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For some people, working on a cruise ship is a dream come true. They can travel the world and be at the center of the action out at sea.

But there are real dangers to working on a cruise ship, and those who do must understand their rights when working onboard. If you don’t know your rights, after all, how can you possibly understand when they are being violated, or what you should do in an emergency or injury when out at sea?

Read on to learn what those who work on cruise ships need to know about their rights.

The Risks to Crews

There are several potential risks faced by those who work onboard cruise ships. It’s important to note that workers have the right to be secure and safe as much as an employer can reasonably ensure. Hopefully, accidents on board are rare, but it’s still vital to understand the risks that can be faced in the workplace, such as:

Work Areas That Are Unsafe

Cruise ships, just as any other job, have to be properly cleaned and organized in order to reduce hazards for those onboard. If the floor is wet or if storage shelves are overloaded, it poses a risk to safety, and crew members can easily become injured.

Attacks by Pirates

Pirate attacks aren’t just in movies – and they didn’t stop happening during the 19th century. Piracy is a real concern on the ocean today in international waters. A ship attacked by pirates puts the crew onboard at risk. The cruise line must have proper security in place as well as proper training and emergency planning to help reduce the risk.


Employer negligence can happen anywhere, including a cruise ship. Cruise lines are obligated to protect those on board, including crew members, by following safety requirements and maintaining their equipment. If they fail to obey the law or they allow things on board to break down and cause injuries, then they are negligent.

Cruise SHip employee Rights

Crew Member Rights

When you work on a ship, you have rights under an area of the law known as maritime law. This includes standards that must be met by the international cruise industry. They include:

The International Cruise Line Passenger Bill of Rights

The International Cruise Line Passenger Bill of Rights includes the right to get off the ship if there aren’t sufficient resources onboard. It also provides the right to cancel a trip for reasons such as mechanical failures.

It may primarily cover consumer passengers, but it can be applied to those who work on board a cruise ship, as well, if it is a member of the Cruise Lines International Association. If you work for a cruise line that isn’t a member of CLIA, then you may not be extended the rights.

The Jones Act

Under maritime law, the Jones Act addresses the rights of workers who are injured at sea. Crew members on cruise ships in open waters have their rights protected under this statute.

The two parts of the act that are important to understand are the cure and maintenance sections. Cure is what provides injured workers the right to be compensated to cover their medical bills. Maintenance is what covers any ongoing costs related to an injury, such as lost income or medication.

What If You’re Injured?

If you work on a cruise ship and are injured, then you may be unsure what to do. If you believe you were injured due to negligence aboard, then you should:

  • Get medical attention immediately through medical staff onboard or first aid
  • Write down what happened and take pictures of the scene, if you can, to record your experience as soon as possible after the injury
  • Do not talk to the insurance company before talking to an attorney who specializes in maritime law – since they can determine what your rights are and help you through each step of the process
  • Make your employer aware of the incident and contact your insurance company, but don’t make any sort of statement that suggests fault on your part, since this can be used to deny you coverage or hurt your case later in court

What If You’re Injured on a cruise ship as an employee?

Working on a cruise ship may be one of the best experiences of your life, but it’s important to be prepared in case things go wrong. Understanding your rights is fundamental to ensuring that they are upheld – and that your employers don’t take advantage of you.


About the Author:

Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Winston Law. For over 20 years, he has successfully represented countless people in all kinds of personal injury cases, with a particular focus on child injury, legal malpractice, and premises liability. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, and named one of America’s Top 100 High-Stakes Litigators. Mr. Winston is AV Preeminent Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, enjoys a 10.0 rating by AVVO as a Top Personal Injury Attorney, has been selected as a Florida “SuperLawyer” from 2011-2021 – an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – was voted to Florida Trend’s ”Legal Elite,” recognized by Expertise as one of the 20 Best Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorneys, named one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015-2021, and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida for 2015-2017 and 2019-2021.