The lawsuits have begun in the wake of the problem voyage of the Carnival Cruise Lines ship Triumph. After the ship docked in Mobile, Ala., passengers complained of severe hardships during the four days the ship was adrift after an engine room fire.
The U.S. Coast Guard has investigated the incident, linking the fire to a leak, which knocked out power and the sewage system. Meanwhile, a ConsumerAffairs reader, Holly, of Texarkana, Tex., says she was a passenger on the Triumph back in 2011 and worried then that the ship had problems with its waste disposal system.
"I logged a complaint with the on call manager letting them know something was wrong with the sewer system," Holly wrote in a ConsumerAffairs post. "The stink was all over the boat! I would say the Triumph has had a plumbing issue for many months that was never addressed when I logged a complaint."
Coast Guard regulation delayed
Though the Triumph was never in danger of sinking, maritime writer and expert Robert Frump worries that safety requirements for passenger vessels are being watered down. In the last-minute rush of the Fiscal Cliff negotiations, Frump says Congress slipped through a measure that delays what he sees as necessary safety features for smaller passenger vessels.
The measure requires that the Coast Guard to continue to study the use of modern out-of-the-water survival devices. Frump said this, in effect, keeps them from applying new standards to thousands of passenger vessels equipped with old fashioned life saving rings.
The out-of-water devices hold people up and out of the water, giving them a better chance to fight hypothermia. Old fashioned life rings submerge one's body core into water, which even at mild temperatures quickly can kill.
Recent example of effectiveness
Frump points to the recent sinking of the Bounty during Hurricane Sandy. The ship was equipped with the out-of-the-water devices, which Frump says saved lives. Two months later, he says, Congress essentially deleted the Coast Guard effort to require such devices on more and more passenger vessels such as whale watch boats, tourist DUKWs, fishing charter vessels and others.
"This is isn't a study, it's a stall," Frump writes. "The studies can last years and years more."
Frump says a faster, cheaper study of the effectiveness of out-of-the-water devices would be to watch the last reel of the movie Titanic.
"She is out of the water and lives," he writes, referring to a scene with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. "He's in the water and dies. In, dies. Out, lives. Study over."
Tougher regulations for cruise ships
Ever since the Titanic disaster, cruise ships have operated under stringent international safety regulations. A United Nations agency – the International Maritime Organization (IMO) – mandates global standards for the safety and operation of cruise ships.
When Titanic sank after hitting an iceberg in April 1912, it carried lifeboats for less than half the people on board. The disaster claimed more than 1,500 lives.