Rise in cruise ship illness outbreaks

Cruise claims

01.06.2006

Suki Chhokar a travel litigation specialist at national law firm Irwin Mitchell has called for stricter hygiene measures on board passenger cruise ships as the firm reported a recent rise in the number of people it has represented who have been affected by outbreaks of viruses on these types of holidays. Mr Chhokar said "The recent cruise ship illness incidents of serious viral outbreaks give rise for concern, and people affected may be in a position to take action if they feel their holiday has been ruined."

This week has seen two serious outbreaks. Over 200 passengers aboard a luxury cruise ship, the Sea Princess, were struck down with a vomiting virus, forcing their £1,000 seven-day cruise to end a day early when it returns to Southampton tomorrow missing out on the intended destination of Lisbon, to allow extra time to disinfect the ship.

The Sea Princess outbreak comes in the same week as more than 100 passengers and crew, aboard the ship Van Gogh, suffered illness with diarrhoea and vomiting on their second day. After docking at Harwich last Sunday, 500 passengers waiting to board for a seven-day trip to Norway were sent home.

Norovirus claims

The reason that viruses like the Norovirus, which is often blamed for these types of cruise ship illness outbreaks, are seemingly obvious with many people living within a confined environment meaning that this very contagious bug can be spread easily.

However Mr Chhokar says "It is not good enough to say that because people are in confined areas they are going to be susceptible to these types of bugs. What must happen is that the increased risks must be met with the strictest safeguards to prevent people's holidays from being ruined."
 
He continued "These holidays are not cheap, and people will often be looking forward to these trips for many months."

Mr Chhokar called for slower turn around times whilst in port to allow for the boats to be thoroughly cleaned before taking on new passengers, and more routine cleaning during the voyage. "Basic food and water hygiene levels must be in place and regular cleaning of key areas such as the toilets and kitchens is essential. Once an outbreak has been identified health advice must be given to all existing passengers and any new people joining the boat must be warned. After a cruise ship illness outbreak the boat must be deeply cleansed and sanitised before any further passengers board."

Mr Chhokar concluded "We realise that it is difficult for cruise operators to prevent someone coming on board with the virus. Responsible cruise lines, and travel operators, will have comprehensive procedures in place but these need to be strictly adhered to and implemented across the entire industry."

Cruise ship illness claims and compensation

Irwin Mitchell has represented many victims who have suffered from viral illnesses whilst aboard cruise ships. One of them Vernon Clarke (73) was with his Partner on board the Grand Star, Nile cruise in Egypt in 2004 when he fell ill. His symptoms included diarrhoea, nausea, abdominal pains and lethargy. On his return to the UK Mr Clarke was informed he was suffering from post infective irritable bowel syndrome which would be persistent for the rest of his life. Mr Clarke was eventually awarded £6680 against My Travel UK who organised the cruise. The travel company admitted liability in regards to a breakdown of hygiene in regards to food.

Suki Chhokar recommends the following for people thinking about taking these types of holiday:

  • Pay attention to the food preparation, hygiene and sanitation standards onboard the boat.
  • Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly at regular intervals
  • If you suffer illness seek appropriate medical attention both aboard and when you return home.
  • Make the cruise staff aware of any complaint immediately.
  • Record all aspects of your complaint
  • Exchange contact details with other affected holidaymakers
  • Take photographic and video evidence
  • Do not accept compensation payments on the spot.
  • Do not sign any document which waives your rights
  • If you have suffered illness and wish to seek compensation, consult a solicitor who specialises in travel claims immediately on your return.