More and more people are taking cruise ship holidays. They have
the advantage of not having to pack and unpack suitcases or drive
in foreign places while all the time enjoying being pampered with
food and entertainment and visiting interesting places.
But what happens if something goes wrong? What if the ship
lurches in heavy seas throwing you and your belongings around? Or a
freak waves breaks through a window? What if the food is off? What
if a fire breaks out? What if you are assaulted or have items
stolen? What if a railing gives way? What if your luggage gets lost
between the dock and your cabin?
Travel law specialist at Stacks Law Firm, Victoria Gallanders,
says a lot will depend on how far out to sea you are, the national
flag flying on the ship's stern, and the terms and conditions
of your booking contract.
"The laws relating to incidents occurring during an
international cruise are different to those which apply to
incidents occurring in Australia and it can be complex to establish
which governing law applies," she comments.
She says a cruise passenger could have potential claims against
a cruise operator for the tort of negligence and for breach of
"In tort, the applicable law depends on whether the
incident occurred whilst the ship was on the high seas or in a
country's territorial waters. If it occurred on the high seas,
the governing law will be the law of the country where the ship is
registered. Many cruise ships that service Australia are registered
in Malta, the Bahamas, and Great Britain. However if the incident
occurred whilst the ship was in harbour, local law will apply.
"A claim for breach of contract will depend on what is
contained in the cruise operator's terms and conditions. Some
have very strict reporting requirements and may even require
passengers to submit to the law of a foreign country so it's
worth having a good read through the booking documents. Many
countries have signed up to international conventions that give
passengers just two years to make a claim against a cruise
operator, which makes it really important for disgruntled
passengers to seek expert legal advice as soon as possible after
returning to Australia."
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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