The Golden Rule

July 27, 2012 | By | 6 Comments

When 36 passengers from Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas were injured when the bus they were on crashed while on a shore excursion on St. Marten, questions about Royal Caribbean’s responsibility were raised.
As we reported in our follow-up, there’s some disagreement about the incident, which Royal Caribbean dismissed as a “traffic accident” while passengers affected say was an irresponsibly planned outing. Our questions aren’t of a legal nature (it’s well known that cruise lines include disclaimer language in their terms and conditions to protect them from liability) – so we’ll let the lawyers hash those out.

But there is this: Cruise lines, including but not limited to Royal Caribbean, explain that the higher costs of their company-organized shore tours are justified because the line has vetted the excursions and provides an added level of support. For instance, if a ship-sponsored shore excursion is delayed and misses the ship’s departure, the line ensures the passengers have a place to spend the night and are returned to the ship at the next port of call.
But what about other types of support? Did Freedom of the Seas’ shore tour passengers get any extra level of support after their bus crashed? Several, who were on the bus when it crashed and have written to us, say no.
“No one came to the site, let alone met us on our return bus,” Erin Hill wrote to Cruise Critic in an e-mail. “There were no phone messages left for us.”
Matthew Steed told a similar tale. “After the collision, we were stranded at the site for two to three hours talking to police and emergency personnel (all French-speaking only) as we waited for transportation back to the ship. During this time none of the staff aboard the Freedom of the Seas deemed it necessary to travel to the site of the incident or contacted us in any way… Upon arrival back to the port at Phillipsburg, we were further shocked and dismayed to find none of the crew waiting for us to arrive. We all wandered our way back to the ship.”
Royal Caribbean told us that while the ship’s doctor and an onboard care team associate were sent to the hospital to be with those passengers most seriously injured, no one was sent to the site of the accident “because by the time they would have arrived, the guests would no longer be there.” (Note that Steed told us they were stranded for two to three hours there before the tour company sent another bus to get them).
Personally, I find this so surprising. If a group of my “guests” were involved in an accident I’d be out the door in a second to go help them. If I couldn’t get to them, I’d certainly be waiting at the door for their arrival to make sure they were okay, escort them to where they needed to go and just generally be there to support them.
That Royal Caribbean did not do this is distressing to me. Isn’t that simply the right cause of action?
And the lack of special attention — and in my mind compassion — continued once the passengers were back on ship.
In our contact with Royal Caribbean’s spokesperson to discuss the input from passengers involved, we were told that all affected “received follow-up calls from a member of our Care Team, as well as complimentary care in our onboard medical facility, if they felt it was necessary.”
Again, Royal Caribbean’s sympathetic portrayal of its own response to the scary accident doesn’t jibe with those who went through the traumatic event.
According to passengers who were involved in the bus crash, they did not receive follow-up calls until much later in the day — and after lots of complaining at the guest services desk. One woman, whose 17-year old and 20-year old sons were on the bus, told me her request for trauma counseling was ignored.
To Royal’s credit, Steed told Cruise Critic that the crew did set up a gathering area for people to have lunch and fill out incident reports.
“But even this was done after people had started a steady stream of complaints at the customer service counter,” Steed wrote in an e-mail. “It also felt like the sole purpose of them setting up this get together was for them to get statements to send to corporate, rather than to help us discuss and cope with our nearly orphaning our children.”
This gathering would have been a perfect opportunity to have a ship doctor walking around checking in with people, holding their hands, letting them cry on a shoulders, basically just letting them know that Royal Caribbean cared about them.
Hill said she felt the crew were so “unwilling to do anything that made them look even remotely responsible that they lost the human component, minimizing our experience and refusing to validate our feelings.”
Was Royal Caribbean so afraid of legal responsibility that it consciously ignored a more humanistic response?
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    6 Responses to “The Golden Rule”

    1. jocy
      July 27th, 2012 @ 4:14 pm

      i am not happy the way RCL response to the incident. I like RCL. I cruised twice with them and next on January 2013. If the reports were true like negligence I doubt if I booked my next cruise with them. I agree they should be in each victims serious or not to show their care.

    2. Tom Pecena
      July 27th, 2012 @ 4:21 pm

      I’d like to know how often accidents like this happen. I assume it’s a very, very isolated incident taking into consideration how many people take cruise line sponsored trips every year. RCCL should have sent somebody to the accident site to calm the passengers (and, I’m sure, be an eyewitness to all the events there)and had somebody to greet them upon their return. While frighteneing, it would be comprable to an airplane suddenly dropping down, a fairly common occurance. It was scarey with minor injuries, but everyone came out fine. I think a broken wrist was the worst injury. RCcL has to worry when comments like “my nearly orphaned children” are quoted to the media. How many years have they run this tour with no incident? Accidents happen. Had they not had an experienced driver from a tour company they trusted the results might have been much worse. RCCL should have done better, even if for PR reasons, but overall, had the tourists been from a hotel this wouldn’t have even made the news. I don’t know why cruise lines are targets for the media bashing and litigious passengers. It was an accident, take the future cruise discount you’ll probably get and move on. Life happens.

    3. Cheryl Lesage
      July 28th, 2012 @ 8:34 am

      Sounds like RCCL missed a few opportunites to handle this better. However, I have to wonder if some of the meladrama is for litigation sake.

    4. Maureen Archer
      July 28th, 2012 @ 10:53 am

      I was a passenger on this cruise and two of my friends were on this ill-fated trip. As an RN working in healthcare for almost 40 years, with experience in disaster planning, I am SHOCKED that RCL has NO plan in place to immediately send personnel to an accident site once they are made aware that an accident has occurred on one of their cruise sponsored tours. A staff member or team should be dispatched to assess the situation and direct the response as needed. They have more than enough staff to do this – instead, passengers were left to fend for themselves (if they did not go to the hospital) for an hour or more. This is inexcusable and shows a callous disregard for the passengers who are entrusting RCL to provide “a higher level of quality” on the ship sponsored tours. RCL can and should DO BETTER.

    5. Scott Taylor
      July 29th, 2012 @ 7:20 am

      When you go out on these excursions, sponsored or not, it seems that anyone with common sense would realize that accidents can happen. Royal Caribbean stated that they didn’t go to the accident scene because they figured that by the time they got there, the accident would be cleared. To me, that sounds pretty believable, not that I wouldn’t mind a free cruise with a nice big suite, the suite with one of those hot tubs out on the balcony, you know?,(Just Kidding – sort of *wink-wink*)… I think (some) guests are quick to side against the cruise lines when something like this goes wrong. And we’ve all seen these demanding people screaming at the poor service personel on every cruise, haven’t we? I found that many guests think that the crankier they get, the more they might get in terms of “free cruises”, “reduced fairs”, percs, upgrades, etc… Of course I wasn’t there and I cannot say that what happened here as reported by the guests weren’t factual reports that may or may not have been influenced by the potiential “perks” that RC may offer them. RC and other lines endorse & support these excursions for our safety as passengers, so, if this is in fact the way it went down, I would then say to the guests, RC is not God and they cannot prevent accidents on excursions nor can they make everyone happy all the time. They certainly do a damn good job of it the majority of the time and I LOVE LOVE LOVE, (if you hadn’t guessed already), Royal Caribbean much more than the other mid priced cruise lines and I’ve cruise most of them. No, they are not perfect, but the last time I checked, neither is anyone. On a side note, if Royal Caribbean is wathcing this thread, I am available anytime this fall for an Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Allure of the Seas. We already went on Oasis, so we thought, if you were offering, we’d take you up on the Allure. Just make sure it’s Eastern Caribbean, since we’ve done the Western too many times already. Hope this helps.

    6. Nancy
      August 16th, 2012 @ 1:16 pm

      I wasn’t there, so I don’t know if the facts are true, but it seems like many passengers were looking to milk it for all it’s worth. None of them were happy they were alive apparently, only how awful RCL treated them. I did get sick on one of RCL cruises and they could great care of me. My granddaughter recently took a cruise to Bermuda and became quite ill on the return trip. The ship doctor and crew took excellent care of her and had an ambulance waiting at the dock for her and had a crew member went to the hospital.

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