Sen. Jay Rockefeller is the chairman of the committee and called for this hearing to raise awareness about the lack of oversight and accountability for passenger safety in the industry, reports the Associated Press.
This hearing follows a bill he introduced last year aimed at improving such protections for cruise ship passengers, and was held in part to discuss how that bill could help.
One woman told senators that she was choked and raped on a Royal Caribbean cruise in 2006 by one of the company’s workers, and then made to collect evidence in trash bags. No one took her to the infirmary immediately or gave her another cabin to stay in during a cruise to Mexico.
Even when the FBI got involved, her rapist wasn’t arrested or tried in the United States, she says.
“Cruise consumers have virtually no rights or protections,” the woman said. “I know this first-hand.”
Another woman told her tale of woe as well, recalling the horrible conditions on board the Carnival Triumph — you’ll remember the red biohazard bags filled with feces, sewage swelling through shower drains, and other nightmarish conditions reported at the time in 2013.
“It was soon very clear that Carnival Cruise Lines had no plan in place for such a disaster,” she said, adding that she was worried about fights as food hording began, with staff seemingly directionless. “They were essentially winging it.”
While Rockefeller maintained throughout the hearing that most cruise ship passengers have a great time and don’t experience any problems, everyone should be protected.
“In spite of the evidence that crimes, fires, mechanical failures, drownings and mishandled medical emergencies occur with disturbing regularity on cruise ships, the industry continues to deny that it has a problem,” Rockefeller said.
Cruise passengers recount horror stories to Senate [Associated Press]