For British holidaymakers, the idea of opting for a cruise instead of a traditional resort holiday seems more and more appealing. Whilst cruise ships can provide high quality catering for thousands of passengers each day, sometimes things do go wrong. If the way the food is being prepared or stored does not meet required standards, this can cause major outbreaks of food poisoning, stomach bugs and viruses.
Food poisoning on board a cruise ship is often the result of eating contaminated food, eating undercooked food or drinking contaminated water. Stomach bugs are formed by the bacteria in contaminated or undercooked food and the most common types of bacteria responsible for food poisoning illnesses are:
Camplyobacter is found in raw or undercooked meat (particularly poultry), unpasteurised milk and untreated water.
E.coli is found in the digestive system. Food poisoning occurs after eating undercooked beef products.
Salmonella is found in raw or undercooked meat, raw eggs, milk and other dairy products.
Shigella is found in any food that has been washed in contaminated water.
Dysentery is a disease passed on through faeces of people carrying the bacteria, who do not wash their hands after using the WC.
Viruses can either be brought on board by passengers or picked up through contact. Outbreaks of norovirus have been increasingly linked to cruise ships because health officials are required to track illnesses on ships but not at hotels or resorts.
Norovirus can cause inflammation of the stomach and the large intestines, called gastroenteritis. The disease can be passed via contaminated food and water but is typically spread on cruise ships through physical contact with ill people or surfaces/objects they may have touched. Norovirus causes flu-like symptoms, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach cramps. Fever and headache are also possible. Symptoms appear after one to three days and usually last between 24 to 48 hours. A passenger may be contagious for as long as two weeks after recovery.
A cruise ship illness can rapidly pass from person to person. The capacity of an average cruise ship is around 3,000 passengers for ocean liners but the largest vessels can carry from 5,400 to 6,300 passengers at maximum capacity if all berths are occupied. The most common ways that an outbreak will spread are:
- Hand to mouth contact from people carrying a bug
- Touching infected surfaces - such as door handles, railings, toilet flush handles, food utensils, elevator buttons etc.
- Poor hygiene practices and systems such as
- failing to wash hands after using the WC
- lack of anti-bacterial sanitisers / dispensers
- unprotected salad bars
- refilling of water bottles in the buffet area
Where a serious illness cannot be contained, cruise lines may halt the cruise and order a thorough ‘deep clean’ sanitisation, which puts the ship out of service for a few days.
If you fall ill onboard a cruise ship, the law is different to the law that relates to making a holiday injury claim for an accident that occurred at a hotel or resort.
The Terms and Conditions contained in your holiday contract, which are supplied by both tour operators and cruise lines, are bound by regulations set out in the Athens Convention.
The Athens Convention – what you need to know
The Athens Convention applies to EU member states and has been in force in the UK since 1996.
Seagoing vessels owe a “duty of care” in the carriage of passengers and luggage by sea, and to passengers who are either getting on or off the boat.
The Convention operates in favour of the consumer. The fault is automatically presumed to be on the part of the carrier unless they can prove otherwise. This is different to claims under the Package Travel Regulations 1992 which require you to prove the carrier was at fault.
A cruise ship illness claim will almost always be made in accordance with the Athens Convention and not under the Package Holiday Regulations 1992.
You can still make a complaint for a ‘spoilt holiday’ under the Package Holiday Regulations 1992, but this will be a completely separate action.
It is also important to remember that under the Athens Convention, the Terms and Conditions:
- Only apply to cruises that start and finish in a UK port
- Do not apply to domestic cruises around the British Isles and the coast of Scotland.
If your cruise departed from a foreign destination...
You may be able to proceed with a claim under the Package Travel Regulations 1992 but only if:
- There were no ‘stop-off’ ports of call inbetween
- Your tour operator is a UK company
A further important difference is the time you have to make a claim from when the illness occurred:
- 2 years - Athens Convention
- 3 years - Package Travel Regulations
A limit is imposed on the amount of compensation that can be claimed for personal injury or death.
All sea carriers must have insurance as they have a strict liability for passenger personal injury, fatality or any shipping related incident, 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.
How Your Legal Friend can help you
We specialise in acting on behalf of anyone who has suffered from a holiday accident or illness through no fault of their own while on board a cruise ship and wishes to claim compensation against a UK tour operator / cruise line.
With over 30 years’ experience in all aspects of international personal injury law, we can provide you with expert guidance and support every step of the way to secure you the best possible compensation. We can also help you to claim back any additional expenses you have suffered as a result of your illness or accident, such as:
- Any medical expenses you had to meet while on holiday
- Time taken off work on your return from holiday
- Missing out on any holiday activities that your injury or illness had prevented you from participating in.
Throughout your claim, Your Legal Friend will help you every step of the way
- Work for you with no upfront fees
- No win, no fee - guaranteed
- 95% success rate for personal injury claims
- Over £200,000,000 successfully won in the last ten years alone
- Help and support you with your claim
- Over 30 years’ experience in personal injury compensation
Talk to us today
For an informal, confidential chat about making a claim with one of our expert personal injury solicitors, call us now on 0151 550 5228 (calls are free from landlines and mobiles). Or just complete the 'Start a new claim’ option on the right and we'll call you straight back.