Suing cruise ship medical centers for medical malpractice is a complex legal process. I have represented hundreds of people who have suffered serious accidents while on cruise ships, and I have investigated the medical care many of them received in the ships’ medical centers. Based on those investigations, I can tell you this: You do not want to get seriously ill or have a bad accident while on a cruise ship.  

While cruise lines flaunt their new state-of-the-art attractions–like artificial surf machines and robotic bartenders–the medical care on cruise ships can often be medieval. I have frequently found that doctors and nurses on cruise ships make common medical mistakes, such as failing to diagnose and treat routine dislocations and fractures. I have seen dozens of cases where the passengers were told they were fine, and dismissed with an Advil and a pat on the back, only to learn once they returned home that they had broken an arm, leg, or wrist. Sometimes, the delay in properly diagnosing and treating the injury can have significant consequences.

Frequently the doctors and nurses on the cruise ships speak little English, or speak with such a heavy accent that they are difficult to understand. I cannot remember ever having taken the deposition of a cruise ship doctor who was licensed to practice in the United States or educated at a U.S. Medical School. Instead, cruise lines often employ doctors and nurses from Mexico, Colombia, or the Philippines.   

The American College of Emergency Medicine offers specific guidelines on how cruise ship medical centers are supposed to run and the level of care they are supposed to provide to both passengers and crewmembers.

For example, medical facilities are required to have established medical policies and procedures and a dedicated medical emergency telephone number. When cruise ships are at sea, they must have at least one doctor readily available to provide emergency medical care 24 hours a day. While cruise lines like to claim that their medical centers are not emergency rooms, they still must maintain certain equipment on board, such as stethoscopes, thermometers (with core/rectal temperature capabilities), pulse oximeters (SaO2), at least two cardiac monitors, two defibrillators, and an EKG device as well as other medical devices. Cruise ship medical centers also are required to maintain laboratories and a crew member competent to analyze blood, urine, pregnancy, and HIV.

Norwegian Cruise Line currently has equipped its medical centers with the capacity to consult in real time with the Cleveland Clinic when their onboard doctors face specialized medical issues that may lie beyond their experience or capabilities to diagnose and treat properly.  

Moreover, cruise lines must have a policy and procedure when confronted with a life- threatening emergency medical condition that may require a passenger to be medically evacuated, either by a helicopter lowering a basket or from ship to ship. In certain circumstances, ships can also change their itineraries to get to shore or simply speed up the ship so as to arrive at the scheduled destination sooner than planned to get an injured or sick passenger the medical help required.

For years cruise lines could escape liability when their medical personnel committed malpractice by alleging that the doctors and nurses were independent contractors over whom they had no control. Fortunately, the case law has shifted, and cruise lines are now recognized as having the responsibility to ensure that their medical staff properly care for and treat their passengers.

The shift stems from the precedent-setting case of Franza v. Royal Caribbean, Ltd.  Today, because of the Franza case and others, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA)–the world’s largest cruise industry association–now includes a “Cruise Industry’s Passenger’s Bill of Rights” stipulating that passengers have a right to full-time professional emergency medical attention at sea.


If you have been injured on a cruise ship, injured in port, or injured on a tender, and received inadequate medical care, you may be entitled to make a claim against the cruise line for maritime medical malpractice. Our lawyers have represented and investigated claims for malpractice against Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and others.

Call our cruise injury law office today and speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer who understands the complex issues surrounding a malpractice case against a cruise line. The majority of these cases are filed and litigated in Federal Court in Miami, regardless of where in the world the incident may have occurred and where the injured passenger may live.  They also require a lawyer who possesses a detailed understanding of the federal rules of evidence, international and maritime legal issues, as well as medical malpractice law.  

We are available to provide a free legal consultation by phone at 1-866-597-4529, locally at 305-441-0440, and by email at [email protected] or SKYPE. We are ready to help you hold the cruise line accountable for your lost wages, medical expenses, travel reimbursement, and pain and suffering.  Call us today–we are ready to help.