Cruise Execs Testify Before Senate Committee

Their message: We're very safe and all is well.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation held a hearing July 24 about cruise lines' safety, with four heavy hitters testifying. Several recent serious incidents on voyages were discussed, but the overall message from the cruise lines' executives was that safety systems and culture are solid and 10 recently adopted policies by the Cruise Lines International Association are sufficient.

One witness was Mark Rosenker, a former chairman of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board and a member of CLIA's Panel of Expects. His testimony explained how the 10 policies contribute to greater safety. The star witnesses included Gerald Cahill, president and CEO of Carnival Cruise Line, whose testimony explained the safety regulations that apply to the industry, training that its personnel undergo, and actions it has taken in response to fires aboard its ships.

Adam Goldstein, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, also testified. (Together, these two companies' ships transport approximately 15 million cruise passengers annually.) His testimony focused mainly on environmental initiatives and partly on accurately reporting crimes on board, which was also the focus of committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. He released a report during the hearing that found public access is limited to cruise ship crime and safety data.

"Nearly 21 million Americans will take a cruise this year, but I think they should know what their real risks are before they book their next vacation," he said. "Our oversight uncovered that the number of alleged crimes on cruise ships is significantly higher than the number that is publicly reported – and consumers deserve to know this."

Rockefeller introduced the Cruise Passenger Protection Act on July 23 that is intended to remove the barriers that keep the public from learning accurate crime data on cruise lines.

The fourth witness in the hearing was U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Joseph Servidio, the USCG's assistant commandmant for prevention policy. He testified he's "very concerned" about recent incidents, including fires aboard several ships.

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