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

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.

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.

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

(Photo: Casey Kold erup/Flickr Creative Commons)

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • flutiefan

     prove that they received the letter in the first place….

  • flutiefan

     perhaps they failed to respond because no one ever saw the letter?
    she sent it to the CEO, maybe at some figurehead “address” that really houses a call center, who knows?  she didn’t send it to their customer service people!
    i’m sure a regular plain envelope addressed to the CEO got thrown out with the junk mail anyway.

  • flutiefan

     as mentioned several times, nobody knows if NCL ever received the letter!

  • gratianus

    First off, since we don’t know how old the grandparents are (you imply they are too old to even think about zip lining), we don’t know how old the grandparents are  to decide whether it made sense for them to do this activity. More importantly, it was the Sturmers who decided they could do it. What they didn’t anticipate that a slippery rock might cause an accident. It was an accident, not something that anyone could anticipate. However, if the Sturmers have a beef it is with the zip line operator, and to the extent that the cruise line operator is an agent for the operator, also with the cruise line (whose contractual languatge absolves it of any laibility). Either they should be seeking compensation from the zip line operator or they  should be leaning on the cruise line for putting them in the hands of a company that did not take adequate care (which brings us back to the initial issue: they signed up for the activity and most likely signed a waiver before climbing up to the first zip line station).

  • deemery

     If the cruise line had responded, then I’d probably be in the “no” camp.  But I think it’s unacceptable for the cruise line to ignore this customer, and that’s the primary basis I voted yes.  It’s not necessarily to get any real financial credit, but rather to make sure the cruise line responds to a (apparently loyal) customer.

  • Guest

    You are the only one saying that maybe they didn’t get the letter. 

    I’m sure the letter was received, more than likely it was and she deserves a response.   

  • Lindabator

    How do you know she even HAD any??? 

  • Lindabator

    For slipping on a rock???   You must be one of those folks who loves suing when you walk over the open manhole with the warning sign clearly stating the danger. 

  • Andi330

    Grandmother could actually mean a woman as young as 40 if she and her child both had children at a very young age. With no actual age of the woman in question in the article, I find it hard to decide if this was a poor recommendation based on age.

    Even if the OP is of an age where the recommendation was a poor one based on age, the OP needs to take responsibility for her own choices. Generally, zip lines require some athletic ability. Not professional, or even high school level sports, but still, you usually have to walk along trails in a wood to get to them. She made the decision to go, whether it was based on a recommendation from the cruise line or not. At that point, she took responsibility for the consequences of that decision. Certainly, I do not think the cruise line is responsible, particularly as they do not appear to own or operate the actual zip line company, if anyone owes her compensation (and for a slip on a rock I don’t think anyone does) it would be the company doing the zip line.

    Should the cruise line have responded to her request? Yes. Do they owe her anything? No.

  • Andi330

    Ok, forgot to add in my math, if she was 20 when she had her child and her child had their first at 20 and that child is now 10, she would be 50, not 40. Regardless, still of an age where she might have been perfectly capable of participating in this type of outing.

  • flutiefan

     you’re still right. 15-year-olds can (and sadly, do) have children. that next generation can repeat the cycle, making a grandmother at age 30. given that this grandma has a 10-yr-old grandson, she could conceivably be 40.

    (i’m 35 and can’t imagine being a mom, much less a grandmother in 5 years!)

  • flutiefan

     sorry, read again. i’m not the only one.

  • Dave

    Can’t tell if the voting is still open; didn’t get notified of this post until 2 days after it appeared.  In any event, I vote no.  The only fault of NCL at this point is a failure to respond.

    I agree with the many who have posted that it’s the OP’s responsibility to determine the suitability of the excursion.  Besides, it appears to have been an honest accident.  It would sure be nice to go back to the days when I was growing up and people understood that accidents are a fact of life.  As the (polite version) saying goes, stuff happens.

  • kenish

    The accident was certainly unfortunate.  I voted ‘no’, as I presume NCL’s contract states they are not responsible for misfortunes ashore. I’ve never used NCL but if they are like all other cruiselines the contract is available before making a deposit, and has to be signed as “understood and accepted” before final payment.  We go for active / adventure tours, and even the sedate ones require an additional waiver to be signed.

    Payment for medical expenses is unclear- but since it received praise, I presume NCL or the tour operator picked up the hospital and on-board expenses.  Does Mrs. Sturner realize her US health insurance probably didn’t cover her?  If so, she should feel extremely fortunate the bill was paid and the logistics of getting her to a hospital were handled.  Unlike the US, many countries can refuse emergency treatment without prepayment.  And, if coordination and payment were made through trip insurance, then definitely no further compensation is legally or morally required.

    The Sturner’s letter was very polite and NCL did owe a response but dropped the ball.  (Even if their letter was nasty they were owed a reply).

  • Nigel

    I voted yes – if only to remind NCL that all correspondance should be acknowledged. I think as do others, a letter and a credit of $100.00 towards another cruise would be appropriate.
    I also agree Travel Insurance – Travel Insurance – Travel Insurance. But as I didn’t see any mention of bills for medical treatment perhaps they had travel insurance.