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Careful cruising

Holiday injury lawyer Clare Campbell highlights the potential threats for passengers and crews on cruise ships

Clare is a travel litigation expert who specialises in accidents abroad, claims under the Package Travel Regulations, maritime and aviation cases and large group illness litigation. She tweets as @HolidayEagle
This week’s Market Watch highlighted the worrying number of crew and passengers who are taken ill or are fatally injured whilst travelling on a cruise ship. 

According to statistics gathered by the Centre for Disease Control,10,612 people have fallen ill with a gastrointestinal illness whilst on-board a cruise ship in the last five years.

An average of 10 people per year die in ‘mishaps” such’ as fires, collisions and storms. A further 60 people per year are injured from these ‘mishaps’. However, there is no data which shows how many people are injured or killed through ‘accidents’ such as slips trips and falls whilst on board a cruise ship.

Last year two cruise ships suffered from back to back norovirus outbreaks - causing 488 people to fall ill. 

Cruise ships have been known to have as many separate occurrences of gastrointestinal illness on-board. Deaths-injuries-cruise-ships.jpg
This data raises significant concerns about whether cruises are sufficiently cleaned following an outbreak, and whether it is safe for the vessel to immediately go back out with new passengers on-board.

In 2002, the cruise company Holland American Line was forced to take a ship out of commission in order to discard every pillow case, steam all of the floors, disinfect everything on board and sanitize the rooms after having four back-to-back cruises infected with norovirus. 

Although this was no doubt expensive and time-consuming, it did eradicate the illness and suggests that taking a ship off the seas and carrying out a thorough, deep clean is the only way to ensure passengers health and safety is not compromised by a previous outbreak.

Cruise ship accidents 

There is a worryingly high number of incidents that have resulted in injury and death as a result of accidents following ‘mishaps’ on-board cruise ships. 

Whilst the circumstances surrounding the Costa Concordia incident in 2012 accounts for the majority of deaths, but there are also more recent cases including James Swinstead - the pensioner who was tragically killed due to a freak wave crashing through a window during his cruise on the vessel Marco Polo. 

Both of these incidents, along with the scarcity of data on other types of accidents on board these ships, suggest that information from all accidents on board cruise ships must be collated and safety standards constantly reviewed to prevent a repetition of any incident.

As a solicitor who specialises in injuries, illness and fatalities on cruise ships, I know that whilst the majority of those travelling can enjoy their holiday, serious incidents do occur. 

As the aviation industry has shown, it is necessary for all data to be collated when incidents occur so that lessons can be learned, risks minimised and lives saved.  

Travel operators must also build into their business model necessary and complete sanitisation of their ships following any kind of outbreak. 

Only then can people be assured that their holiday will not be ruined through cutting corners.

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