On December 10, the volcano on New Zealand’s White Island erupted, killing or injuring several people, including some passengers on Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas. This event comes as another sad incidence of safety-related bad press for the cruise line, which is currently in the news for the death of a toddler aboard one of their ships. While the exact numbers are currently unclear, it seems that the eruption was certainly fatal for some.
Fewer than fifty people were on the island when the eruption occurred. Six people are currently confirmed to have died, with eight others missing. There were many more injuries, including severe burns. White Island is close to New Zealand, making it an easy and exciting destination for ships taking off from Sydney like the Ovation did, but it’s unclear why Royal Caribbean went there when it did. Scientists had been reporting increased seismic activity in the area, which is one of the main ways we can predict a volcanic eruption. Certainly in hindsight, it seems that it would have been smartest to avoid White Island altogether. Royal Caribbean’s website does not currently show any trips to the island on any of their itineraries, making the whole situation stand out as a big question mark.
Another one of the questions that lies in the wake of this event is who is liable for the deaths and injuries. An expert speaking to USA TODAY told reporters that it’s likely that Royal Caribbean isn’t legally responsible, but rather their partners who organized the trip and were in charge of ensuring safety. These partnerships with other companies are often made by cruise lines to take some of the load off in figuring out travel specifics for obscure places like White Island. In this case, if there was a partner that didn’t check the risk of an eruption, the liability would be on them. At this point, we don’t have any info on who Royal Caribbean was partnered with for that stop, or if they had a partner at all.
One thing that is abundantly clear, however, is the emotions that those on the island experienced. Many of the survivors are currently declining to comment as they process their feelings. Those that have commented speak of the fear they felt, and the sadness in the aftermath.
The most positive way to look at a situation like this is as a safety reminder. While we often trust cruise lines and other companies with our safety, sometimes it can be best to look into situations ourselves. Whenever travelling anywhere, try to check out the weather and other possible natural disasters that might affect your trip. Of course, not everything is predictable, but we can always do our best to be mindful and diligent when heading off into the unknown.