Lawmakers berate cruise ship execs, push regulations

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Malfunctions and emergencies on cruise ships have captured public attention this year, from the “poop cruise” during which passengers were trapped in unsanitary conditions without working toilets to an engine fire that broke out on a ship in February and stranded passengers.

“This conduct should make us all very angry,” said Sen. Jay RockefellerJohn (Jay) Davison RockefellerBottom Line World Health Day: It's time to fight preventable disease Lobbying World MORE (D-W.Va.), who has led the charge on regulating the industry. “If the industry is seriously working to improve the safety and security of its ships, why have we witnessed so many serious incidents in the last 16 months?”

Rockefeller introduced a bill on Tuesday that would give the federal government more power to investigate consumer complaints, create a hotline for the complaints and end a current practice that prevents information about alleged onboard crimes from being publicly available.

Currently, cruise ships give passengers a document that spells out their rights and the lines’ liabilities, but it can be lengthy and hard to read.

The documents are “many pages in absolutely the smallest type that I have ever seen in my life,” said Rockefeller.

His bill would require that the federal government craft standards for cruise lines to give passengers a clear, plain language summary of their rights onboard.

Reps. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) and Ted PoeLloyd (Ted) Theodore PoeSheila Jackson Lee tops colleagues in House floor speaking days over past decade Senate Dem to reintroduce bill with new name after 'My Little Pony' confusion Texas New Members 2019 MORE (R-Texas) introduced a similar measure in the House that would call for the FBI to be notified about more alleged incidents on cruise ships.

Cruise industry executives on Wednesday pushed back on the criticism, and said that companies have taken efforts on their own to help consumers and prevent future malfunctions.

Among those are a recent consumer bill of rights added to ticket contracts, similar to the list Rockefeller wants, which the Cruise Lines International Association adopted in May.

Those rights, though, “are essentially unenforceable,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who is cosponsoring Rockefeller’s bill.

“The information coming to me — I think to many of us — is that there is inadequate protection for travelers on cruise ships,” he said.