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Are cruise lines responsible for guests' injuries on outings?

One of the attractions of a cruise is all of the fun off-ship activities in which guests can partake. Everything from whale-watching to touring ancient ruins to being served off-ship meals by local cooks after a day of romping around on a pristine beach can enhance your cruise experience.

But what happens when something goes terribly wrong on one of these outings? Who is responsible then for the deaths or horrific injuries that might ensue?

That's the scenario one American couple from Virginia are facing after their cruise on a Royal Caribbean ship left them with horrific burns from an erupting active volcano on White Island in New Zealand. They were part of a group of 47 who were taking an off-ship tour of the island last December when their lives were forever changed. When the volcano erupted, it killed 21 people in the group and left many others with life-threatening burns.

What makes it even worse for this particular couple is that they were on a honeymoon cruise, having just gotten married. Now, instead of joyfully embarking on a new life together, they face years of reconstructive surgeries and therapy to try to return to the physical conditions they were in before the volcano erupted.

Earlier this summer, the couple filed suit in Miami's US District Court against both the excursion company and Royal Caribbean Cruises. They allege that the cruise line and ID Tours New Zealand Limited were negligent by not making them aware of the possible dangers they faced from visiting the active volcano.

The shore excursion brochure touted the White Island volcano as "one of the most active volcanoes in the world," according to their lawsuit. But the definition of an "active volcano" is one that has erupted at least once in the last 10,000 years.

That the volcano had erupted numerous times over the past decade and that a nearly 6-point earthquake with a nearby epicenter had occurred within a fortnight of their excursion to the island was not made known to them. Seismic activity is often a precursor to volcanic eruptions.

Every incident is different and must be based on its own circumstances, of course. But if you were injured due to negligence on a cruise excursion, you may be able to seek financial compensation.

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