Ports Of Call – Cruise Accident Attorney


Cruise ship ports and terminals are designed to transport cruise ships and passengers safely and efficiently. The cruise terminal consists of various structures including the terminal itself, the apron area, the terminal building, and ground transportation.

The best cruise terminals are always conveniently located near a major city with plenty of vehicle parking and public transportation available to get passengers efficiently on and off the ships.

A “Home Port”  is a place where a particular cruise ship begins or concludes its cruising itinerary. Cruise embarkation and disembarkation typically begin early in the morning so that passengers can proceed to customs and immigration, have their luggage unloaded, and make whatever flight or transportation arrangements they have. Then the cruise ship begins its process for the next cruise which includes loading baggage for the arriving passengers and making sure that the ship has adequate potable water and fuel. Often while a ship is in a homeport minor repairs are undertaken by either crewmembers or technicians that work in the home port.


Often the crew will disembark at the ship’s homeport and do things that they normally would not have time to do at any visiting port such as shopping, making calls to home, getting medical care, or just getting time away from the ship.

Homeports today have to have the ability to handle large numbers of passengers, sometimes 5,000 to 10,000 in a short window of time. That is why most major cruise lines have their mega-ships homeported in the largest and most sophisticated cruise ship ports such as Port MiamiPort EvergladesPort Canaveral, or the Port of Galveston.

In comparison to a home port, a port of call is only for visitors, only for a few hours, less than a day, or on occasion overnight. These ports of call also require an efficient system for transporting passengers on and off the ship gangway and to points of interest or recreational spots near the port of call.

The third type of cruise ship port is called a “hybrid cruise port” and they are used for both importing and transit activities. The Port of Nassau, in the Bahamas, for instance, is a Hybrid home port for several ships every week. 


Security is a fundamental issue of importance for cruise ships and passengers at ports because they can be at times vulnerable to the criminal enterprise from the local community as well as our firm has investigated instances where passenger-on-passenger criminal events have occurred. In fact, we represented a woman who was a passenger on a Carnival ship that was seriously injured while she was trying to board her cruise ship in the Bahamas and a passenger on passenger fight broke out on the gangway.  

As a result, cruise lines have a responsibility to ensure that there is adequate security for their passengers and they frequently conduct audits of port security to make sure that their ships, passengers, and crew are safe.

One of the most important factors in designing a modern cruise ship port and terminal is whether or not he can handle the size of some of the new mega cruise ships, particularly those that are being built yearly by Royal Caribbean and Carnival. In fact, since 2000 the average size of cruise ships in terms of passenger capacity, crew capacity, length, and depth has increased exponentially.

msc seaview 2


Gangways are also known as seaport passenger boarding bridges. They are a means for people to get on and off a cruise ship safely. In general maritime terms, a gangway is considered a walkway or a bridge that connects the cruise ship to land. Because access varies from one port to another a gangway can’t be positioned on different accents of the ship depending on the configurations of the port and the tide.

In some parts for larger vessels, some gangways consist of an enclosed bridge that is very similar to a jetway that you would find linking an airplane to an airport. There are three major types of gangways: 

  1. 1 Fixed gangways 
  2. Telescoping gangways 
  3. Mobile adjustable gangways

The size of the ship also will inform the location and placement of gangways. Our firm investigated and represented dozens of individuals who have been seriously injured simply getting on or off a cruise ship because of a wet or slippery gangway. Often the gangway is too steep which can create a slipping hazard. If you have been injured on a gangway-related incident it’s important to consult as soon as possible with an experienced gangway maritime personal injury law firm. 

Keep in mind that even though you may have slipped and fallen before you got on the ship, you will still be responsible to comply with the terms and conditions of your passenger cruise ship ticket which will mean that any case against the cruise line will have to be filed within one year of the date of the incident.

Cases against cruise lines for gangway accidents that occurred in cruise ship ports or terminals have to be filed most of the time at the Federal District Courthouse in Miami, Florida. That means even if you slip and fall getting on or off a cruise ship in Cozumel, Mexico the lawsuit will not be filed in Mexico but here in Miami, in the United States Federal Court.


Recently, our personal injury cruise attorneys have investigated several cases where cruise ships have hit the dock or run into other obstacles while trying to either enter or leave a port. Therefore, cruise terminals must have enough depth and breadth for cruise ships to maneuver safely in and out of the port. The berth area length that is required to safely moor and secure a cruise ship for minimal clearance is at least 10% of the vessel’s overall length.

Turning basins are required and need to have sufficient space to turn a ship around even in adverse weather conditions. Homeports must have adequate emergency plans to disembark passengers in the event of an extreme weather storm. 

In comparison, Ports of Call do not need to have these types of emergency plans because if there’s bad weather; a cruise can simply divert to another port or spend the day at sea. This frequently happens.  

When itineraries have to be changed due to weather concerns—passengers are often upset asking for refunds or other types of credits because particular ports and excursions had to be excluded due to weather.

Most cruise lines will not provide any kind of credit or discount for any itinerary changes due to poor weather conditions as they have the right to change the itinerary in order to do what is in the interest of the safety of the ship, passengers, and crew.

The apron area of a cruise terminal is the fenced secured area that is immediately adjacent to any of the cruise administration buildings or to the area where the ship has its doors. These apron areas need to have adequate room for stevedoring operations such as the handling of luggage utility connections and management of waste from the cruise ship.

Often in a port of call, there may be a replenishment of particular supplies for the ship which will require crew and trucks to arrive at the berth and onward particular provisions for the rest of the cruise. In addition to supply trucks, there also needs to be room in the apron area for emergency vehicles in case an ambulance calls to disembark a passenger and bring them to a shoreside medical facility.


Bunkering is the maritime term for ship refueling. This is most often done in a home port but occasionally will have to be done in a port of call depending on the length of the cruise and the size of the ship.  

In addition to bunkering or refueling, a ship oftentimes will take on board portable water.


If a passenger has to medically disembark at a cruise ship port or while at sea; the medical team on board the ship must make contact and arrangements with the Shoreside receiving facility that has agreed to accept the passenger. Unfortunately, we’ve had many cases where cruise ship passengers become seriously ill while on board the ship and the medical center fails to ensure an adequate reception for that passenger at a local hospital. Often this has to do with the fact that the local hospitals will not accept US health insurance and will require payment upfront.

We’ve had cases where passengers have been turned away at hospitals in the Bahamas for instance because they did not have $30,000 USD upfront to pay for medical care. Not every port will have a public hospital that will accept cruise ship passengers, which is why we strongly recommend that if you are going to go on a cruise you purchase international emergency medical insurance. This is also important in case you have to be flown home in a medical Ambulance. The cost of flying home in an air ambulance can be hundreds of thousands of dollars and some ambulances will require that this payment be made in advance. In other words, do not rely on your Blue Cross and Blue Shield or Medicare, or Medicaid to pay for your medical expenses if you’re seriously ill or injured during your cruise in a foreign country.


One of the major innovations that the cruise industry is experiencing is the new super state-of-the-art cruise terminals that are being built at major cruise ports like the port of Miami, Port Canaveral, and the Port of Galveston. These new terminals are being built in conjunction with cruise lines such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean Cruises, and MSC. 

In the past cruise terminals were warehouses that were just a facility to process passengers and get them on the ships. Today, these cruise terminals are major facilities that have shopping, restaurants, and other activities that give the passenger the perception that they’re on the cruise before they’re actually on the ship.

These new modern terminals are called “purpose-built cruise terminal buildings“ and they are designed to address the entire needs and functionality of the cruise experience for both disembarkation and embarkation. Sometimes the same building is used for both and can also be used for secondary purposes such as shopping, cafeterias, restaurants, and social events.

These purpose-built cruise terminals are designed to optimize the passenger flow and increase their satisfaction with the cruise experience while providing them the safety and security of a modern cruise terminal.

When a passenger arrives at a cruise terminal there is a designated place to have their baggage processed through x-ray scanners that can detect items such as weapons and other flammables that are not permitted to be brought on board the ship.

There are new redesigned queuing spaces that will allow multiple lanes of passengers to simultaneously board the ship together rather than having to stand in a long slow wind which can decrease passenger satisfaction and serious security risks if an argument or fight breaks out. Once the passenger gets close to the boarding time, their ticket will be verified and they will be required to pass through a metal detector to make sure they are not bringing a weapon onboard.

These procedures are all performed by staff who are employed specifically by the cruise line. Like their ships, the cruise lines are responsible for operating their cruise ports in a reasonably safe condition and that means they must repair, inspect, and maintain the terminals in such a way that people do not get hurt.

In other words, if you were to slip and fall on a wet bathroom floor in a cruise port terminal, the cruise line would be responsible for your injury if they failed to maintain the bathroom in a reasonably safe condition.  

Getting on and off a cruise ship is a much more complicated procedure in a homeport because that is generally where the cruise starts and ends. However, in ports of call passengers are going to return to the ship and are not taking large amounts of luggage with them. The procedure of getting on and off the ship is far easier and quicker.


Ground transportation from a cruise ship port is one of the most important things for the passenger satisfaction experience. That’s because cruise ships are generally in a particular port of call for 12 hours, in which case those who want to explore the port will need access to public transportation or private tour buses.

Our law firm that handles cruise ship port accidents in Miami and around the world always recommends that passengers who are going to explore a port, only purchase excursions directly from the cruise line.

We understand that there may be more options and less expensive options if you were to purchase the excursions privately but there are reasons why we recommend against this.

  1. If you were delayed for whatever reason on an excursion that you purchased through the cruise line, the cruise line will generally wait for you before leaving the port. If you purchase a private excursion and say for example you get a flat tire, get lost, or lose track of time, the ship will leave you in that part of calling and you’ll have to find your own way to the next port or home. This would be at your expense.
  2. Excursion operators that deal with the cruise line directly are required to have insurance. This is vitally important in case you’re injured on a shoreside excursion. For instance, if you decide to go zip lining in Rotana, Honduras, or jet skiing in the Cayman Islands and you get injured due to the negligence of the tour operator. If you purchase the cruise excursion through the cruise line the cruise lines insurance and the excursion operators insurance will at least be available to compensate you for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain, and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of the cruise. If you don’t purchase the excursion through the cruise line and something happens you will have to hope that that local excursion operator is insured which may not be the case.
  3. Cruise lines are supposed to do some degree of “due diligence” on these excursion operators and have at least attempted to verify the safety and quality of their operation. We have investigated hundreds of cases of passengers who have been injured on shoreside excursions and even though they have been “vetted” by the cruise line we have often found that the degree of diligence is lacking and have been on many occasions able to hold the cruise line accountable for the passenger’s injuries.

Cruising is one of the most exciting and beautiful ways to explore our planet. We strongly recommend that you enjoy your cruise experience by not overconsuming alcohol especially when you’re in a foreign port. We also recommend that you do not rent a car or a moped or scooter when you are in a foreign port, especially if you are unfamiliar with how to operate a moped or scooter.

Passengers Injured At Sea

Cruise ship accidents can occur from slipping, tripping or falling on wet or improperly maintained surfaces. We recommend that if you are injured aboard a cruise ship you seek immediate medical attention, photograph the scene of the incident, particularly including what caused you to fall, and keep a detailed record of the names of any witnesses and crew that may have seen your accident and who come into contact with you. Also it is essential that you keep a copy of your cruise ship ticket also known as a contract of carriage as many cruise lines require it to be attached to a complaint for a personal injury on a cruise.

One Year to File in Miami Federal Court

Traveling by cruise ship has become one of the most popular ways to see the world. Regrettably, many cruise ship passengers don’t realize that hidden deep in the fine print of their cruise ship ticket is language worded to confuse them about how to sue the cruise line should they find themselves in an unfortunate situation. Most cruise lines—such as Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Norwegian, Disney, etc.—require that injured passengers file suit in Miami, Florida, regardless of where their accidents took place. That stipulation is due in part to the fact that the major cruise lines are headquartered right here in Miami. Your cruise ship injury may have happened in Costa Maya, Mexico, or even Ireland; regardless of the location, you’ll want to contact an experienced Miami cruise ship injury lawyer to begin investigating your case immediately. Maritime law requires that you file your claim in Federal court within one year of the date of your accident.

If you have been injured at a cruise port anywhere in the world, our admiralty injury lawyers are pleased to provide a free initial legal consultation- confidentially over ZOOM, SKYPE or FACETIME. Call us today, we are ready to help you protect your legal rights. 


We offer anyone who may have been injured while on a cruise an initial legal consultation free of charge by SKYPE, email, or telephone, toll-free at 1-866-597-4529. Our lawyers have a combined legal experience of nearly 50 years, holding cruise lines accountable for putting their profits ahead of your safety.  Let our lawyers help you obtain the compensation you may be entitled to for lost wages, medical expenses, travel reimbursement, loss of the enjoyment of the cruise, and pain and suffering.  Call us today. We are ready to help.  

Miami-based Aronfeld Trial Lawyers was established by Board Certified Trial Lawyer, Spencer Aronfeld in 1991. The firm represents cases resulting in serious injuries in the areas of Defective Product Liability, Maritime Law, Automobile AccidentsPremises LiabilityCycling AccidentsSlip and Fall IncidentsWrongful DeathMedical and Dental Malpractice, Civil Rights Claims, Workplace InjuriesSexual Assault, and others. Every client receives the full benefit of our experience, our resources, and our commitment. The practice of personal injury law is our calling. We are a firm of high-profile, nationally recognized legal advocates who work for you, our client, never big business. All attorneys and staff members at the firm are bilingual speaking Spanish. To learn more, visit https://www.aronfeld.com/ or contact Aronfeld Trial Lawyers directly at (305) 441-0440.