Cruise ship safety

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL/ABC News/CNN) -- It's a tale of two ships and a Caribbean cruise gone bad.

For the second time in two days, Carnival Cruise Line is dealing with a ship that's become crippled because of mechanical issues.

The cruise line said the Carnival "Legend" has become crippled after a mechanical problem with the ship's propulsion system has slowed its speed. The captain is now charting a course for Florida, skipping a stop in Grand Cayman.

Meanwhile, the Carnival "Dream" has been stranded in St. Maarten since Wednesday.

"The reason that they're stuck in port is because the emergency diesel generator is what operates their propulsion," said Sabrina Laberdesque with the U.S. Coast Guard.

The cruise line released a statement saying passengers are "safe and comfortable" and the company is in the process of flying all passengers on board the "Dream" to Florida and give them a partial refund and discount on their next cruise.

The next few scheduled trips on both the "Dream" and "Legend' Have been canceled.

The latest mechanical issues come just a few weeks after the highly publicized stranding of Carnivals "Triumph", which was stranded for several days in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico and had to be towed back to port.

Passengers on board the "Triumph" complained about no electricity, limited food supply, and overflowing toilets.

Seventeen passengers on board the "Trimuph" have now filed lawsuits against the company alleging negligence.

CRUISE SHIP SAFETY

Carnival CEO Gerry Cahill has said in the past that safety is priority number one.

According to the United States Coast Guard Cruise Ship National Center of Expertise, all cruise ships are required to have contingency plans, a "decision support system for masters of cruise ships" for a number of possible events, including:

• Fire

• Damage to ship

• Pollution

• Unlawful acts threatening the safety of the ship and the security of its passengers and crew

• Personnel accidents

• Cargo related accidents; and

• Emergency assistance to other ships

 

Cruise experts say for passengers it's best to do your research before your trip. The Center for Disease Control publishes "report cards" for cruise ships where soon-to-be passengers can see the safety record of their ship as well as the health report card for their ship.

Other experts caution passengers before booking a cruise, to look at the fine print.

CNN's Clark Howard says the contract you sign when you buy a ship ticket is written to protect the cruise line, and severely limits your rights as a passenger.

Here in Carnival's ticket contract, Howard says there are a few key points as it relates to what happened on the Triumph.

Section 7(e) states the following: "If the performance of the proposed voyage is hindered or prevented by... breakdown of the Vessel... the Guest and his baggage may be landed at the port of embarkation or at any port or place at which the Vessel may call, at which time the responsibility of Carnival shall cease and this contract shall be deemed to have been fully performed."

From Section 11(d): "Carnival shall not be liable to the passenger for damages for emotional distress, mental suffering/anguish or psychological injury of any kind under any circumstances, except when such damages were caused by the negligence of Carnival and resulted from the same passenger sustaining actual physical injury, or having been at risk of actual physical injury, or when such damages are held to be intentionally inflicted by Carnival."

Thus far, there are no reports of any passengers injured aboard the ship.

If any of the Triumph passengers wants to sue Carnival, the ticket contract spells out specific circumstances and time limits under which that can happen. And they'd be going it alone in court, because in Section 13 of the ticket contract, passengers give up their right to form a class action.

With apologies to the Titanic, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Cruise ship passengers give up all kinds of other rights when they buy a ticket.

So, how do you protect yourself before getting on board the ship? Buy a third-party travel insurance policy. In fact, Carnival's ticket contract states the following in Section 6: "Carnival strongly recommends the purchase of trip cancellation insurance from your travel agent."

HLN money expert Clark Howard has a guide to travel insurance here. He says it's a must if you're going on a cruise, or any other trip or tour where you have to pay big money up front.

Clark's number one rule on travel insurance? Buy the policy from a third party, never from a cruise line or tour operator. A policy typically will run you 5% to 6% of the total cost of the trip. Clark recommends insuremytrip.com as a good place to shop for travel insurance.