearly the exact same situation happened aboard another Carnival cruise ship off the coast of Mexico in 2010. In the interim, there have actually been 10 cruise ship fires, and those are only what was reported by news crews. In a number of cases, including this most recent, the ship became either partially or completely disabled.
Recent Congressional hearings held on the issue of cruise ship passenger safety revealed that nearly 80 cruise ship fires erupted aboard occupied ships over the last 20 years.
In one case, a ship’s engine actually failed and caused it to float adrift in pirate-infested waters off the coast of Indonesia.
Of course, if you were listening to the cruise lines, you would never know about any of these incidents. Many times, the PR flack will either downplay the severity of an onboard fire or even outright deny it happened.
In fact, the industry does a stellar job of selling the entire experience as a safe and affordable family vacation. Certainly, no one would deny it is cheap – but that’s in large part due to the fact that many of these firms are incorporated in Third World countries, which means they can get away with paying their crews low wages and few benefits. It also means they can flout not only federal labor laws and taxes, but also standard safety regulations.
So even ships with English names departing from American ports may have no obligation to abide by U.S. laws.
It’s worth noting that a ship has to pass an annual inspection in whatever country it plans to enter, but the inspector for the U.S. – the Coast Guard – is unfortunately woefully unequipped and underfunded.
In addition to fires, mass illness is also a major problem aboard these vessels. In many cases, ill crew members are loathed to speak up or take the day off because they know they will simply not be paid. Cruise lines often blame passengers for the quick spread of these viruses, saying many don’t wash their hands. But the Centers for Disease Control has clearly indicated that contaminated water and food are the primary source of these potentially deadly ailments.
And just as the crews are worked tirelessly and with little pay, the ships themselves are often pushed to the brink. That’s because a ship that isn’t at sea isn’t raking in any money.
This situation is prompting Carnival to dock the Triumph for at least the next two months – a move they no doubt made begrudgingly and only after heavy incoming fire from the national media.
Call Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.
Cruise Ship Went From Love Boat to Horror Honeymoon, Feb. 13, 2013, By Matt Gutman, ABC News
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