CAVEAT EMPTOR(Buyer Beware) the Cruise Line Passenger Ticket
By Hermann Paul
While the subject matter has been written on before, possibly many have not been made aware of a current practice by some cruise lines. I have reference to inserting in the passenger ticket reference to the "Convention Relating to the Carriage of Passengers and Their Luggage by Sea of 1976" also known as the "The Athens Convention. A "Convention: is the same as a treaty and the Athens Convention has never been ratified by the United States." Most of the European cruise lines, especially English and Greek have ratified this Convention.
In recent times a number of cruise lines, especially Princess Cruises, Crystal Cruises and Holland America have insert a provision in their passenger tickets that reads like the following:" On cruises which neither embark, disembark nor call on any U.S. port, the cruise line shall be entitled to any and all liability limitations, immunities and rights applicable to the "Convention Relating to the Carriage of Passengers and Their Luggage by Sea of 1976," also referred to as the "Athens Convention." The "Athens Convention" limits to the carrier liability for death of or personal injury to no more than $46666 Special Drawing Rights,(SDR). This amount in U.S., dollars fluctuates. As of January 15, 2003 this would amount to $63,512. You could not file a civil suit in a Federal District court for this amount since the minimum has to be $75,000.
To comprehend why the "Athens Convention " can be onerous to a United States citizen, the following cruises may be helpful. The passenger book a cruise that starts in London, cruises the Baltic and returns to London or any other European port. The passenger books a cruise that starts on Aruba and ends in Acapulco. Should the passenger be injured, while suit may be filed in a designated the United States court, if the Forum Selection Clause requires this, the cruise line can petition the court to limit liability to 46666 SDR.
I have wondered what position the cruise lines, that insert this provision in their passenger ticket, might take when the passenger embarks and disembarks in Vancouver, British Columbia. Or-embarks and disembarks in Ensenda, Mexico on a Hawaiian cruise. It would seem that the cruise lines may not be able to plead the "Athens Convention" since the cruise stopped at U.S. ports.
Why have the cruise lines that refer to the Athens Convention in their the "Athens Convention" "a cruise that does not come up to agreed specification may give the passenger right to damages for lost holiday and all the mental stress, inconvenience, upset, disappointment , inferior stateroom and frustration. Try suing for these in a United States court. For many years. Except in the case of rape or sexual assault you cannot sue in a U.S. court for emotional or physiological distress. Great Britain has tried to get the limit of 46666 SDR increased but with no success. It seems the British courts have awarded higher amounts.
Unfortunately in the United States Maritime or Admiralty laws are designed to benefit the shipowners and operators, not the passengers. The lobbyists for the foreign flagged cruise lines have more power with Congress than the citizens of the United States.
The writer is not an attorney, not offering legal advice; for that you need an experienced attorney. The subject matter is non-profit educational information and for reader interest.