Sen. Jay Rockefeller has scheduled a Wednesday hearing to examine the cruise industry's focus on consumer protection and determine if further federal oversight is needed.
Rockefeller, D-W.Va., has been vocal in his criticism of the industry since a fire crippled the Carnival Triumph cruise ship in February. The fire left 4,200 people stranded in harsh conditions in the Gulf of Mexico for five days.
In addition to criticizing the company's safety policies, Rockefeller has said the cruise industry has exploited loopholes that allow companies to book profits offshore and avoid paying U.S. taxes.
Chairman of the Senate's Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Rockefeller has written letters to Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Line executives for more information about their passenger safety, security, and health practices.
While the companies have defended their practices and pledged improvement, Rockefeller said the companies have not been willing to make enough material changes on their own.
"I've been told time and again that cruise lines will change, that things will get better for passengers," he said. "But according to our investigation, it doesn't seem like things have changed."
Witnesses from the U.S. Coast Guard, industry experts and at least one cruise company executive are expected to testify at the hearing Wednesday afternoon. Rockefeller said he wants to hear about specific actions the companies can or will take to prevent situations like the one that occurred on the Triumph.
"I expect straightforward answers from our witnesses, not more empty promises about how things will get better after the next safety review," Rockefeller said.