Reporting Kai Jackson
WASHINGTON (WJZ) — Preventing cruise nightmares. Lawmakers in Washington grill cruise line executives about their ships stranding passengers.
A series of recent incidents includes a destructive fire on board a ship that sailed out of Baltimore this summer.
Kai Jackson has the new plan to protect passengers.
Many passengers as well as congressional leaders say it’s time to clamp down on the cruise ship industry.
The leaders of the world’s biggest cruise lines were on Capitol Hill Wednesday. They testified before lawmakers about a string of mishaps involving cruise ships, and ways to improve safety.
“The safety and security of our guests is not only important to us, but our very success relies upon it,” said Gerald Cahill, Carnival Cruise Lines.
In May, a major fire gutted a portion of the stern of the Baltimore-based “Grandeur of the Seas,” owned by Royal Caribbean.
In February, the “Carnival Triumph” had a major breakdown at sea. Passengers were stuck on board the ship without power and no running water for days.
And in January 2012, the Carnival-owned “Costa Concordia” capsized off the coast of Italy. Thirty-two people died in that tragic accident.
“We trust these people with our lives, you know? We’re at their mercy,” a passenger said.
Over the last five years, there have been 63 fires on board cruise ships. There have been 44 collisions.
In May, several cruise lines developed their own passenger bill of rights. But Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia introduced his own bill to improve passenger safety.
“The culture of safety that Americans expect as they should is clearly not always a priority for cruise lines,” said Rockefeller.
“Anytime safety’s a factor, there’s concern,” said Paula Dozier, DTS Midway Vacations,
Travel agent Paula Dozier tells WJZ her clients are most concerned about safety.
“I don’t believe that oversight from the federal government is needed if the accountability and responsibility are given to the CEOs that are running these cruise lines,” Dozier said.
A Carnival spokesperson says their ships carry some 4.5 million passengers a year, and these types of incidents are quite rare.
New York Senator Charles Schumer even went so far as to call foreign operated cruise ships “the wild west of the travel industry.”