Line to Compensate Cruisers After Detouring to Save Shipwrecked Sailor

January 23, 2013 | By | 16 Comments

The following post first appeared on Conde Nast Traveler’s The Daily Traveler blog.
Should cruise passengers be compensated when their voyage goes off-course because of a search-and-rescue mission? That’s the question we’re pondering today, in response to the dramatic rescue effort of Orion Expeditions‘ officers and crew when they went to a lot of trouble to save the life of a French sailor in distress off the coast of Tasmania.

Now, mind you, cruise ships (along with cargo carriers and military vessels, among others) have both a legal and moral obligation to respond to distress signals. These rescue efforts are astonishingly common (just last week Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Dream scooped up a pair of stranded sailors from a small boat near the Bahamas). But what’s absolutely unusual in Orion’s case is that the captain took a 687 nautical mile detour, in seven-meter swells and with 40-knot winds. Oh, and yes, the diversion took 54 hours. Alain Delord, a French yachtsman attempting a solo around-the-world voyage, spent three days on a raft before Orion came to his rescue.
Here’s the thing: While the huzzahs for the successful life-saving maneuvers of Orion’s officers are appropriately celebratory, some of the passengers aboard have been grousing because their vacation cruise was interrupted. Are they due compensation? This is a tough one; it’s a situation we haven’t encountered in the recent past. True, the 54-hour detour took the ship well off course (most rescues are reasonably nearby, but these waters aren’t exactly well-trawled by cruise lines). On the other hand, it seems churlish for passengers to complain.
Orion’s not in any mood for a long drawn-out debate and despite little precedence, the Australia-based luxury expedition line is offering compensation to passengers on the affected voyage — they’ll get either a partial refund or credit toward a future cruise. (Also worth mentioning: Since the ship returned to Hobart early, the company put together three days of touring Tasmania’s coastal areas to fill out the trip.)
Should Orion have folded? Weigh in below.
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    16 Responses to “Line to Compensate Cruisers After Detouring to Save Shipwrecked Sailor”

    1. KenSanDiego
      January 23rd, 2013 @ 4:41 pm

      Yes, it is the responsibility of any vessel at sea to render assistance. The risk/reward is all on the cruise line. They chose to go into the business knowing their responsibilities. They cannot then, force their paying customers to also pay for their obligations. Those costs should be factored into the fares they charge. The cruise line ultimately did not deliver what the consumer purchased.

      That said, I think a full cruise credit is the appropriate remedy.

    2. Pepijn
      January 23rd, 2013 @ 5:04 pm

      I do in part agree that the risk should morally not be that of the passengers.
      But I also do seem to remember the law being that ‘all seafarers’ should render assistance. And the term seafarers includes all who sail on the sea, even passengers. Lawmakers have made mutual assistance the responsibility of any person who sets foot on a ship.
      So legally…? Passengers in my expectation will not be entitled to anything, see also the cruise contract which allows for dramatic itinerary changes.

      PR-wise I do think it is a good idea to give some compensation. Depending on how much of the original itinerary was scrapped maybe up to half.

    3. Carmellia
      January 23rd, 2013 @ 5:11 pm

      I think that if I was a passenger on a ship I would feel good about what that Cruise Line did. Go WAY out of its way to save a life, that would mean mine is more valuable to them!
      Any ports that were missed and any expenses of those that might have prepaid for excursions should be reimbursed but not the full cruise fare or any part thereof! It would have added to the adventure.
      Yes, the customer has a right to that itinerary but life happens. Do they ask for compensation for a car company becuase they have to detour for accidents? Get real and get a life!
      Anyone wanting compensation for the Cruise Line saving a life should be ashamed of themselves for thier selfishness!

    4. Monty
      January 23rd, 2013 @ 5:24 pm

      Right on Ken I agree 100 % ! Compensation is fully due …

    5. Mickey Morgan
      January 23rd, 2013 @ 5:30 pm

      Absolutely not.
      It’s the duty of everyone that puts to sea to provide assistance to those in distress. That applies to everyone, passengers as well.

    6. Sherry
      January 23rd, 2013 @ 5:32 pm

      Perfectly said, KenSanDiego!

    7. Debbie
      January 23rd, 2013 @ 5:54 pm

      Let me get this straight ~ they went 27 hours out of their way to get the guy? And there were no “coast guard” or navy vessels, helicopters, etc anywhere? Was it the right thing to do, yes was it necessary for that ship to do it, apparently did it screw up peoples vacations, yes The passengers are not sailors nor do they make their living on the seas. A reasonable compensation is justified and the compensation they are offering sounds reasonable to me.

    8. Mary
      January 23rd, 2013 @ 7:33 pm

      I think the passengers looking for compensation should be ashamed of themselves. How would they feel if they were the ones stranded? How big a commotion would be made if they were in distress and no one came to help? Then they would sue everyone in sight because they were left on their own.

    9. Mary Glynn
      January 23rd, 2013 @ 8:14 pm

      If I remember a ship ignored calls from another ship’ Rusanting in thousands of deaths. Titanic.

    10. Kim
      January 23rd, 2013 @ 8:36 pm

      Make an insurance claim if possible, otherwise suck it up pets. His life is more valuable than your holiday you self centred people.

    11. Graham
      January 23rd, 2013 @ 8:47 pm

      A lone round the world yachtsman stranded in the Southern Ocean is an annual event and the cost of “saving” them is usually borne by the Australian taxpayer because the Australian Navy usually do the rescue. These people should have insurance to cover the cost of rescue or at the very least, they should pay from the media contracts, books and documentaries that follow. In answer to the question should the cruise passengers be compensated the answer is YES and this should be from the rescued “sailor”. These people should not attempt such dangerous voyages. Maybe they should try a cruise.

    12. Natascha
      January 24th, 2013 @ 2:43 am

      I agree with Carmellia. On our last cruise, we had to deviate to the nearest port to get a passenger with a major medical problem to a hospital. This lead to a big delay in arriving in our next port, and as a result most excursions were cancelled, and there was no local transport so for most the day was ruined. Did passengers whine? No, not in least, they all asked the crew if the passenger made it. It felt good what the cruise line did.

      When a cruiseline has to start paying compensation for this kind of thing, they may not come to the assistance of somebody in trouble (on or off the ship)anymore, as it is costing them too much money. Now that is a scary idea!

      And think of it in another way: if your cruiseship gets into trouble, wouldn’t you want somebody to come to your aid?

    13. Cheryl
      January 24th, 2013 @ 3:32 am

      Sounds like the cruise line did the right thing. A few hours or a day, well just suck it up, but this was 2 1/2 days, a significant amount of time and they lost the last 3 days returning to port early.
      Yes rescue is an obligation and I wouldn’t suggest that it be neglected. If you have crused for any amount of time, you have probably been on a ship that was called to investigate or rescue. Usually these stops don’t take long. That they were the closet at 687 miles says a lot. I do think some of these record setting attempts need to be better supported and make compensation for extraodinary rescues.

    14. lisa
      January 24th, 2013 @ 10:54 am

      Travel is an adventure and this would be another one to share! I can’t believe people expect a full refund. You know the ship’s obligation when you get on it! The ship might offer free wine with dinner or something fun since they are on the ship all day, but a refund is quite selfish. Stay home and be guaranteed your world won’t be disrupted. (that isn’t even true!)

    15. Phillis
      January 24th, 2013 @ 12:04 pm

      Mary i respectfully disagree with you. Passengers plan, book and pay their money to travel to some of the best remote destinations in the world. The last thing they expect to encounter is people stranded at sea. If the cruise lines have to take action to divert from their itinerary, then they should compensate for the inconvenience to passengers. Ships that go to places like Antarctica are not fly by night destinations. That takes careful planning and timing. Trips like that cost a lot so passengers should be able to recoup something. Nothing wrong with saving a life but sometimes people put themselves in harm way without thinking. Please remember that it took over 2 days to rescue the people while the ship was in choppy water so that was a danger to the passengers as well. Each incident is case by case but in this instance, compensation is well deserved.

    16. Brian
      January 24th, 2013 @ 3:21 pm

      Replace my scheduled and organized port visits to view (admittedly delightful) penguins and ice floes, to go on a never-in-most-lifetimes adventure on the wild high seas to attempt a daring rescue? Sure! Let’s go! No compensation needed or expected!

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