Cruises promoted by Jolly Travelers often send people to several different islands in the Caribbean. "Anything can happen on any of them [trips and cruises]," Lambert said.
Cruise industry revenues top $25 billion a year, Rockefeller recently pointed out. Nearly 13 millions Americans go on cruises every years.
"A unique and complex set of rules governs the operations of the ship and the safety of passengers. I believe that these rules work to protect the companies rather than their passengers," Rockefeller said during a March 2012 Senate hearing.
Rockefeller also believes the federal government should do more to protect "the fragile ocean environment in which [cruise ships] operate."
He asked "why an industry that earns billions and uses a variety of federal services - from the Coast Guard, to the Customs Bureau, to Centers for Disease Control - pays almost no corporate income tax? ... It is inconceivable to me that this industry doesn't pay its fair share."
Christine Duffy, president and CEO of the Cruise Lines International Association, defended the industry during a March 2012 hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee, emphasizing its local economic impacts.
CLIA, Duffy said, "represents 26 major cruise lines serving North America, more than 16,000 affiliated travel agents ... and 120 executive partners spanning a broad array of industries - from ports to food suppliers" working with the industry.
"In the decade from 2001 through 2011," Duffy testified, "prior to the grounding of the [Carnival] Costa Concordia, there were a total of 28 fatalities on cruise ships related to an operational casualty.
"Twenty-two of those fatalities involved crew members," Duffy added. "Six were passengers out of approximately 223 million passengers and crew who sailed during those 10 years."
Rockefeller believes the cruise ship industry has "unconscionable" environmental policies.
"Our children and grandchildren deserve an ocean environment free of trash, sewage and hazardous materials. The industry needs to do more to protect the environment for future generations," Rockefeller said during the March 2012 Senate hearing.
The environmental group Friends of the Earth warns that cruise ships are routinely "dumping large amounts of sewage and other wastes into our oceans, polluting our beaches, contaminating our coral reefs, and destroying our valuable marine ecology."
"Millions of Americans take cruise vacations every year. Yet, most travelers don't realize that taking a cruise is more harmful to the environment and human health than many other forms of travel," the group stated last year.
During a one-week cruise, a large ship hosting more than 7,000 passengers produces about 210,000 gallons of human sewage, FOE states, the equivalent of 10 backyard swimming pools. That ship also produces four times as much water polluted from sinks, showers, laundry facilities and other activities on board.
Friends of the Earth publishes its "Cruise Ship Environmental Report Card" every year. The latest report, dated 2012, ranks 15 cruise lines. Disney Cruise Line tops the list with an A-minus rating.
FOE gives Carnival Cruise Lines a grade of D-plus. Princess Cruises and Costa Cruises, both subsidiaries of Carnival, earned ratings of B-plus and F, respectively. (The annual report is available at www.foe.org/cruise-report-card. Friends of the Earth also published a report called "Getting a Grip on Cruise Ship Pollution," which is also available on its website.)
Lawson loves the cruise industry, but hopes it begins paying more attention to potential problems.
"I like inclusive cruise vacations, where resorts include everything. The thing I really like about cruising is that you visit another port every day. It is exciting."
He wants cruise companies, like Carnival, to spend more time trying to prevent future mishaps.
"Why didn't they think about this [potential problems] before? U.S. citizens are the biggest cruisers of all. Carnival is making a lot of money and providing great memorable vacations. But you have to make sure you take care of every detail every time."
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.