Lawyer: Check fine print on contract when signing for cruise tickets

Fine print puts limit on lawsuits

INDIANAPOLIS - In the wake of the Carnival Triumph cruise ship debacle, travelers are now wondering what kind of legal recourse the ship's 3,000 passengers have.

Attorney Kevin Farrell, who has litigated cases against cruise lines before, said it's all about the fine print.

All cruise ship passengers sign a contract when they buy their ticket. The contract controls much of the legal action that can be brought by the passengers.

"I'm sure these passengers are going to read their ticket now and be quite surprised as to what they agreed to," Farrell said.

He said the fine print on passengers' tickets puts a financial limit on any lawsuit.

So, although he expects to see a class-action-type suit filed in Florida, he doesn't expect the passengers aboard the Triumph to get much for their troubles since they have no physical injuries.

Carnival is refunding the passengers' money, offering them a free future cruise and giving them $500 each.

"That's going to minimize a lot of what the people can seek, because those are the kind of damages normally that the contract says are available to the passengers," Farrell said.

Travel agent Kelly Shea said since a nightmare incident like this is so rare she does not believe it will hurt the cruise line industry.

"I don't think people are going to be swayed by something like this from taking their next cruise," Shea said. "You have the Costa Concordia, which was an absolute tragedy, but people continued to sail. It's not a common occurrence that these things happen."

Some experts say the cruise industry is expected to respond with a lot of promotions to help keep cruises popular.

Anyone planning a cruise might want to book on a newer ship, because cruise ships built since 2009 are required to have two engine rooms and two electrical systems.

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