Cruise ships, gastric illness and holiday claims

A number of people received medical treatment following an outbreak of gastric illness on board a cruise ship, eight of the elderly British tourists had to remain in hospital for further treatment.

The captain of The Lady Anne alerted authorities when passengers began suffering from severe vomiting and diarrhoea. The ship docked at Boppard, 60 miles west of Frankfurt in Germany, where the more severely ill passengers were taken to hospital for treatment and a number of others were treated on board by paramedics.

Tests revealed that the illness was attributable to the norovirus, one of the commonest causes of gastroenteritis. This virus affects the stomach and intestines and although it can be contracted via contaminated food and water it is usually spread through physical contact with someone who already has the virus or any surfaces or objects that they have touched.

Cruise ships are particularly vulnerable to outbreaks because the infection transfers rapidly from one host to another within the relatively closed community of a ship. Because of this infected passengers are often confined to their cabin to reduce the risk of spreading the infection.

Although the illness is unpleasant it is not usually serious except in the elderly or very young who may become dehydrated and require treatment to replace lost fluid.

The operator of the Rhine Valley cruise ship that was affected, River Cruise Line, said that passengers, staff and crew were now able to leave the ship and arrangements were being made to get them back to England. They confirmed that all passengers would receive a full refund.

The cruise that was scheduled to follow has been cancelled and all of the crew and staff will be replaced before the ship sails again. The Lady Anne will also undergo a full, professional clean to ensure the safety of future passengers.

While the virus is often associated with cruise travel it can occur wherever there are large numbers of people contained in a relatively small area, including nursing homes, hotels and schools.

In this instance the vessel concerned has been taken out of commission while it undergoes a thorough cleanse and sanitisation but there has been instances where a ship has docked and set sail again within a day despite there having been outbreaks of illness on a previous cruise.

Such short turnarounds don’t allow time for the ship to have been properly cleansed which is vital, particularly following a viral outbreak, in order to prevent any recurrence of the illness.

We would suggest that anyone who has become ill following an outbreak on board a ship should seek independent legal advice before considering any offer made by the operator of the cruise. In certain circumstances it may be possible to claim compensation over and above what the cruise operator has offered.

If you have suffered an illness on a cruise and you may be able to seek damages from your cruise operator. For free advice from an expert in holiday illness claims call freephone 01642 252 828 or complete the 30 second Claim Form on the website.

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