Carnival Cruise Ship Bill of Rights Would Let Passengers Off Bad Boats

Thursday, 04 Apr 2013 08:49 AM

By Alexandra Ward

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In light of the February engine fire on the Carnival Triumph, one U.S. lawmaker is proposing a "Cruise Ship Passenger Bill of Rights," which would give travelers the right to leave the ship if their basic necessities are not met.

Democratic New York Sen. Charles Schumer has asked the cruise line to voluntarily sign a set of guidelines, including the right to disembark a ship "if basic provisions cannot adequately be provided on board" and the right to backup power if generators should fail.

Schumer is also asking the International Maritime Organization to investigate whether cruise lines are following existing guidelines and whether other countries are enforcing the rules on ships that house U.S. passengers.

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"Cruise ships, in large part operating outside the bounds of United States enforcement, have become the Wild West of the travel industry, and it's time to rein them in before anyone else gets hurt," Schumer said in a statement. "This bill of rights, based on work we've done with the airline industry, will ensure that passengers aren't forced to live in third world conditions or put their lives at risk when they go on vacation."

The Carnival cruise line has had one problem after another. A February engine fire left its Triumph ship adrift off the Gulf of Mexico. More than 4,200 passengers were stranded in miserable conditions as the sewage and sanitary systems on board failed.

The Triumph, in a repair yard in Mobile, Ala., broke loose on Wednesday after hurricane-force winds swept through the area, knocking two men into the Mobile River. The Coast Guard is still searching for one of them.

Other lawmakers have also called into question Carnival's safety record. Democratic West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller recently called out the cruise line for safety violations in what he claims have been 90 serious events over a five-year period.

Carnival Senior Vice President James Hunn responded to Rockefeller's allegations in a March 29 letter.

"Carnival has an excellent safety record throughout its 41-year history," Hunn wrote. "Our commitment to safety is reflected in the significant reviews, corrective measures, redundancies and investments undertaken by Carnival following such events."

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Hunn disputed the 90 serious events, arguing that 83 of them did not meet the definition of a serious marine incident as defined by the Code of Federal Regulations and did not require U.S. Coast Guard intervention. The other seven stemmed from the Triumph engine fire, Hunn wrote.

Related stories:

Carnival Passengers Describe 'Terrifying' Four-Day Ordeal

Carnival Cruise's Mismanagement of a Crisis

Carnival Flies Passengers Home After Ship Generator Malfunction

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