Why Senator Schumer's Cruise Passenger Bill Of Rights Will Sink Faster Than a Carnival Ship

Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is calling on the cruise ship industry to adopt a passengers bill of rights after reports of malfunctioning ships leaving customers stranded at sea without power or a way off the ship. This call for action comes just after the disturbing story of the Carnival cruise ship that broke down leaving its passengers stranded for 5 days without functioning plumbing or power. Passengers went to social media to document their experiences.  

Instead of increasing regulation of the industry let consumers make decisions with their pocketbooks, allowing the market to lead the cruise industry toward profitability or loss.  In an already heavily regulated industry the question arises as to how beneficial actions such as instituting a passengers bill of rights would be.  

There is quite the list of who is responsible for regulating cruise ships, both nationally and internationally. Should Sen. Schumer continue in his quest for a passengers bill of rights, he would face hurtles to pass legislation domestically as well as internationally. It is hard to imagine a consensus being made on what exactly would be included in such a bill of rights. Senator Schumer, after all, sits in the chamber that has been unable to pass a budget resolution in four years. 

It would be unreasonable to acknowledge that rules can be helpful. The Department of Transportation instituted rules for a passenger’s bill of rights for airline passengers shortly after incidents with passengers being stuck on tarmacs for hours at a time. In fact, the airline that got the most PR flack from such an incident led the way on a passenger’s bill of rights and has been fined once for not adhering to the new rules, and that was four years after the problem that led to the adopted rules. Flight delays have decreased since the adoption of these rules.  

That does not mean that more regulation is helpful or necessary. It is prudent to question that maybe the over-regulation of the cruise ship industry is allowing for certain checks to be neglected, or that conflicting regulations allow for problems to go unnoticed.   

Call me crazy but when I see a social-media newsfeed full of fecal matter in the hallway of a ship I am unlikely to book my next vacation with the company, or decide to go on a cruise (ever) for that matter. Hearing reports of passengers stranded for five hours on an airport tarmac for a domestic flight was enough to make me avoid that particular airline when looking for flights, no matter how inexpensive the fare. As a consumer, I can hardly be alone in my thought process.  

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Heather Williams

Heather is a graduate of Pepperdine University's School of Public Policy where she specialized in international relations and economics, focusing her research on education policy. She has a background in campaigns, elections and has worked in state and local government. She enjoys running, skiing on warm spring days in Colorado and her friends and family.

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