EMBARKING & DISEMBARKING-FOREIGN PORTS
by Hermann Paul 11/9/02)
It is becoming a common practice for the foreign flagged cruise ships to insert in their passenger ticket reference to the" Convention Relating to the Carriage of Passengers and Their Luggage By Sea of 1976." This Convention or treaty is also known as the "Athens Convention" which has never been ratified by the United States. The passenger ticket represents an enforceable contract between the passenger and the cruise line. In the legal circles the passenger ticket is known as a contract of adhesion, a one sided, take it or leave it contract drawn up by the cruise line. The passenger can rarely "leave it" since it is the practice of cruise lines to provide the passenger ticket(contract) well after the cancellation penalty period is in force. It is unfortunate that so many passengers do not bother to real the passenger ticket.
The passenger tickets usual contain a provision placing limitations on carrier's liability. The following is the "Athens Convention" provision in the passenger ticket, which I happen to use since we are booked on cruise aboard a Princess Cruises vessel. " On cruises which neither embark, disembark, nor call at any U.S. port, Carrier (Princess Cruises) shall be entitled to any and all liability limitations, immunities and rights applicable under it to the "Convention Relating, etc. -----(Athens Convention). The "Athens Convention" limits the carrier's liability for death of or personal injury to Passenger to no more than 46,666 Special Drawing Rights(SDR) which is usually about $60,000 U.S. dollars but tends to fluctuate. Great Britain has for years tried to net the SDR amount tripled but the other nations which ratified the Convention have not gone along.
Example of how the convention might work. You book a cruise that requires boarding a vessel in England, Greece, Italy, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, etc,. and leave the ship in the same countries. It is my opinion the Convention was intended primarily for European nations that have cruise ships and ferries. My conjecture is based on the fact that the passenger under certain condition has an option of choosing the forum where any lawsuits can be filed. In the United states the passenger usually must adhere ere to the forum clause in the passenger ticket. For example with Princess suit must be filed in Los Angeles, California. I hasten to point out while I used the Princess passenger ticket, Holland American, Crystal Cruises and others have inserted similar provisions in their passenger tickets.
There have been relatively few court cases filed in the United States where the cruise line has requested the judge to enforce the "Athens Convention". The courts have generally not enforced the Convention for a variety of reasons, but I am sure the attorneys will keep trying. It may be interesting to learn that in a recent court case, Wallis v. Princess Cruises, No. 01-056700(9th Circuit) 9/24/2002 , Princess was not successful in having the "Athens Convention" enforced. This article is not intended to offer legal advice, for that use an experienced attorney. It is solely for informative and educational purposes.
HannaS77 a/k/a Hermann Paul