Can this trip be saved? Slipped and fell on my cruise — how about a do-over?

By | May 15th, 2011

Accidents happen.

But what if an accident happens because of the direct result of a travel company’s recommendation, which directly affects the rest of your vacation?

That’s the question Mary Lee Sturner is weighing after her recent Western Caribbean cruise on the Norwegian Pearl. In Belize, the cruise line recommended a zip-line and rappelling excursion for Sturner and her 10-year-old grandson.

Sturner’s husband, John, explains what happened next.

This event takes place in a rainforest and rugged trails connect the various zip line sites. Between the second and third site, Mary Lee slipped on a wet rock and broke four ribs in her back.

The staff did an excellent job of getting her to the hospital and back on the ship, where the medical care was great. Everyone from the captain on down were caring. Mary Lee was of course bed- and wheelchair bound for the rest of the voyage, which was more than half of the cruise.

When the Sturners returned to the States, they sent a letter directly to Kevin Sheehan, the CEO of NCL. They heard nothing. So they sent another letter to the claims department. Here’s an excerpt:

This is in no way a claim or to infer any liability, simply a request. Inasmuch as more than half the cruise was lost for all purposes for me, my husband and my grandson and given the fact that we are loyal Silver Latitude NCL sailers, is there any possibility that NCL would grant us some financial consideration on a future cruise?

Before we get into the merits of Sturner’s case, let’s get a few things straight: At a bare minimum, NCL should have sent Sturner a form letter saying, “Sorry, we can’t help.” The family’s inquiries were polite and reasonable. I mean, offering a modest discount to a Sliver Latitude frequent cruiser? I’m sure that kind of thing is routinely done for less reasons.

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A look at NCL ticket contract — the legal agreement between Sturner and the cruise line — suggests it’s not liable for her injury. Paragraph 5 a) says,

The Guest acknowledges that the Carrier is not an insurer of his or her safety during the course of the voyage, and the Guest agrees that the Carrier shall not be liable in any circumstances for any incident or injury arising from events occurring outside of the Guest areas of the vessel or outside of the vessel itself, including but not limited to those events occurring ashore (including shore excursions), on tenders not owned or operated by the Carrier, on or resulting from equipment not a part of the vessel, or upon docks and/or piers, or involving persons employed on board the vessel acting outside the course and scope of employment.

From the NCL side, here’s what bothers me (other than the fact that it hasn’t responded to the Sturners). Why on Earth would anyone recommend a ziplining and rappelling tour to a grandmother and her 10-year-old grandson? I don’t get that. Even I would think twice before trekking through a slippery, bug-infested rainforest — and I don’t have any grandkids.

Were the NCL reps thinking about the passenger, or the rich commission they’d pocked from the shore excursion?

“The least they could and should do is give us the courtesy of a reply,” Sturner told mee. “We have been loyal to them and we would hope they will return that loyalty.”

I hope he’s right. The cruise happened in March, and we’re halfway though May. I’m not holding my breath.

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I wonder if it’s time for me to get involved?

(Photo: Casey Kold erup/Flickr Creative Commons)

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