(CN) – A class action claims Royal Caribbean put the lives of passengers at risk by forcing them to travel to Texas during Hurricane Harvey because it would not cancel or modify its scheduled cruise.
Hurricane Harvey hit southeast Texas as a category four hurricane in late August killing at least 70 people and causing record catastrophic flooding.
In a federal complaint filed in Miami on Sept. 28, lead plaintiff Nikki McIntosh says that her cruise trip on the “Liberty of the Seas” was scheduled to depart from Galveston, Texas on August 27 and return Sept. 3.
McIntosh, who traveled from Canada to Texas for the cruise, says thousands of passengers arrived to Houston before and during Hurricane Harvey because Royal Caribbean did not want to cancel the cruise and have to offer passengers refunds.
“These passengers were strong armed into travelling to Houston based on Royal Caribbean Cruises’ assurances that safety was the primary concern and the voyage would sail as scheduled; combined with Royal Caribbean repeatedly advising passengers that if they cancelled they would lose the entire cost of the purchased cruise,” the complaint says.
McIntosh claims passengers had to endure the devastating storm in a city they didn’t know, far from their loved ones. Throughout their ordeal, the complaint says, passengers were often left without power, and had access to only limited food and water.
Because the entire Texas coastline was in the projected path of the hurricane, the Port of Galveston shut down its operations at noon on Friday August 25, a move that caused other cruise lines to cancel or modify their scheduled excursions. Royal Caribbean, however, “was “still attempting to find a way to make the scheduled sailing,” the complaint says.
McIntosh claims that prior to the sailing date Royal Caribbean sent several updates and emails to its passengers regarding the status of the cruise, but it was not until August 27, the departure date, that the cruise line cancelled the voyage and began to offer its clients the option to reschedule their vacation, get a refund or obtain a future cruise credit.
“Prior to this all of the passengers were effectively forced to travel to South Texas unless they wanted to forfeit the entirety of what they paid for their cruise,” McIntosh says.
She claims that Royal Caribbean was aware of the dangerous weather conditions and flooding, and that Texas was in a state of emergency, but yet failed to timely cancel the cruise because it did not want to lose profit.
McIntosh seeks compensatory damages on claims of negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
She is represented by Michael Wikleman from Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman PA in Miami, Fla.
A representative of Royal Caribbean did not immediately respond to an email request for comment on the lawsuit.