Help – My Cruise Holiday Turned Into A Nightmare
More and more people are taking cruise ship holidays. They have the advantage of not having to pack and unpack suitcases or drive in foreign places while all the time enjoying being pampered with food and entertainment and visiting interesting places.
But what happens if something goes wrong? What if the ship lurches in heavy seas throwing you and your belongings around? Or a freak waves breaks through a window? What if the food is off? What if a fire breaks out? What if you are assaulted or have items stolen? What if a railing gives way? What if your luggage gets lost between the dock and your cabin?
Travel law specialist at Stacks Law Firm, Victoria Gallanders, says a lot will depend on how far out to sea you are, the national flag flying on the ship’s stern, and the terms and conditions of your booking contract.
“The laws relating to incidents occurring during an international cruise are different to those which apply to incidents occurring in Australia and it can be complex to establish which governing law applies,” she comments.
She says a cruise passenger could have potential claims against a cruise operator for the tort of negligence and for breach of contract.
“In tort, the applicable law depends on whether the incident occurred whilst the ship was on the high seas or in a country’s territorial waters. If it occurred on the high seas, the governing law will be the law of the country where the ship is registered. Many cruise ships that service Australia are registered in Malta, the Bahamas, and Great Britain. However if the incident occurred whilst the ship was in harbour, local law will apply.
“A claim for breach of contract will depend on what is contained in the cruise operator’s terms and conditions. Some have very strict reporting requirements and may even require passengers to submit to the law of a foreign country so it’s worth having a good read through the booking documents. Many countries have signed up to international conventions that give passengers just two years to make a claim against a cruise operator, which makes it really important for disgruntled passengers to seek expert legal advice as soon as possible after returning to Australia.”