Congress Gives False Information About Cruise Lines
July 23, 2014
Senator Jay Rockefeller incorrectly lead us in his opening remarks at the hearing on bill S1340, that essentially the cruise ship passenger ticket language forms a large mound of paper, so overwhelming it's impossible to read and understand.
Our research disagrees with this concept as we found ticket contracts online for all but one of the top 25 cruise lines. They can be viewed on their websites, where tickets are sold, with the exception of one they can be read before booking. If you cannot read or understand the terms they can be printed and hand carried or emailed to a legal professional for explanation before you agree to book.
Testimony given by one "victim" (Amanda Butler) family member from Mississippi, stated that congress should change the law to require all crew members calling at U.S. ports should be required to speak English. It would seem reading the cruise line ticket contract before booking a cruise should also be mandatory. When queried, she also admitted she had been on other many cruises before the cruise where her mother died, and pointed out she had not read the ticket contract as it was too small to read. Mr. Rockefeller also said during the committee meeting that passengers don't have time to read the contract before they booked a cruise or the contract is sent in the mail with the ticket.
Quoted from Senator Jay Rockefeller:
So we make it easier to report. I've also proposed simplifying ticket contracts and publishing more information about crimes and other problems on cruise ships. You know what I'm talking about when I talk about the ticket problem. You have to peel layers of paper away, and you're just signing a ticket. But it's underneath that somewhere that it says: Oh, by the way, you give up your liability. That is not nice. It's a terrible thing to do to passengers.
These aren't crazy ideas that I'm suggesting. They're common sense protections that consumers already have if they travel, for example, in airplanes or if they travel by rail. But the cruise industry vehemently opposes my bill, even the bill's simplest provisions like reporting crimes against minors or putting up a website at the Department of Transportation that consumers could consult while they're making their vacation plans, so they can see what the problems might be and what the advantages might be, so they're making an informed decision.
When an industry opposes even the most basic public disclosure about its conduct, it suggests to me, frankly, that it has something to hide.
False or misleading statements
- we easily found all but one of top 25 cruise lines contracts online. It is the customer’s responsibility to read and accept the legal terms before almost any large purchase. As in Ms. Butler's case you must agree to the terms before completion of a purchase is made or booking reservations are completed. Ms. Butler admitted that she had clicked the link, "Yes I Agree". The fact she could not be bothered with the terms enough to print the contract out and make a basic attempt at reading it before she clicked agree does not justify congressional involvement.
Cliped from the Amanda Butler testomony:
Question from Chairman:
- So, Ms. Butler, when you bought your ticket for the cruise did you understand that if you accepted medical care provided by the cruise line you would be doing so at your own risk, at your own cost, and that the cruise line would deny liability for the quality of the care?
Answer from Ms. Butler:
- We had no idea. We couldn't read the font. It was tiny. You have to click a link and click ``Yes, I Agree'' to even be able to print off your ticket. But you can't see what they're trying to hide. And the average lay person--we're a humble family from Mississippi. We didn't own--we don't own a magnifying glass and we weren't going to print it off and then try to figure out what their legal jargon or lack thereof was hidden in the contract.
- Plus you assume a certain level of responsibility, right?
- Yes, yes.
The top 25 cruise line contracts online are generally easy understood by a person of average intelligence. They are very up front and quite fair with their liabilities when you compare them to hotels, airlines and other travel related corporate entities and the fact they are prime targets for "deep pocket lawsuits (Wikipedia)".
The Best Cruise Line documented the practice of placing the contract online
In the chart below, the websites of the major cruise lines are rated on ten different areas of website usability. The column for Ticket Contract = TC, Full ticket contract is easy to find on website, shows which cruise lines have their ticket contract online,easy to find. You will note of the major cruise lines embarking from U.S. ports, all have the ticket contract online, except Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, as of April 2013, when the study was completed.
Having one major cruise line out of the top sixteen cruise lines, doesn't warrant congressional intervention.