Holiday ‘Nightmare’ on Cruise Liner

Holiday Cruise Illness

22.12.2010

Travel Law specialists Irwin Mitchell, who are representing nearly 200 holidaymakers, are calling swift action to prevent any further outbreaks of illness on board the Island Escape cruise ship, after receiving complaints about the ship for three consecutive years. They are asking the owners of Thomson, TUI UK Ltd, to explain why there is continued illness on board the ship.

Clive Garner, partner and head of Irwin Mitchell’s travel team, says: "We have received complaints about this ship in 2008, there were reports of illness in 2009 and it almost beggars belief that there should be incidents again in 2010.

"Irwin Mitchell has so far been instructed to act for 183 passengers in 2010, who fell ill onboard the Island Escape, with symptoms including diarrhoea, sickness, fever and stomach cramps. Some passengers became so ill that they were hospitalised overseas and continued to suffer following their return home.

"As this type of illness can have a lasting impact on health, particularly amongst children and the elderly, it is essential that steps are taken to prevent outbreaks and that passenger protection is put before commercial considerations.

"Over the years we have successfully represented hundreds of passengers who have fallen ill during cruises in different parts of the world.  Most of them could have avoided the illness if steps to prevent the spread of illness had been taken by the cruise lines they travelled with."

Holidaymakers complained that the food on board the Island Escape was very poor quality, with food being served at lukewarm temperatures, food being recycled and that the restaurant itself was of poor condition and appeared dirty.

Peter and Susan Desborough from Northamptonshire, boarded the Island Escape in January 2010 for a seven day cruise to the Canary Islands and Morocco.

Peter said:  "We had heard that there was illness aboard the Island Escape so we contacted Thomson, who assured us that in fact everything was fine on the ship.  However, when we boarded at Tenerife we were immediately struck with the impression that the ship was not ready to go to sea.

"The ship was just dirty. The chairs in the dining room had a thick layer of grease on their backs, the drains at the top levels of the vessel were blocked and the bedding in the cabin, which should have been white, was instead dirty grey - just not up to standard at all."

Both Mr and Mrs Desborough became ill during the course of their cruise and even once they returned the UK, their symptoms continued for weeks.  “We had hoped for a dream cruise but it quickly turned into a nightmare,” explains Susan, 62. "We suffered from stomach ache, diarrhoea and sickness and although we told the staff about the illness we were suffering from, the ship’s doctor was not sent to see us."

"I wish we had never boarded that ship and hadn’t listened to the Thomson representative who reassured us that there was nothing wrong on the Island Escape."

Liz Tetzner of Irwin Mitchell’s International Travel Litigation Group says: “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 indentified health advice must be given to all existing passengers any potential passengers joining the ship must be warned before they embark."

"In this instance, the Desboroughs and many other passengers for whom we are acting have made it clear that hygiene, or lack of it, was a major issue. I am particularly concerned that when Peter and Susan contacted Thomson about possible illness on board the ship they were advised by Thomson that everything was fine.

"It is important that where passengers have fallen ill through no fault of their own that lessons are learned by the tour operator to prevent repeat occurrences.

"I believe it is totally unacceptable that the same cruise ship – the Island Escape – is the subject of passenger complaints relating to outbreaks of illness and poor standards of hygiene for three years in a row.

"When you go on holiday, particularly on a cruise, you expect good standards of health and hygiene.  Thomson must ensure that all steps are taken to ensure the safety and satisfaction of all passengers."