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
You book a cruise and pay the money. You pay the final amount months in advance to your cruise. The cruiseline earns the interest on your money. You pass the 60 day cancellation policy and at this point you still have not entered into a contract with the cruiseline.
You finally get your documents 2 weeks before your cruise. You read the documents and decide that you don't want to travel under this contract because it limits the cruiseline's liability in the event of their negligence. However, you can't get your money back because your beyond the cancellation deadline.
Hmmmmmm...................doesn't sound like fair business practices to me!
When in Rome, (Athens), you do and follow the rules of Rome, (Athens). So what am I missing? I do not go into cruising with the idea of sueing or learning my options of filing a lawsuit on my mind. If I felt that way then I simply would not cruise. I don't really see the problem here. It is up to the individual to obtain the information they think is applicable to them whenever they enter in any contract for anything even here in the USA. In other countries they are even less litigation friendly. That IMHO is actually a good thing. My personal feeling is there are way to many silly lawsuits being filed and that only distracts from ones that should be filed and costs everyone in the long run.
Would you enter into any contract without reading it first? But that is what is happening with the cruise industry according to Hannah. You aren't given the contract until after they've taken your money and imposed a no-cancellation policy upon you.
In essence, you are not in equal bargaining positions once they have your money and will not return it.
I'm not sure what the point is. You're not entering into a business agreement. You're making a purchase of your own free will. If anyone bothered to ask, I'm sure they'd be supplied with a copy of the "contract" prior to booking. And if they did get it, I'd be surprised if they read it<G>
Not much different than purchasing an airline ticket (other than the price). No one tells you what your rights are, other than perhaps whether it's a restricted or unrestricted fare.
Much of the cruise line's liabilities are outlined in their brochures, but most people don't even read through those thouroughly. They only claim surprise when something happens.
It amazes me at times what perils people expect the perceived deep pockets of the cruise lines to cover. For example... people will pass on insuring their trips, and then expect the cruise line to cover for them if someone gets ill.
These are businesses. They sell you a vacation. Most now give you until 70 days prior to change your mind, at no loss to you. Simply, they want a reasonable amount of time to sell that cabin if you change your mind and cancel. A pretty reasonable approach really!
And definitely what you said re the airline ticket comparison. And consider how much more true that is in the current day of e-ticketing, where you've got nothing more than a computer printed confirm, and--once you get to the airport--a boarding card. Same will soon be true of cruising, even though I know the prospect drives the doc dance people nuts.
Even more odd than not taking out cruise insurance was the posting here some time ago saying that because they did take out insurance, were forced to cancel, and were compensated by the insurance company per the terms of the policy, the premium should also be refunded. Now that's what I call consumer advocacy!