Not long ago, requirements for cruise ships to report crimes were actually nonexistent. However, in 2010, Congress passed an important safety bill known as Cruise Vessel Security & Safety Act, which mandated that cruise lines report crimes to the FBI, add a link to those crimes on their websites, add more video surveillance onboard, and start carrying things like rape kits and antiretroviral drugs.
"If passed, the Cruise Passenger Protection Act would require the companies to provide better medical care, turn over surveillance footage to passengers taking legal action, install better man overboard detection systems, and report all alleged crimes to the FBI within 4 hours." - says U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut who co-sponsored the bill.
But perhaps the most significant change would affect families of passengers who die at sea. For years, the powerful cruise lobby has fought changes to the Death on the High Seas Act, an archaic statute that allows cruise lines to assume almost no legal responsibility for the deaths of children and retirees. Under the proposed legislation, survivors would now have the same ability to pursue damages as those who have lost a loved one on land or in an airplane crash.
The change would affect families like the Hunters, whose 6-year-old son Qwentyn drowned in a pool on Carnival Victory 3 years ago. Because the Orlando boy was too young to have dependents, his family is limited in their ability to seek damages, as existing law essentially places no value on his life other than funeral costs.
While many cruise industry critics say the new proposal is a step in the right direction, it remains unclear if it can actually get passed. The last time a lawmaker proposed amending DOHSA, the cruise lines and their corporate interest group spent $3.9 million lobbying against the bill. It didn't pass.