By Joshua D. Ferraro, Esq.
After 30 years of rapid growth, the cruise ship industry nearly sank in early 2020 when the COVID 19 pandemic struck. It has now been nearly two years since the major cruise lines resumed operations, and it wouldn’t be an understatement to say that vacations at sea are more popular than ever.
Although final numbers for 2022 are not yet available, anecdotal evidence suggests that the number of cruises taken last year could meet, or even exceed, pre-pandemic levels. Plus, the industry saw 41 new ships at sea, and they expect another 18 more this year (including the largest passenger ship in history).
This is great news for cruise lines, crew members and passengers. . . but it also brings renewed risks that guests need to be aware of so that their dream cruise doesn’t become a nightmare.
With the rebound of cruise vacations, unfortunately, came increased reports of significant, traumatic and life-changing injuries suffered by more-and-more guests, who simply set out to have a great time. The cruise ship attorneys of Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith, PLLC have put together a list of tips to help protect you during your vacation at sea and preserve your rights if the worst happens.
- Avoid Injury: Of course, the best way to save yourself the trauma of a cruise ship injury, is to prevent it from happening in the first place. The cruise line certainly has an obligation to provide passengers with a safe environment, but it’s always a good idea to take matters into your own hands. The cruise ship lawyers at Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith, suggest the following tips based on years of experience with injuries that have occurred during cruises.
- Wear good shoes that have new, sturdy soles. . . even at the pool. Of course, we know that not everyone wears shoes every time they walk on a pool deck, and you shouldn’t be expected to. However, there is no escaping the reality that pool decks get wet and, surprisingly, the cruise ship operators don’t go the extra mile to add sufficient anti-slip material to their flooring. A good shoe with plenty of traction can help alleviate this danger and keep you dancing on the lido deck.
- Exercise good situation awareness at all times. Cruise ships are essentially floating cities that often have thousands of guests and crew members who haven’t been vetted by anyone (did you have to submit to a background check before boarding?). Almost everyone on the ship will be nice, happy and helpful . . . but unfortunately, almost is not quite good enough. Keep an eye on your belongings, your friends and (especially for female passengers) your drinks. Things can happen quickly when the sun comes up and inhibitions go down. You can enjoy yourself but be aware of your surroundings and look out for your friends.
- Alcohol is everywhere on a cruise ship, from morning mimosas to after-dinner nightcaps, and everything in between. There is no reason not to drink, but the fact that you’re on a cruise doesn’t mean you don’t need to do so responsibly. Ships present lots of obstacles (like waves and water) that you don’t confront in your neighborhood bar, so while you have a great time, be responsible about it.
- Expect the best but prepare for the worst. If something goes wrong on your cruise vacation, the outcome will be a lot better if you have a plan in place to deal with it. These preparations can range from the ordinary to the extraordinary, but at the very least, the cruise ship injury lawyers at Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith recommend:
- Have a plan to meet your family and friends in a central location if anything major goes wrong. Of course, in the event of a major incident you need to follow all instructions from the captain and crew, but if you are able to meet as a family you will save yourself (and your parents) a boat-load of worrying.
- Think about buying travel insurance before you go. If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that unexpected things happen, and they can happen to all of us. If the cost of your vacation is significant, consider insurance so that you can reschedule if something major comes up before you board.
- If you are traveling far away from the United States, you should consider buying foreign or world health insurance. The ships do have medical personnel on board, but if you become seriously ill, they will want to get you to shore as soon as possible. Quality of care aside, many health insurance policies won’t cover travel abroad (or will only do so in the most emergent events), and you don’t want to come out of a foreign hospital in debt or worse, unable to get care.
- There are several companies that will provide medical evacuations back to the United States or other developed countries with modern healthcare systems. You can buy a policy in advance that will cover your family if anything that creates a need for care happens. This isn’t something most people generally think about when going on vacation, but if you need even a routine surgery, would you be concerned about having it done in a foreign country? Pro Tip: many credit card companies offer this service as a benefit to members, so check out the perks of your cards before you book the cruise.
- Document your injury. If you do get injured on a cruise, try not to panic. These things happen and you will likely be ok in the long run. Get medical care as soon as possible, report your injury to ship personnel (even if you were hurt off the ship) and take as many pictures as possible. If there are witnesses, get their names, address, phone numbers and emails (and take a picture of them so you can remember who they are later).
When you do get back to land, call a qualified cruise ship injury attorney, like the team at Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith, PLLC, as soon as possible. Federal law allows the cruise ship companies to significantly restrict your rights to recover for injuries, with short deadlines and complicated rules.If you wait even a reasonable amount of time to protect your rights, it unfortunately may be too late.
From a fall on a wet deck to an excursion gone wrong, if you have the bad luck of being injured during a vacation at sea, the team of skilled cruise ship injury lawyers at Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith, PLLC is here to help you. Call us at 561-655-2028 or visit us online at www.lesserlawfirm.com. Sail safe!