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I've always been outraged that the cruise ship industry seems unaccountable for problems that arise which should enable passengers to some decent sort of compensation. (Why do you think cruise lines are registered in foreign countries? Of course, it's because they don't have to listen to consumer rights agencies or obey consumer laws.) However, a few years ago, a new declaration originated, entitled the Cruise Line Passenger Bill of Rights. IF planning to cruise this summer loaded up with masks and personal bottles of hand sanitizer but before setting sail, print out this list (some new, some old) or go online to www.cruising.org, among others) as we have the right to:

1. Disembark a docked ship if essential provisions can't be adequately provided for us on board.

2. Get a full refund for a trip canceled because of mechanical failures, or a partial refund for voyages terminated early because of these failures.

3. Lodging in an unscheduled port if disembarkation and an overnight stay is necessary when the cruise ends early because of the mechanical issues.

4. Timely information updates as to itinerary adjustments in the event of a mechanical failure and/or timely updates of efforts made to fix the problem(s). (Have I ever told readers about Hubby's and my ship's motor dying in the middle of the Irish Sea?)

5. Full-time, professional emergency personnel available on ships operating beyond rivers or coastal waters. (Think I've mentioned in the past that many ships do NOT have real doctors or even RNs onboard; in fact, in many instances, this particular "medical" person is simply a crew member who – hopefully – is certified in first aid. Woe to the passenger who suffers a heart attack or even a broken limb, especially if the injured person didn't arrange for emergency air transport to the hospital wherever of his choice.)

6. Transportation to the ship's scheduled port of disembarkation or the passenger's home port if a cruise ends early because of mechanical failures.

7. Properly trained ship's crew in emergency and evacuation methods.

8. An emergency power generator if the main generator fails.

9. The publication of this Bill of Rights on the cruise line's website.

10. A toll-free number on the website whereby a passenger can get info concerning any aspect of shipboard operations.

When you get ready to book (me myself only after a coronavirus vaccine is available!), US News and World Reports just proclaimed the Best All-Around Cruise Lines for 2020: #1 Royal Caribbean; #2 Celebrity; and #3 Norwegian. Check out your own favorites.

Contact Ellen Phillips at consumerwatch@timesfreepress.com

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