Tourism & Cruises

DOT launches new site for cruise passengers

The U.S. Department of Transportation on Monday launched a website aimed at travelers that compiles information about safety, consumer concerns and criminal incidents involving cruise ships.

While acknowledging that the department does not regulate the industry, an announcement from the DOT said the new page would act as a “one-stop resource” to help potential cruisers.

“We are committed to providing the traveling public with as much information as possible to make informed decisions about their travel and making sure they know their rights before, during, and after their trip,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement.

The site, at http://www.dot.gov/mission/safety/passenger-cruise-ship-information, includes information about the Federal Maritime Commission, U.S. Coast Guard and FBI as well as links and phone numbers for complaints about consumer issues and safety.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat who chairs the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation, praised what he called an “important and extraordinary step to help protect passengers on cruise ships.”

Rockefeller has been pushing for legislation that would put greater consumer protections in place for cruisegoers. He last held a hearing on the issue in July, when four witnesses described ordeals during cruises, including the Carnival Triumph fire and aftermath in 2013.

“Passengers desperately need access to accurate and updated information, which is why Secretary Foxx’s leadership on this issue is a game changer,” Rockefeller said in a statement. “It is far past time that we step up to help American citizens when something goes wrong on a cruise ship, and I commend the Department of Transportation for this first step toward providing consumer protections for passengers.”

Asked about the site, Cruise Lines International Association senior vice president for public affairs Mike McGarry said in an email: “CLIA was not informed of this.”

In a post on his Cruise Law News blog, Miami-Dade maritime attorney Jim Walker called the DOT’s site “rather modest at this time.” He noted that the Coast Guard, FBI and Federal Maritime Commission have “a history of doing little to assist consumers.”

“But,” he added, “it is a good start.”

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