U.S. Senator Calls for Cruise Passenger Bill of Rights

March 18, 2013

(1:50 p.m.) -- Cruise lines should be legally required to provide adequate sanitary conditions, onboard medical care and guaranteed backup power, New York state senator Charles Schumer said March 17 while proposing a Cruise Ship Passenger Bill of Rights. Passengers should have the right to disembark a ship with a full refund if these basic provisions cannot be provided, he added.

Based on the Airline Passenger Bill of Rights, which senator Schumer successfully championed in 2011, the cruise ship-version is designed to protect cruise passengers from incidents such as last month's Carnival Triumph fire in which an engine-room fire left the ship powerless and without fully working sewage systems.

In a statement about the cruise industry Schumer said: "Cruise ships, in large part operating outside the bounds of United States enforcement, have become the wild west of the travel industry, and it's time to rein them in before anyone else gets hurt," Buffalo TV station WIVB reported. "This bill of rights… will ensure that passengers aren't forced to live in third-world conditions or put their lives at risk when they go on vacation."

As detailed by WIVB, Schumer's bill of rights would include:
  • The right to disembark a docked ship if basic provisions cannot adequately be provided onboard;
  • The right to a full refund for a trip that is abruptly canceled due to mechanical failures;
  • The right to full time, on board professional medical attention in the event of a major health crisis;
  • The right to real-time information updates as to any adjustments in the travel plan of the ship in the event of a mechanical failure or emergency;
  • The right to a ship crew that is properly trained in emergency and evacuation procedures;
  • The right to backup power in the case of a generator failure.
Schumer did not say how these rights would be enforced considering that all of the major cruise lines' ships (except Norwegian Cruise Line's Pride of America) are flagged in foreign countries and therefore legally answerable only to those countries and the International Maritime Organization. He has called on the Secretary of State to negotiate with countries, under which many ships are flagged, to adopt the bill of rights.

Cruise Critic has reached out to Senator Schumer to find out more about his proposal including why he believes the provisions in his bill of rights aren't already provided and how he would enforce it. A call to Schumer's office hasn't been returned.

-- by Dori Saltzman, News Editor