By Gerald McGill

February 11th, 2013

The Carnival Cruise Ship “Triumph” was adrift Sunday after an engine room fire left the ship with no propulsion or air conditioning and operating on a backup generator for lighting .   Passengers were asked to remain on deck or public areas.  The ship was adrift about 140 miles north of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula in the southern Gulf of Mexico.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter “Vigorous”, a 210 medium endurance cutter arrived on scene on Monday morning.  The Coast Guard reported that the Triumph’s fresh water system is back up and operational and the sewage system was restored to the forward section of the ship but that the crew was still working on the rear section of the vessel.

Fortunately, there were no physical injuries  to the 3,143 passengers or 1086 crew members as a result of the fire.

Tugs are underway to tow the Triumph to Progresso, the closest Mexican port.  It is expected to arrive Wednesday.  The Triumph was originally expected to return to its homeport of Galveston, Texas today.

Carnival said that passengers will be flown back to the U.S. and will get full refunds and future cruise credits equal to what they paid for the cruise.  That might seem like the least they could do from a public relations viewpoint but it is actually more than they could be forced to do if Carnival chooses to strictly enforce and impose provisions in the passenger “Ticket Contract” issued to all passengers.

Most passengers do not realize that when you book a cruise with Carnival you are accepting  a “ticket contract” which contains fifteen (15) pages of single space type which in bold face on page 1 of 15 states in part:  NOTICE; THE ATTENTION OF GUEST IS ESPECIALLY DIRECTED TO CLAUSES 1,4, AND 10 THROUGH 13, WHICH CONTAIN IMPORTANT LIMITATIONS ON THE RIGHTS OF GUESTS TO ASSERT CLAIMS AGAINST CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES, THE VESSEL, THEIR AGENTS AND EMPLOYEES AND OTHERS…

In the instant case one of the more troubling limitations is found in Paragraph 11(d) which provides:

“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.”

In other words, no recovery for any fear caused by being on a ship at sea which has a fire causing a loss of propulsion, electricity, sewage facilities, and air conditioning and no recovery for sea sickness resulting from the rolling of a ship that is dead in the water because the stabilizers usually minimize the rolling when the ship is underway.  Probably just as well because another provision in the “ticket contract”  provides that any lawsuit against Carnival can only be brought in the Federal District Court in Miami, Florida even though the cruise originated, and was supposed to end in Galveston, Texas.

Gerald McGill is a graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and a former Commanding Officer of two Coast Guard Cutters

Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer magazine and a contributing writer at He is the co-host / guest host for Ring of Fire Radio. His writings have appeared on Alternet, Truthout, and The Huffington Post. Farron received his bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of West Florida in 2005 and became a member of American MENSA in 2009. Follow him on Twitter @farronbalanced