Most cruise passengers are unaware of the hidden terms and conditions that are printed on the back of their cruise line ticket, but those terms obligate the passenger and can seriously affect his or her right to pursue a claim should something happen while onboard the ship.  A number of passengers fail to read the fine print, which isn’t necessarily a problem- unless there is a problem.

Viewing the Ticket as a Legal Contract

Determining the level of liability that is placed on the cruise line can be as easy as looking at the back of the cruise ship ticket. When a passenger purchases a ticket and boards the ship, the passenger is legally consenting to the terms printed on the back of that ticket. Most passengers do not even think to look at the back of the ticket. However, a limited liability waiver is likely printed on the back of that ticket, as well as a forum-selection clause and clause regarding notice-requirements. All of these provisions can affect what the passenger has the right to do if injured while on the ship. 

Here are some important facts that should not be overlooked when booking your next cruise vacation.

  1. You Are Not Covered by Your Laws. Basically, what this means is the law that governs the cruise is not based on where the passenger lives or where he or she purchases the ticket. Cruise liners are governed by federal maritime law, international law, or the law of the country where the ship is registered. These laws are complex and require specialized knowledge that the average attorney does not hold. One issue arises when it comes to injuries on common carriers serving U.S. customers when the carrier is not registered in the United States. Many times, these carriers are registered in Panama or the Bahamas, where safety and labor regulations are more relaxed. In these situations, maritime law governs. Under maritime law, the carrier is liable for an accident only if it can be shown that the operator of the ship knew or should have known about an unsafe condition.
  1. The Schedule Can Change. Cruise lines include a provision stating that the ship may change the schedule at any time and without notice. Basically, you are at the mercy of their schedule, and you have no recourse if something negatively affects you, including additional travel arrangements you may be forced to make.
  1. They Are Not Responsible for Your Medical Care. If you become sick on the ship and are treated by the ship’s doctor, the ship is not responsible for the doctor’s malpractice. They treat these physicians as independent contractors and are not liable for that doctor’s negligence per the terms of the contract. This can put a passenger in a tough spot, especially if the doctor’s treatment ends up hurting them in the end.
  1. Forum Selection Clauses. Essentially all tickets include forum selection clauses, which require the passenger to file suit in a specific court, which is usually in federal court in Miami.
  1. Statute of Limitations. A statute of limitation sets the amount of time a litigant has to file a lawsuit. For cruise liners, this period of time is typically one-year. This is a pretty short period of time, since Florida has a four-year statute of limitations for most personal injury cases. However, the cruise liners are covered by a different set of laws, which determine a different statute of limitation.


If you have been injured on your cruise, on a wet and slippery deck, down a poorly lit staircase or steep gangway, in port on an excursion, or on a tender boat- it is important that you speak as soon as possible with a lawyer who specializes in personal injury claims against cruise lines. Most cruise lines, including Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Norwegian, MSC, Disney, Holland America, Princess, Costa, Regents Seven Seas and Oceania require that claims against them be pursued in a very specific place under very strict deadlines. Failure to comply with each individual cruise lines deadlines can result in a complete loss of any and all legal rights.

Aronfeld Trial Lawyers is a personal injury firm located in Miami, Florida since 1991.  We have fought hard to hold cruise lines accountable when they put their profits ahead of passenger safety.  We are available 24/7 and encourage you to contact us even if you are still on your cruise. The sooner we can begin our investigation and preservation of key evidence, such as the CCTV footage of your trip and fall, slip and fall, assault or other type of injury the more likely we will be able to understand and prove how the incident occurred. Remember, the cruise lines have the most aggressive and well funded defense lawyers in the world- protecting their profits.  You need an experienced legal advocate in your corner who will fight to obtain the compensation you deserve for lost wages, medical expenses, transportation reimbursement and pain and suffering.  Call us today and speak with a cruise ship claims lawyer about your potential claim- toll free 1-866-597-4529, 305-441-0440, or by email. We are ready to help.