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Sickness Outbreaks on Cruise Ships

Posted on 10th May 2016

When booking a cruise I imagine most people have images of lazy mornings basking in the sunshine, hopping on to an exotic beach in the afternoon and then winding down with an indulgent meal and drinks enjoying on board entertainment and all within the luxurious surroundings. That picture can change dramatically and all because of a simple bug, as approximately 250 passengers and 8 crew members on board the Balmoral cruise have discovered. All have fallen ill with Norovirus, more commonly known as the “winter vomiting bug”.

Cruise lines are required to report food poison outbreaks that affect more than 3% of it’s passengers to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In this instance the CDC experts boarded the ship on 30th April to carry out tests on those who had fallen ill. Fred Olsen Cruises that operate the Balmoral have released a statement saying:

“Fred Olsen has been undertaking extensive sanitisation measures and cleaning of the ship, in accordance with its strict illness containment and prevention plan.

Commonly, the illness abates within one or two days. Those guests who are affected are asked to remain in their rooms during this time – with complimentary room service and in-room entertainment.

Fred Olsen is co-operating fully with all the necessary maritime agencies and authorities,‎ as Balmoral continues on her cruise, and will continue to make e‎very effort possible to ensure the safety and well-being of all its guests and crew on board, which is of paramount importance.”

This is not the first time that the Balmoral has fallen victim to such an outbreak. In May 2015 the passengers aboard its Scandinavian cruise became severely ill thus cutting the 8 day cruise short.

What is Norovirus?

Norovirus, a highly-contagious virus transmitted through the faecal-oral route, caught by eating infected food and touching infected surfaces.

The symptoms are generally moderate and include

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting (this occurs in children more so than adults)
  • Diarrhoea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Fever and headaches

Norovirus causes over 19 to 21 million illnesses across the world every year. Given the highly contagious nature of Norovirus, it is clear to see how easily it could spread on board a cruise ship. In 2014 there were 14 reports of illness outbreaks and this increased to 23 reports in 2015. In 2016 there have already been 10 reports. Between 2010 and 2015 Celebrity and Princesses Cruises reported the most number of outbreaks affecting around 5300 passengers.

The increase in cases of illness outbreaks on cruises are attributed to the rising popularity of cruise holidays and the contact between people and living quarters being so close, with the proximity allowing the illness to spread.

Am I entitled to compensation?

When travelling on a cruise liner or any other sea vessel you have the expectation that your health and safety will be protected. This is the responsibility of the crew and operators of the ship. They have a legal duty to protect you and it is their job to minimise any risks to you.

Specialist rules apply to international carriage by sea, for example specific time limits are strictly applied which means it is vital that you seek specialist legal advice. Injuries can have physical, emotional and financial consequences. If you are entitled to compensation it is important that you obtain a sum that accurately reflects the injury you have sustained.

Our Personal Injury Solicitors are backed by nearly four decades of experience. Our legal practice and team of London Solicitors have a strong track record of achieving favourable client outcomes. For expert legal advice use our contact form or call us on 0808 250 6017 today.