Several people are injured and killed each year while participating in a cruise ship shore excursions and tours. Unfortunately, cruise lines painstakingly attempt to avoid responsibility by burying disclaimers on the back of excursion and cruise tickets. Despite these attempts, maritime law imposes certain responsibilities on cruise lines which they can’t disclaim.
Fran Golden recently posted a well written article on AOL Travel about the July 12, 2010 shooting of a 14 year old Carnival Cruise Lines passenger while traveling to a popular beach in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands in an open air taxi. These unfortunate facts are eerily similar to a situation which occurred years earlier in the Bahamas where gunmen injured several and killed one passenger while traveling from a beach known to the police as being dangerous. The cruise line in that case argued it was not liable for the incident because of its ticket language disclaiming responsibility for the actions of others. The court rejected the cruise line’s argument and determined cruise lines have the obligation to protect their passenger while on shore by warning of dangers it knows or reasonably should have known in places where passengers are invited or may reasonably be expected to visit.
In addition to warning passengers of dangers, cruise lines are required to investigate and select competent and reasonably safe tour operators to run their shore excursions. It is common for a cruise line to point to their excursion ticket disclaimers in an attempt to avoid responsibility for injuries and deaths caused by incompetent tour operators. In a number of recent cases, however, courts refused to enforce these disclaimers finding that cruise lines cannot avoid liability for the negligent selection of incompetent tour excursion operators.