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Your guide to holiday cruises

Cruise ship

Once seen as an exclusive, luxury choice for couples to celebrate a special anniversary or an exceptional occasion, cruising the Mediterranean or the Caribbean has now become a popular, mainstream holiday for an increasing number of families, which may include grandparents and close friends too.

Cruising is one of the safest types of holiday and any unfortunate incident is more likely to be a minor mishap. Nevertheless, more serious accidents can and do occur. Even a slight injury can often bring the holiday to an abrupt and dismal end, and may potentially have unseen consequences for the unfortunate victim’s health in the longer term.

It is important that as passengers, you and your family and friends should be aware of the statutory ‘duty of care’ owed by the cruise operators. Seeking legal redress and recovering compensation for a personal injury received at any point during a cruising holiday can sometimes be more complex than first thought. Your Legal Friend has more than 30 years of invaluable experience and specialist knowledge in helping British holidaymakers to successfully secure damages if they suffer an accident or injury through no fault of their own while on a holiday cruise.

Did you know...

  • The number of people embarking on a holiday cruise from a UK port rose by 10 per cent in the last 12 months. (Passenger Shipping Association, 2014). 
  • In 2012, there were 1.7 million British cruise passengers, of which, more than 50 per cent took two or more cruises, and nearly 700,000 embarked on a Mediterranean trip. (CLIA UK & Ireland Cruise Report, 2013).

The most common cruise ship accidents ... are caused by rogue waves up to 100 ft / 30m high, storms, fires and collisions.

The most common types of passenger claims... involve outbreaks of bacterial infection, slips / trips and falls, beauty treatment errors, and food-poisoning caused by contamination from salmonella, campylobacter, e-coli, hepatitis, or botulism, which can rapidly spread in a restricted space.

What you should know before you leave...

It is always vitally important to read and understand the terms and conditions of the cruise ticket contract before you leave. The documentation should contain all the limitations against the cruise ship line/company and the specific terms for entering an injury claim for an accident that may occur on your cruise holiday.

Even if the terms of the contract ticket seem to exclude the complaint you wish to pursue, it is crucial to seek professional legal advice as it may be likely that a case can be successfully made for damages and to recover compensation.

Athens Convention...

Getting on and off the boat

The Athens Convention is a regime of liability for damage/loss suffered by passengers on seagoing vessels for EU member states. It was implemented in England and Wales by the Carriage of Passengers and their Luggage by Sea Act 1974,  and sets out that the “duty of care” owed by seagoing vessels relates not only the carriage of passengers and luggage by sea but also includes passengers who are either getting on or off the boat. This means that if you are injured even before you get onboard or reach dry-land, you may still have a strong compensation claim.

Cruising from a UK port

The Athens Convention applies to EU member states, including cruises that start and finish in a UK port only, such as Southampton but does not apply to domestic cruises around the British Isles/coast of Scotland.

Strict liability for passenger personal injury...

Because all sea carriers are obliged to have insurance, they would have a strict liability for passenger personal injury, fatality or any shipping related incidents unless there is evidence to show the incident was caused by natural phenomenon of an “exceptional, inevitable and irresistible character”, or wholly caused by a third party, etc

According to the above conditions it would not be necessary for a “fault-based” liability for negligence to be established by the claimant, which is the usual requirement as fault is presumed on the part of the carrier unless they can prove otherwise. However, a claim must be brought within two years of the incident taking place.

While it might be natural to assume that a personal injury claim can also be made against a package holiday operator if injured during a cruise, legal action will almost always be in accordance with the Athens Convention and not under Package Holiday Regulations.

Holidaymakers will still be able to make a just complaint for a ‘spoilt holiday’ according to Package Holiday Regulations but this will be a separate action.

What you should always do if you suffer an accident or injury...

You must report the cruise accident/injury immediately after it occurred, collect witness testimonies, photograph and carefully document as much information about the incident.

It is vital to follow up any onboard medical treatment with a thorough examination and detailed report from your GP and / or a specialist doctor once you return home from the cruise.

If a complaint made to a cruise line operator fails to bring any satisfactory response, immediately seek professional legal advice to determine the extent of your entitlement to claim, even if the cruise company makes a settlement offer.

Specialist solicitors at Your Legal Friend will clearly explain and provide the correct guidance to help you succeed in recovering the maximum level of financial compensation following an accident or injury which occurred on a holiday cruise.