It is no secret that cruise lines are for-profit businesses. Companies such as Royal Caribbean, Carnival, NCL, Celebrity, Disney and Princess constantly look for ways to add revenue and limit costs in order to increase their bottom lines. Some areas where cruise lines make money from their passengers are obvious. Casinos, bars, ticket sales for excursions are all well-known profit centers. One location aboard the ships where cruise lines make money that is less obvious to those who are not industry insiders are the ships’ medical facilities.
Cruise lines dedicate space aboard their ships for medical facilities. They stock those facilities with drugs, bandages, x-ray machines and hire doctors to treat ill or injured passengers. Passengers who use these medical services are charged on their shipboard accounts and must pay those charges before leaving the ships. What is not known by many is that if the ship doctors are negligent in their care, cruise lines disavow liability. In essence, the cruise lines found a loophole in the law to make money but not be assessed with liability should their doctors commit medical malpractice. This loophole is found in the 1988 case of Barbetta v. S/S Bermuda Star decided by the Fifth Federal Circuit wherein it was determined that since cruise lines have no obligation to provide onboard doctors for their passengers they should not be liable for the negligence of those doctors.