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Worst cruise ever: Can I sue?

A helicopter delivers pallets of supplies to the Carnival cruise ship C/V Splendor on November 9, 2010 off the coast California.

Carnival Cruise Lines has an offer for the haggard passengers who’ve soldiered through sleeping on deck, urinating in showers, and a steady diet of onion sandwiches aboard the disabled ship Triumph.  As a gesture of goodwill, the company is offerering a full refund for the cruise, plus a voucher for a future trip and $500.  

But that's probably not going to make everyone happy. So what about those passengers who are thinking about lawyering up? Julian Bray, a cruise industry analyst, has some advice.

“If they care to take a look at their booking document, the cruise line has got itself covered for just about everything,” Bray says.

Take particular note of Section 11(d):

 Carnival shall not be liable to the passenger for damages for emotional distress, mental suffering/anguish or psychological injury of any kind under any circumstances, except when such damages were caused by the negligence of Carnival and resulted from the same passenger sustaining actual physical injury, or having been at risk of actual physical injury, or when such damages are held to be intentionally inflicted by Carnival.

Translation: “Even if it's an extreme situation of wading through the sewage, you can't sue just because you had a bad cruise experience. You have to have sustained a physical injury or illness” says Jim Walker, a lawyer who specializes in cruise ship cases. 

“They call us cruise ship chasers,” he jokes. But Walker says cruise ship ticket contracts are usually so restrictive the chase rarely pays off.   

Still, frustrated-but-not-injured Carnival customers, take heart. Imagine working on a disabled 14-story ship with no working elevators and thousands of angry passengers, where you're the one cleaning up all that sewage.    

About the author

Krissy Clark is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Wealth & Poverty Desk.
Log in to post3 Comments

I think the families of those that died on the Costa Concordia would take offense to your sensationalist article title. Sure, it wasn't fun by any stretch, but at least nobody died.

They certainly won't win much good will toward future business if they don't fairly compensate passengers. If it even reaches the point of lawsuit then they've already failed.

One might argue psychological problems and trauma are indeed physically manifested in the brain. Regardless, the clause in question might also be unenforceable. One might argue that Carnival was grossly incompetent at handling the situation and amounted to practically willful torture.

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