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While much of the general maritime law has general application to cruise ship matters, there are special laws that apply just to cruise ships. For example, cruise lines often insert special provisions into their passenger tickets (which are authorized by United States federal statutes) that shorten the time in which a passenger may file a law suit against the cruise line to one year. The normal statute of limitations for admiralty and maritime matters is three years. Also cruise lines can designate, within their passenger tickets, the only location where they can be sued. This is referred to as a forum selection clause. Most of the major cruise lines are based in Miami, Florida and designate Miami, Florida as the location where they must be sued.
Sailors and unlicensed engineers working on U.S. flagged deep-sea and Great Lakes vessels must hold a Coast Guard-issued document. In addition, they must hold certification when working aboard liquid-carrying vessels. Able seamen also must hold government-issued certification. For employment in the merchant marine as an unlicensed seaman, a merchant mariner’s document issued by the Coast Guard is needed.
Also, almost every cruise line vessel is registered in a foreign country and flies a foreign flag. The law of the country of registration of the vessel may apply to events on cruise vessels and could potentially be more favorable to the claimant than United States law.
The following is an example of a federal statute defining Cruise Ship:
According to 22 CFR 41.0 [Title 22. Foreign Relations; Chapter I. Department of State; Subchapter E. Visas; Part 41. Visas: Documentation of Nonimmigrants under the Immigration and Nationality Act, as Amended; Subpart A. Passsport and Visas not Required for Certain Nomimmigrants] the term cruise ship means “a passenger vessel over 100 gross tons, carrying more than 12 passengers for hire, making a voyage lasting more than 24 hours any part of which is on the high seas, and for which passengers are embarked or disembarked in the United States or its territories.”