Industry group to review proposal for cruise passenger ‘bill of rights’

The cruise ship Carnival Triumph is towed into Mobile Bay near Dauphin Island, Ala., on Feb. 14. The ship with more than 4,200 passengers and crew members was idled for nearly a week in the Gulf of Mexico following an engine room fire. (AP/Dave Martin/File)

A push for a “bill of rights” for cruise ship passengers has caught the attention of the industry’s main trade group.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has proposed that the industry voluntarily adopt a set of guarantees based on the airline passenger bill of rights, which has already gone into effect. He called for the action last weekend “in response to a string of horrifying and dangerous incidents aboard international cruise ships,” according to a statement, which also includes a copy of a letter Schumer wrote to the Cruise Lines International Association and the International Maritime Organization.

Schumer’s statement invokes the February fire and loss of power aboard the Carnival Triumph, as well as a similar incident aboard Carnival Splendor in 2010. It also mentions mechanical or technical issues that struck the Carnival Dream, Legend and Elation this month. Carnival is conducting a review of its fleet and has already announced planned upgrades to Triumph and another ship being overhauled, Carnival Sunshine.

The proposal includes giving customers the right to disembark a docked ship if basic provisions cannot be provided; a full refund if a trip is abruptly canceled because of mechanical problems; onboard professional medical attention in case of a health emergency; current information about changes to travel plans because of a mechanical issue or emergency; a crew that is trained in emergency and evacuation procedures; and backup power in case a generator fails.

In a response, the Cruise Lines International Association said the group “looks forward to reviewing” Schumer’s proposal.

“The safety and comfort of passengers are the cruise industry’s top priorities and are fundamental to our business,” the group said in a statement. “While the industry must adhere to strict international and national regulations, wherever and whenever our ships operate, we also continuously strive through industry-initiated policies and ongoing reviews to improve upon our practices to help ensure the best vacation experience for all or our guests.”

Schumer is urging the industry to adopt the measures for now and calling for an international investigation of oversight and enforcement in countries where cruise ships are flagged.