decks of cruise ship at sea

The Jones Act, a federal law designed to protect maritime workers, enables ship employees to seek compensation for injuries sustained in work-related accidents. To qualify for a Jones Act claim, an employee must meet the definition of a "seaman" under the law, which typically includes individuals who spend a significant portion of their time working on a vessel in navigation. Most cruise ship employees meet this criterion, even hairdressers!  Mahramas v. American Export Isbrandtsen Lines, Inc., 475 F.2d 165 (2d Cir. 1973)

If you are a cruise ship employee who has suffered an injury, it's essential to consult with an attorney experienced in maritime law to determine your eligibility and take the appropriate steps to secure compensation for your injuries. At Hofmann & Schweitzer, we handle all aspects of maritime-related injuries. If you have been injured while working on a cruise ship, do not hesitate to contact us with your questions.

Is Your Employer Subject to the Jones Act?

This is the first question to ask. Most major cruise lines that Americans take along the East Coast and to the Caribbean sail under foreign flags. If you work for Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Celebrity, Princess, Holland America, or Disney Cruise Line, you could be covered by the Jones Act because of the strength of their contacts with the United States.

Who Qualifies as a Seaman?

Not all workers on foreign flag cruise ships are required to go to arbitration if they are injured because of their employer’s failure to provide a safe working environment. Examples of covered cruise ship workers include the following:

Deckhands, Able Seamen, Bosuns, and Other Deck workers

Deckhands and those who work navigating and maintaining the ship are essential crew members responsible for the maintenance and operation of a cruise ship. They can sustain injuries in various ways, including slips and falls on wet decks, injuries from heavy lifting and repetitive tasks, and accidents during maritime operations such as launching lifeboats or handling mooring lines.

Galley Workers and Kitchen Staff

Those working in the galley, including chefs, cooks, and kitchen staff, often face the risk of burns from hot equipment, cuts from sharp object injuries while preparing food, and injuries from slips and falls on greasy surfaces.

Entertainment and Activities Staff

Employees in the entertainment and activities departments, such as performers, dancers, and fitness instructors, may sustain injuries related to their physical routines, like sprains, strains, and other musculoskeletal injuries. Additionally, performers may encounter accidents during rehearsals or performances.


An employee who is an “officer”, such as a captain, mate, chief engineer, or other credentialed engineer, can still be a “seamen” who can bring a claim when the ship is unseaworthy or co-workers or the company are negligent.

Engineers and Mechanics

Engineers and mechanics are vital in maintaining the ship's systems and engines. They can be at risk of injury due to machinery malfunctions, equipment failures, and accidents while conducting repairs or maintenance work.

Medical Staff and Nurses

Medical staff, including doctors and nurses, can experience injuries while caring for passengers and crew members. This can involve exposure to contagious diseases, slips and falls in medical facilities, or injuries from dealing with agitated or distressed patients.

Housekeeping and Cleaning Crew

Housekeeping and cleaning crew members are prone to injuries from repetitive motions, such as bending and lifting heavy items, and exposure to cleaning chemicals that can lead to skin or respiratory issues. Slip and fall accidents while cleaning passenger areas are also common.

Waitstaff and Bartenders

Serving staff in cruise ship restaurants and bars can experience injuries from lifting heavy trays, slips on wet floors, and, in the case of bartenders, burns or cuts while preparing and serving drinks.

Security and Surveillance Personnel

Employees responsible for ship security may encounter injuries related to maintaining order during onboard incidents, dealing with unruly passengers, or conducting surveillance operations.

Retail and Shopping Staff

Retail employees, such as sales associates, can suffer injuries from stockroom accidents, heavy lifting, or injuries from interacting with passengers while showcasing products.

Spa and Salon Workers

Workers in spas and salons aboard cruise ships may experience repetitive strain injuries from performing beauty and wellness services and burns from styling equipment and chemicals.

Cruise Ship Workers Often are Required to Go to Arbitration

Many cruise ship workers have contracts to work for the company which include ‘arbitration agreements,” requiring the worker to go to mandatory arbitration, often in their home country, such as the Philippines.  On occasion, our firm has gotten around those agreements, particularly where the arbitration entity fails to provide a fair and adequate arbitration in a timely manner.

Understanding your rights, including what claims you can assert and where, is a complex process. Not only must you navigate the potential risks associated with your specific job position, but understanding your legal rights if the company fails you is vital to ensure you receive the benefits to which you are entitled and which you and your family need to survive. If you were injured while working on board a cruise ship, you have the right to work with an attorney. Contact our maritime injury team in New York to learn more.

Paul T. Hofmann
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Focused on personal injury, with an emphasis on maritime, railroad and construction worker tort claims.