Passenger rights, safety, crime and taxes were among the topics covered at the July 24 cruise ship hearing by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, chaired by Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller.
Rockefeller said in his introductory comments that at last year’s hearing, he had been assured by an industry leader to trust her and the industry. But in the 16 months since, he said, he has not seen much evidence of change, as serious incidents are continuing to affect the ships.
“The safety culture that Americans expect is not always present on the ships.” Rockefeller said.
The Senator also said it was impossible to read the fine print in the ticket contracts, which, he added, is mostly about limiting the cruise lines’ liability.
According to Rockefeller, more also needs to be done in terms of public reporting of crime aboard ships.
According to Adam Goldstein, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, and Gerald Cahill, president and CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines, who were witnesses at the hearing, Royal Caribbean and Carnival brands, in addition to Norwegian Cruise Line, will start posting on their web sites all reported alleged crimes aboard their ships, going back to 2010, starting this August.
In addition to Goldstein and Cahill, other so-called witnesses were Rear Admiral Joseph Servidio, assistant commander for prevention and policy of the United States Coast Guard; Dr. Ross Klein, professor at the school of social work at St. John’s College, the Memorial University of Newfoundland; and Mark Rosenker, member of the Cruise Lines International Association’s (CLIA) Panel of Experts.
Servidio said that the Carnival Triumph had been detained with 28 deficiencies when the ship returned to service in June, some of which, he said, were serious, including problems with fire detection and fire fighting systems in some areas of the ship, as well as problems with lifeboat drills. He added the problems had been rectified by the next day, while the ship was held in port.
Klein said that there were contradictions between the Cruise Lines International Association’s Passenger Bill of Rights and the ticket contracts. He also maintained that there is a conflict of interest when ships’ security officers investigate crimes.
Committee members Senators John Thune and Richard Blumenthal stayed on topic, while other senators strayed to oil rigs in the Gulf and ferries, or excused themselves.
Senator Blumenthal also questioned if the Passenger Bill of Rights is enforceable and said: “I do not think that CLIA’s Passenger Bill of Rights is enforceable as a matter of law.” He also asked if cruise lines will contest the rights of passengers to choose jurisdiction, otherwise, he said, “the rights are illusory.”
Blumenthal suggested that the Passenger Bill of Rights is misleading as it does not state that passengers must pay for medical treatment.
Rockefeller noted that Goldstein’s participation was voluntary, but was less kind to Cahill, saying that he had provided no content in his introductory remarks.
As for CLIA’s Rosenker, Rockefeller said: “You are doing this committee an injustice; you are offending me.” The Senator suggested that being part of a panel nominated by CLIA, Rosenker was not an independent expert, but working for the industry.