Most people are familiar with the pre-vacation To Do’s—get someone to watch the pets, make sure you’ve packed all the essentials (cell phone, passport, tickets), and get things squared away at work. But when it comes to cruises, there are a few significant additions that you’ll need to include on that list.
When you travel within the United States, there are certain things that you generally just don’t have to think about—for example, access to medical care, problems that could arise as a result of citizenship, and various significant legal issues. When you’re on a cruise, though, all of these things—and more—need to be taken into account before you leave.
Important Things to Remember
Because cruises fall under maritime law, legal issues that arise on cruises can be complicated and very different from what most people are familiar with. Maritime law is actually a whole different realm of law with its own complex set of rules that is separate from American law and even international law. This is extremely important for vacationers to understand for their own safety.
Before you leave on your cruise, here are some things to be aware of:
Don’t ignore the fine print. When you receive your ticket, make sure to read the entire thing—even the fine print. Usually, that fine print contains some important information regarding your legal rights, and in this way the ticket serves as a sort of contract between yourself and the cruise line. Make sure you read and understand all the legal conditions.
Know where you are. Remember, once you leave the U.S. territory, you are no longer in the United States. Even if you’re sailing on an American cruise ship and even if you are an American citizen, the ship enters and exists numerous territories, and the law can vary from place to place. Remember to keep an eye on the flag being flown on the ship—usually, the flag will correspond to which country you are technically in on any given day.
Injury claims must be filed in Miami, Florida. Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Norwegian cruise lines all require that passengers file injury claims in Federal Court in Miami, Florida. This is regardless of where the cruise starts and ends. Disney cruise lines require passengers to file injury claims in Melbourne, Florida.
Accident claims must be filed within one year. Unlike many cases that take place on land (e.g., slip and fall cases, car accidents, etc.), injury cases that take place on a cruise can only be filed up to one year after the date of the incident. (This is often stipulated in the fine print on your ticket.) This can be difficult for some individuals, considering how much time it can take to find an attorney and get all legal and personal matters settled following an injury, so it is important to keep in mind.
Medical treatment on a cruise is not the same as it is in a hospital. Remember that a doctor who will be available to you aboard a cruise ship is not your personal doctor. This may seem obvious, but it’s important to remember since cruise line doctors may not be trained in a particular area that you may need. If you have a medical condition and you think you may need to see a specialist at some point during your trip, do some research regarding the cruise line’s medical staff before you sign up for a cruise.
Additionally, be aware that cruise lines are not always responsible for medical expenses, and that according to Federal Maritime Law, cruise lines are only responsible to pay claims that are caused either wholly or partially by the ship’s carelessness. This means it can be all too easy for cruise lines to fight personal injury claims, so you need someone by your side who knows how to fight back.
Keep Cruises As Safe As Possible
Usually, cruises are safe and fun for the whole family. On a cruise vacation, you get to travel to new and exciting places while being bathed in luxury. However, as with all things, there is always some degree of risk associated with cruises. To help ensure that your cruise vacation is as good as it can be, make sure you know all the details of what you’re getting into before you leave.
Hopefully you’ll have a great time on your vacation and you’ll come back refreshed and ready to book your next cruise. If, however, something goes wrong and you need to consult a legal professional, the experts at Lawlor Winston White & Murphy are here for you. Get in touch with our experts as soon as possible and we will help you sort out whatever legal questions you have.
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of The Law Office of Andrew Winston. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, and was recently voted by his peers as a Florida “SuperLawyer”—an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state—and to Florida Trend’s “Legal Elite.”