The devil will indeed be in the details about the cruise lines' decision to begin publishing allegations about onboard crimes on their websites. This would be a big improvement in transparency for passengers, although the decision occurred with the prospect that Congress might have forced the cruise lines to do it anyway.
Royal Caribbean International, Carnival, and Norwegian cruise lines will begin posting on their websites a compilation of allegations of crimes “onboard our ships around the world, on all itineraries,” Royal Caribbean International CEO Adam Goldstein said today.
Testifying before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Goldstein said the postings will begin August 1 and will be retroactive to the last quarter of 2010 when Congress passed the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA).
The CVSSA, since it mandates the disclosure of crime allegations on cruise ships on a U.S. Coast Guard website, but only when the FBI has closed an investigation, falls way short of full disclosure and is inadequate for passengers seeking to weigh the onboard safety situation before picking a cruise.
“We are proud of this initiative and believe that it addresses many of the concerns raised with the limited public reporting required by the CVSSA,” Goldstein noted in prepared testimony, adding that the three cruise lines account for about 85% of cruise industry capacity.
The decision to disclose crime allegations onboard cruise ships comes as the cruise industry finds itself under extreme pressure, with the latest manifestation a bill that committee chairman Jay Rockefeller just introduced to enhance cruise passenger consumer protections.
One of the provisions in the bill would require the cruise lines to make publicly available all alleged crimes onboard their ships, which the three cruise lines apparently agreed to do.
“This is really encouraging,” Jim Walker, a frequent critic of the cruise industry and a maritime lawyer from Walker & O’Neill, told Skift. “Clearly, they [the cruise lines] were under pressure to do that, and I think they stole a little thunder from Senator Rockefeller.”
Walker, who attended the hearing in Washington, D.C., noted that sometimes the most advantageous deals occur at the last minute on the courthouse steps, drawing a parallel to Golstein and Carnival Cruise Lines CEO Gerald Cahill testifying on Capitol Hill just as Senator Rockefeller introduced his bill.
“it was surprising,” Walker said. “They are taking Senator Rockefeller very seriously.”
At the hearing today and in social media, Rockefeller blasted the cruise lines for 16 months of “empty promises” since a March 2012 hearing regarding cruise industry safety concerns.
Carnival has lacked a meaningful commitment to safety on its ships. (1/2)
— Jay Rockefeller (@SenRockefeller) July 24, 2013
While Walker is hopeful about the cruise lines’ decision to disclose allegations of onboard crimes, the Cruise Lines International Association’s recent adoption of a cruise passengers’ bill of rights, which also occurred under duress, came under fire at the hearing.
Ross Klein, a professor at the School of Social Work, St. Johns College Memorial University, testified that “the passengers bill of rights if full of empty promises.”
Klein explained that promised cruise credits as compensation for ruined sailings aren’t real refunds, that pledges of crew training provide no “assurances that training will impact behavior,” and that a plank to guarantee passengers’ rights to debark a stricken ship doesn’t spell out “how is the right fulfilled when the a ship is dead in the water for three days.”
“The devil is in the details,” Klein said.
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