7 Clauses To Beware Of In Your Cruise Contract

Cruise line contracts are drafted by the company’s lawyers and contain nothing in the way of consumer protection. For instance, if you get sick and the ship’s doctor treats you and you die, your family can’t sue the cruise line for malpractice.

7 clauses to beware of in your cruise contract [MSNBC]


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  1. benbell says:

    Nothing special… read your airline contract and compare!

    • Griking says:

      But people don’t read contracts. If they did then the number of posts to this site with but cut in half.

      • dreamfish says:

        Oh yes – contracts are always written in such easy-to-understand language and even if you do read them fully I’m sure your interpretation will be legally water-tight.

        • mythago says:

          And it’s absolutely true that you’re always provided with reasonable notice to review the contract and have your questions answered promptly if you have any concerns.

        • TheGreySpectre says:

          They’re not that bad, dry yes, and my interpretation is probably not quite as good as a lawyer’s but they do state everything well enough to get all the basics, also the company should have a legal team and others who you can contact if you have questions on the wording. They really aren’t any worse to read then any of my engineering texts were.

          • sendbillmoney says:

            Yes, every time I’m about to enter into a contract I always call the other party’s legal team to get advice and clarification.

            I also always buy Monster cables, give my personal information to nice strangers who call saying they’re from my bank, and dive wholeheartedly into club orgies in Port au Prince sans protection.

            • TheGreySpectre says:

              I didnt say you had to call them every time I said it was an available option after reading the contract. If you take the time to read through the entire contract then they are usually quite clear about there terms. I don’t think I have ever found one that was vague where I needed clarification. Really sitting down and reading the thing answers 99% of questions.

              If you can’t read it that’s another issue that is not the companies problem if your reading level is not high enough to read it.

        • Griking says:

          It really depends on what the contract is for. Something small like an extended warranty has all the terms and conditions in a small three page fold out in my stores but you’d think it was written in Latin based on the number of people that don’t understand the process.

          Yes, they’re boring and they sometimes may be confusing but anyone who signs or agrees to a contract without actually reading it first is an idiot.

  2. FatLynn says:

    These mostly address extreme situations. The majority of passengers are not going to die on a cruise ship.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Worked on a cruise line, and spoke with the medical staff. Since so many retirees cruise, nearly every cruise has at least one death.

      • HogwartsProfessor says:

        Seems like most of those would be from natural causes and not negligence of the cruise lines.

      • packcamera says:

        +1 to that. I worked on ships for 6 years. Holland America, Fred. Olsen and other similar lines that market to older audiences have some sort of serious medical emergency, often a death, every voyage. My first ship, an older steamer (scrapped for SOLAS) had a dedicated morgue near the starboard gangway. Most voyages provided the morgue with at least one occupant.

    • sufreak says:

      My father in law passed on a cruise we were all on 3 years ago. (2 weeks ago was 3 years).

    • mythago says:

      And yet, the cruise lines include them in a contract. If these are such extreme situations that never happen, why are they so concerned?

    • Doubts42 says:

      No but they might and do get sick.
      On my carnival cruise over 300 passengers got sick, I got to read about it in the newspapers after i got home. I spent 5 out of 7 days on ship violently ill. Neither my wife (who I proposed to on this trip, before we both got this sick) or myself were able to get more than 10′ from a toilet, and were unable to hold down anything but water and a few crackers a day. Carnival’s response was “Oh well, that happens, here is a coupon for 10% off of your next cruise”, as long as i don’t try to use it on any popular routes or doing popular seasons.

      And this was after they left us waiting for hours in a big cinder block people warehouse before boarding, so they could “sterilize” the ship. The sterilization couldn’t have been very thorough as there were still dirty gym socks under the sheets on our bed.

      You couldn’t get me back on a Carnival cruise ship with a gun to my head.

  3. diasdiem says:

    Ticket purchase does not guarantee a seat in lifeboat.

    RMS Titanic
    White Star Line

    • sleze69 says:

      Maybe my page is rendered incorrectly, but I only see 6 clauses.

      1. Your laws aren’t our laws.
      2. Don’t hold us to the brochure.
      3. The quack who treated you isn’t our problem.
      4. Kids and retirees are second-class citizens.
      5. Wanna sue us? Come to Miami.
      6. Time is short.

  4. Al Rognlie says:

    The clauses regarding schedules and ports make a lot of sense to me. I was just on a cruise that wasn’t able to pull in to Victoria, BC because of the weather, and even though it was disappointing, it was understandable. When you’re on a large ship, a lot of things change all the time and I would have a hard time blaming the cruise line for it. I’m in the Navy, and until we’re actually tied up at a pier somewhere, I never assume we’ll keep to our schedule for the same reasons.

  5. smo0 says:

    The “weather clause” is in most contracts…. get used to that one…

    • Sneeje says:

      Yeah, and I don’t think people would be willing to accept the alternative. If cruise lines (and other travel contracts) had to allow refunds for the weather, that would effectively turn into a new “fee” charged to everyone to cover the company’s losses in this regard.

      There is no alternative where refunds are now issued and prices don’t go up.

  6. Moongirl55 says:

    Most of this is to be expected… although I found it pretty frightening that the cruise line can’t be held responsible for hiring some medical quack to treat their passengers. I guess now all the bad docs with serious disciplinary records know where they should apply for jobs.

  7. AllanG54 says:

    You mean Bernie Koppel can’ t cure me (for those of you too young or just don’t remember see: The Love Boat)? Been on 22 cruises, never had a problem except one year I got hit with the blasted fuel surcharge.

  8. HogwartsProfessor says:

    Weather is the same for airlines, and also for shipping companies. If our FedEx package is late, we can’t shortpay the bill if the delay was weather-related. I try to keep up on that because I send so many Express packages. They won’t do anything except deliver it as soon as possible after the storm or flood or whatever.

    FedEx, anyway, is pretty good about posting huge weather disaster delay warnings on their website. I wonder if the cruise lines are the same way?

    • wrjohnston91283 says:

      Well, most people buy tickets well in advance, so a “notice: hurricane is effecting the bahamas this week” isn’t going to help much, unlike fedex where you could ship something today hoping for delivery the next day.

      • HogwartsProfessor says:

        True, but if they had some kind of notice then you would at least be aware of possible delays and could adjust your return schedule accordingly.

  9. Dutchess says:

    Better yet avoid cruises all together.


  10. Nighthawke says:

    “The quack who treated you isn’t our problem.” So if someone puts a gun to his head and offers him an an exclusive backstage pass to meet his favorite deity, do you think one might get better?

    It might get him sent home, but if he is ill, yeah, he will go home.

    In Airport ’70 the movie, they had at least 5 docs and two padres on board, including one that had a helluva right hook. Ahh the gold old days of flying…

  11. chocolate1234 says:

    We did an Alaskan cruise for our honeymoon and we don’t plan on cruising again. Definitely not our style. The atmosphere on board reminded me of a creepy adult camp. Still, it was the best way to see Alaska in a limited amount of time. Our travel agent warned us about flight problems if we were delayed upon disembarking, so we built in an extra day to our trip to relax and spend one last night in a nice hotel.

    • Wombatish says:

      The advantage of cruising, to me, is it’s all built into the price.

      Now, you have to get a very good deal to make the price worth it, but they’re out there if you’re willing to look/wait/be flexible.

      It’s an easy way to take a whole family on vacation and it’s within driving distance (since Galveston is still a decently used port) but you get to end up flying distance away.

      /shrug. Just a different kind of vacation.

      • roguemarvel says:

        my in-laws want to take the whole family for vacation (paying for all 3 kids and their SOs) for Christmas and my husband and I think pricing is a big reason my father-in-law is pushing to take a cruise. Its just easier to not have to worry about paying for food and rooms, since those costs are up front especially when you are looking at paying for eight adults.

  12. mythago says:

    Y’all are confusing what a contract says with whether the contract can be enforced. Probably half the point of those contractual provisions is to persuade people not to sue, even if they absolutely have the right to do so.

    I mean, if on page 24,953 the contract said “You explicitly agree to have sex with the Lead Boiler Tender every night of your cruise” does anybody believe that the cruise line could enforce this?

    • Datruth says:

      How many days on your cruise did it take before you figured out that they couldn’t legally enforce it?

      • rav3 says:

        and then realized american law does not apply? AND that there are very few maritime law lawyers? and that the time you have to do this in a jury-less court is 6 months to a year?

      • mythago says:

        Turns out there’s a MRS. Lead Boiler Tender.

    • MeOhMy says:

      But the lack of enforceability is the other key takeaway of the article. Even if you DO have a legitimate case, it’s extremely difficult to actually bring to a court because of all of the shenanigans with the ship being registered in one country, the cruise line being registered in another, and you (most likely in North America if you’re reading this) in still a third country, plus a restriction on where/how/when you can file a lawsuit in the US.

    • TC50327 says:

      But he’s totally hot! Who wouldn’t want to do him every night?

  13. duncanblackthorne says:

    I’ve heard so many horror stories over the course of my life about cruise ships, I’m not sure why anyone with a lick of common sense would bother with them!

    • baquwards says:

      Millions of people choose a cruise for a vacation, and millions choose to do it more than once. I have been on 12 and haven’t got one “horror story”!

      Any vacation can turn bad. A cruise can be an absolute bargain, for a high quality vacation, if you know what you are doing

  14. Datruth says:

    Get trip/travel insurance, and be sure to actually READ what’s covered and what isn’t when you do.

  15. Captain Walker says:

    The “Fun” in “Fun Ship” is just a term of speech

  16. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    Great, folks, so cruise operators are a bunch of crooks and it signs the contract or it doesn’t get its cruise, perfect.

    In the original article, and in this article and the comments, I see no advice about how to take a cruise without running afoul of insane contract provisions. Is the only choice really to not take a cruise?

    Where’s our “bite back?”

  17. KennyS says:

    “… your family can’t sue the cruise line for malpractice.”
    I don’t think that I can sign away someone elses rights.

  18. Caveat says:

    Considering that the experienced cruisers are all advocating travel insurance, it would seem logical that an insurance fee should be automatically added to the price of the cruise. After all, many cruise lines have no problem adding a gratuity fee, whether or not you get good service.
    That said, people should really read the travel insurance policy exclusions. Those contracts have more holes than Swiss cheese. Anything pre-existing is excluded. I suppose you could get covered for an accidental broken arm, but only if you have never told a doctor that you had a dizzy spell in your life. There is a reason why those travel insurance policies are cheap, it’s because they almost never have to pay out.
    Insurance is not the real issue, but getting sick is a concern. In a boat where thousands are packed together, there are surely carriers of MRSA and shigellosis of the kind that are resistant to antibiotics. Passengers would be well advised to bring along plenty of antibiotics and diapers. Think it doesn’t happen? Just Google “ship” and shigellosis. Of course passengers can get treated at the next port right?
    Maybe not. Most nations can deny landing to all passengers on a contaminated ship. The ship can always disembark in the good old USA, right? Not really, because most ships are not of US registry. Still, the USA would rush medical supplies and staff to the ship, right? Yes, just a little bit slower than they rushed aid to the New Orleans Superdome after Hurricaine Katrina…

  19. TC50327 says:

    I used to compose the multipart tickets for cruises. People should read the term and conditions written on the backs of all 10-12 parts. Once you are in international waters (and even before) you are SOL. They could cut you up and feed you to the other passengers and your next of kin would have no legal recourse.

    The only counterweight to their absolute power is the customer’s ability to generate bad PR through websites, local tv news and travel columnists.

  20. do-it-myself says:

    Being on a cruise ship is similar to NOT being in the U.S., different (if any) rules apply. Cruise at your own risk. Can’t wait for my next one. I’ll keep going on them until I move out of FL (IF I do at all)!

  21. CorvetteJoe says:

    Don’t hold us to the brochure. – happened to us. Went on a Mexican cruise via Royal Caribbean, 1st port was at some jungle place with pyramids. We get there after 24 hrs of high rocking seas. We get to the port and the captain is saying how dangerous it was and how he didnt want to endanger the boat or passengers while trying to dock it, so we went to Cozumel for an extra day instead (was the next stop anyway). The waves were CRASHING OVER THE DOCK!!…so yeah, I don’t mind that they deviate from plans. We had a pre-paid pyramid excursion that day too, and all in the same announcement, they stated not to bother calling customer service, they would refund ALL excursions without any need to do anything. Just like that. All taken care of. A lot of people were disappointed, but not a single person complained when they let us stay two whole days in a better port anyway.

    Customer service on Royal Caribbean couldn’t be any better IMO. We’ve booked a few cruises with them and will book many more…regardless of clauses.

    I don’t see why some of these clauses are reasons to complain. People just find any reason to complain about the extreme cases. SOMETIMES extreme cases happen, thats what clauses are for, to protect the company from stupid lawsuit happy people.