NCL passengers blew holiday storm out of proportion
By Sandra Speares, 11 June 2007 Lloyds List
A FLORIDA jury has found in favour of Norwegian Cruise Line in legal action brought by passengers on a voyage during which Norwegian Dawn was hit by a freak wave, writes Sandra Speares.
“We are pleased with the jury’s thoughtful and reasoned decision,” NCL chief executive Colin Veitch said following the verdict.
The case dates back to April 2005, when the ship was travelling north from Miami on the last leg of a one-week cruise off the US Atlantic coast.
Running into bad weather, the Norwegian Dawn was hit by a 70ft wave, which broke windows and flooded cabins.
More than 400 passengers filed a class action alleging negligence, breach of contract and intentional infliction of emotional distress against the defendants for disregarding their safety and well-being by deliberately and recklessly sailing the ship into a severe and dangerous storm,‛ according to court documents.
In a highly colourful filing, plaintiffs reported that they had witnessed “elevators strewn with blood from injured passengers, passengers fleeing from flooded cabins and vomiting from terror, with families huddled together with water rising precipitously around them with no end in sight”.
The plaintiffs also alleged that the piano player on the ship had played the theme tune from the film Titanic — until distraught passengers screamed for the music to stop. According to the National Transportation Safety Board report on the incident, four passenger received cuts and bruises and the crew “responded to the passenger injuries in a timely and appropriate manner”.
The report stated that “to see water flowing on the upper decks naturally caused concern among the passengers, but at no time did the damage pose a serious safety hazard to the ship”.
When the ship encountered heavier than expected weather the ship’s officers maintained its heading into the wind to minimise rolling and reduced speed, the report said.
“Rather than attempting to maintain the scheduled arrival time in New York, the master decided to lower the ship’s speed and change its heading for the passengers’ comfort.”
Property damage was estimated at $750,000 as a result of what the NTSB described as an “unavoidable encounter with severe weather and heavy seas”.