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European river cruises have traditionally been operated by smaller niche cruise lines, like Viking River Cruises. However, Disney Cruise Line also offers cruises down Europe’s Danube and Rhine Rivers, recently announcing six special Beauty and the Beast-themed cruises set to depart next year, to take passengers through the castle-filled countryside that inspired the film.  Onboard the ship there will be Beauty and the Beast-themed meals and a live production of the film. The highlight will be docking in the romantic French village of Riquewihr, which was purportedly Belle’s hometown in the movie.  

Additionally, Disney is offering two adult-only cruises for high-brow foodies, featuring unparalleled dining experiences focused the wine-tasting, -pairing, and -making.  While in port, these gourmet passengers will dine at some of Europe’s most sought after restaurants, bakeries, and craft breweries.

Disney partnered last year with two California companies called Amadeus Waterways, Inc. and AMA Waterways, which operate two river cruise ships, the 158-passenger AmaKristina–which sails through France, Switzerland, Germany, and the Netherlands–and the 170-passenger AmaViola–which sails the Danube, taking passengers through Germany, Austria (including a visit to beautiful Salzburg), Slovakia, and Hungary.

INJURIES ON A DISNEY CRUISE

If you are injured on a Disney ocean cruise ship or while on a Disney River Cruise because of the cruise line’s carelessness, it is important to understand the complex legal hurdles that Disney will require you to clear in order to bring a claim. As with all cruise operators, the timing, place, and method of bringing a claim are contained in the complex legal “small print” found deeply buried in the “terms and conditions” of the passenger ticket.  Moreover, the case law is clear that you don’t have to actually read the terms to be bound by them.

For instance, Disney sells their river cruises through a separate company called “Adventures by Disney Travel Services, Inc.” which is based in Lake Buena Vista, Florida; however, the ships themselves are operated by two California companies–Amadeus Waterways, Inc. and AmaWaterways, LLC, a limited liability company. Both stipulate separate “terms and conditions” as to how claims can be made against them.

Disney requires that claims be made in Florida, under Florida law in an Orange County Superior (sic . . . it should read “circuit court” as Florida does not have superior courts, but Disney has this wrong). Disney requires that they receive a written notice of the intent to file suit within six months of the incident; the lawsuit must be filed within one year of the date of the incident and then served within 120 days of filing. Pretty complicated, right? It gets worse: They also state that injured passengers are simultaneously bound by the terms and conditions of AMA Waterways’ passenger contract. They don’t mention what those are nor do they provide a link, but here’s what I found:

Claims against Amadeus Waterways, Inc. and AMA Waterways have to be filed in Los Angeles, California, but on its website the company claims not to be the actual operator of the ships; instead, it claims that their ships are operated by “third party owners, operators and charterers.” The website goes on to state, “We do not own or operate any ship or transport service.”  Accordingly, they disclaim any responsibility for every type of accident or incident–even intentional acts that can occur while on the cruise, including “personal injury or death.” They also limit the amount of damages that can be asserted to the amount paid for the cruise. In other words . . . a refund. To top it off, the contract contains a waiver of a jury trial, meaning that a judge, not a jury, will be empowered to render the verdict, if any, in a dispute with them.

If Disney is not responsible and AMA has insulated itself, who then owns and operates these ships and is responsible when, hypothetically, a passenger is injured by slipping on a wet deck or dangerous staircase, or is sexually assaulted by a member of the crew or another passenger?   The answer:  AmaWaterways Gmbh–yet another layer in this legal puzzle.

AmaWaterways Gmbh, a Swiss company based in Basel, has a contract, of course with specific terms and conditions in its passenger ticket.  It also requires the receipt of a written notice of intent to claim within six months of the date of the incident and that lawsuits be filed within one year of the date of accident.  Any claims against it are subject to Swiss law–and must be litigated in a civil court in Basel, Switzerland. Claims are also limited to a complex calculation based upon the number of passengers the ship has a capacity to carry times about $92,000.  Any claims that are made outside of the specific time and location requirements are considered waived.  

INJURED ON A DISNEY CRUISE?

Given the complex web of requirements outlined above, it should be clear that injured cruise passengers require expert legal representation. We offer free initial consultations to anyone who may have a potential claim against Disney or any other major cruise line for accidents that occur anywhere in the world. Our maritime accident claims attorneys have nearly 30 years of combined legal experience representing passengers from around the world.  

Cruise accidents must be investigated immediately as there is a one-year statute of limitations for these types of cases. We strongly recommend that you contact us as soon as possible after your accident, even while still aboard your cruise, so that we can initiate our investigation and preserve valuable evidence, such as the CCTV footage of the incident and conditions that may have caused it.  We are available toll-free at 1-866-597-4529, locally at 305-441-0440, and by email at [email protected] or SKYPE. Call us today–we are ready to help you hold the cruise operator accountable for your lost wages, medical expenses, travel reimbursements, and money for your pain and suffering.  We are ready to help.