Tragedy striking on a lavish vacation is always unexpected, but not unheard of, as we have sadly learned from experience and recent news about 12 dead and 18 injured tourists visiting Mexico. The tourists were cruise line passengers, taking what they hoped was an exciting land excursion from a cruise that originated in South Florida.
You have scrimped and saved to take your family on a long-planned dream vacation. You are going on a luxury cruise to see exotic ports, in worlds excitingly unfamiliar to you. You are astutely placing all the exciting shore-side activity planning in the hands of the highly knowledgeable on-board cruise director. You’ve read the detailed descriptions in the cruise line brochures and perhaps watched the videos of passengers rafting down rapids, zip lining through the rainforest canopy, or simply traveling on bus tours to exotic sights in foreign countries.
You and your family are excited about what awaits you in this new adventure.
Sure, you probably realize you are paying a premium for adventures booked through the cruise line, compared to the prices offered for similar activities by the hawkers who accost you on the dock when you disembark. But you pay the premium because you assume that the quality of your adventure, the safety for you and your family, and your family’s security will be far better protected when you place your trust in your well-established, financially sound cruise line. You assume the cruise line has carefully screened the training, experience, and qualifications of its on-shore staff and regularly monitored the quality and maintenance of their equipment. You are making the wisest decisions. Right?
Not necessarily true.
WHAT PROTECTION HAVE YOU REALLY BOUGHT WHEN YOU BUY YOUR SHORE EXCURSION THROUGH THE CRUISE LINE?
If you find comfort because you THINK YOU’VE BOUGHT REAL PROTECTION, then you haven’t read all that fine print in the pile of papers you thought only told you what wardrobe you will need and the time your dinner seating is for. Once you’ve been hooked into buying your shore excursion tickets from the cruise line and it has pocketed as much as fifty percent or more of the cost of every ticket, cruise lines do everything they can to try to distance themselves from any responsibility for the injuries and deaths that too often occur when you are handed over to some foreign shell corporation running the show on shore. These are corporations involved in a $29 billion per year industry, but often, the land excursion companies used by cruise lines are not vetted or only superficially qualified. They may carry little or no liability insurance coverage; safety or security measures may be ignored; and the financial status of these excursion companies may be flimsy at best.
Ask for details about the land portions of the cruise. For example, the physical demands of shore activities are sometimes glossed over by the cruise ship lines. Many times, the level of difficulty is categorized similarly in two different trips, when, in actuality, one is far more strenuous and risky than the other. Ask about price; you can often book directly with the same tour company for a much lower price. Read all the fine print particularly on the waiver form you will invariably be told you have to sign as they are about to hook you into your zip line harness or hand out your scuba gear.
Safety of transportation is seldom discussed by the cruise line and their excursion desk. Typically, transportation is provided by the land based vendor. You could find yourself being transported in a door-less van with no seatbelts.
Most important of all, you need to understand that if tragedy strikes, you may find yourself faced with trying to recover damages for a catastrophe that occurred in a far-off country. The laws in that country may afford you little relief from what may turn out to be a shell corporation with little or no collectible assets. And the cruise line you trusted to stand behind the quality of the product you bought from them on their cruise on their ship based on their advertising in their brochure — well they are going to tell you they have no relationship with and no responsibility for anything no matter how badly “their” tour operator screwed up.
We hope that the family members of the victims of the Mexican bus crash find the quality legal representation they will need to defeat the “cruise line shell game” they are likely to confront in dealing with the terrible tragedies they have suffered.