Skift Take

In addition to a 50% refund on their cruise fares, the 630 stricken passengers on Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas also get one future cruise day credit for each day they were incarcerated in their cabins. This hardly seems adequate, and Congress should give the cruise industry-written passenger bill of rights the old heave ho.

Imagine being a passenger on the Explorer of the Seas, the Royal Caribbean ship that returned to New Jersey a couple of days early with a suspected norovirus outbreak after setting a record for the most sick cruisers (630) and crew (54) on any ship since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began keeping tallies.

One out of every five passengers on the ship became ill, as well as 4.6% of the crew.

The Explorer of the Seas returned to Cape Liberty, New Jersey, on January 29 after skipping port calls in Labadee, Haiti, and Philipsburg, St. Maarten, and even the healthy passengers had to take extreme sanitary precautions, and put up with the inconveniences of the illness all around them.

So what is Royal Caribbean’s compensation plan?

  • All guests get a 50% refund on the cruise fare.
  • All guests get a 50% future cruise credit toward a Royal Caribbean sailing.
  • The 630 stricken cruisers also get one future cruise day credit for each day they were confined to their cabins.

In other words, although most passengers likely consider their vacation to have been ruined and would probably argue for a full refund, Royal Caribbean gives them only a 50% break, and the lure of an additional credits if they decide to sail with Royal Caribbean again.

If they’ve had enough of Royal Caribbean, then these passengers will have to settle for a 50% break on their cruise fares.

Passengers who became ill only get additional compensation if they too decide to sail with Royal Caribbean again.

The cruise line is obviously incentivizing these unhappy passengers to return and give Royal Caribbean another try.

All of this is shows that the cruise-industry written International Cruise Line Passenger Bill of Rights [pdf], adopted under Congressional pressure, is basically very thin.

This so-called Bill of Rights only addresses the refund question in the event of mechanical failures, and provides no guarantees in instances of norovirus or suspected norovirus outbreaks.

For these types of incidents, passengers have no guaranteed rights and are subject to the relative kindness of the cruise lines.


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Tags: health, royal caribbean

Photo credit: A member of the media wears a face mask as he holds a boom pole after Royal Caribbean's cruise ship, Explorer of the Seas arrived back at Bayonne, New Jersey January 29, 2014. Carlo Allegri / Reuters

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