(6 a.m. EDT) -- In a precedent-setting move, the Cruise Lines International Association announced yesterday (May 22) it would adopt a Cruise Industry Passenger Bill of Rights, effective immediately for CLIA's North American member cruise lines. The bill, created by the 22 North American CLIA members, consists of 10 specific areas in which the members pledge to consistently ensure passenger safety, comfort and care.

Among them?

"The right to disembark a docked ship if essential provisions such as food, water, restroom facilities and access to medical care cannot adequately be provided onboard…"

"The right to a full refund for a trip that is canceled due to mechanical failures or a partial refund for voyages that are terminated early due to these failures."

"The right to timely information updates as to any adjustments in the itinerary of the ship in the event of a mechanical failure or emergency, as well as timely updates of the status of efforts to address mechanical failures."

The full Bill of Rights can be found here.

Clearly, at least some of the impetus for the creation of a Passenger Bill of Rights is recent troubles, including an engine room fire in February on Carnival Triumph that knocked out power to most hotel-related functions and disabled propulsion. Another high-profile mechanical issue occurred on Carnival Dream in March, when an emergency diesel generator malfunctioned, causing the cruise line to cancel the rest of the voyage and fly passengers home from St. Maarten. Also in March, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), concerned about the spate of cruise-related mechanical problems and their impact on passengers, called on the cruise industry to voluntarily adopt a bill of rights.

CLIA President and CEO Christine Duffy told Cruise Critic yesterday the new Passenger Bill of Rights incorporated not only Schumer's six specific suggestions but also added four.

Ultimately, the reason for creating this Passenger Bill of Rights, Duffy said, is to clarify what passengers are entitled to, moving forward, in the event of a mechanical failure onboard a cruise ship. Until now, cruise lines used their discretion in response to onboard mechanical failures.

“The Passenger Bill of Rights,” she said, “is about consistency, being clear and transparent, and putting teeth into this bill of rights.”

These are minimum standards, she added, and cruise lines can go above and beyond. CLIA member lines will be held accountable in case the basic standards are not honored, and cruise line CEOs, who all signed off on the Passenger Bill of Rights, are required to verify adherence to the initiative.

“This is a condition of membership in CLIA,” Duffy said, “and it is a contractual agreement between the cruise line and the passenger.” Cruise lines that do not comply with the bill of rights will be expelled from CLIA.

In addition, CLIA will submit a request for formal recognition of the Passenger Bill of Rights to the International Maritime Organization, which establishes ship safety guidelines on a global basis. “There,” Duffy said, “it will be forwarded for consideration as an assembly resolution.”

The Passenger Bill of Rights has been adopted only in North America, though any traveler who purchases a cruise ticket through a North American travel agency or cruise line will be covered, Duffy said. It will be extended to CLIA-related cruise organizations internationally no later than the end of 2013. --by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor in Chief