Warning to cruise passengers at the height of norovirus outbreak

With the norovirus winter vomiting bug at its height, travel law experts have warned winter cruise ship passengers to take urgent steps to protect themselves.

The advice comes after holidaymakers were notified about norovirus outbreaks on luxury liners departing from Southampton. An outbreak of norovirus has also led to the closure of four wards at Southampton General Hospital.

Timing is crucial, says Ian Jenkins, a legal executive in the travel team at BL Claims Solicitors, and travellers should keep a ‘diary note’ of their finds during the first days of their cruise.

He said: “The key is to get as much evidence as possible in the first day or two of their trip. When passengers board, they should keep notes if they are unhappy about the state of the sanitisation, the level of cleaning, rumours on board and any warning signs which have been placed around the vessel.

“The problems lie in the fast turnaround of cruise liners, when operators do not deep clean sufficiently to get rid of the virus. By keeping a ‘diary’ then it cannot be argued when it comes to a claim that the outbreak happened a few days into the cruise.”

Ian said that passengers would often be reluctant to change their plans when notified about an outbreak on a vessel they are planning to board.

He added: “It depends on how flexible holidaymakers can be but people often have work commitments they cannot change and may have booked a cruise to coincide with a special celebration.

“Claims are usually successful, ranging between £1,500 and £3,500, but by protecting themselves with the right information passengers can make a difference to the amount they will receive from their claim.

“There is no quick fix to eradicate the problem of norovirus and there has been no drop in the number of cases so far this year.”

Norovirus is the most common cause of gastroenteritis. The symptoms consist mainly of diarrhoea and vomiting. It can be spread by contact with an infected person, by consuming contaminated food or water or by contact with contaminated surfaces such as tables and toilets. The disease is spread easily, particularly in ‘closed’ areas such as cruise ships and hotels.

Cruise passengers are asked to complete a form about their health prior to boarding but the incubation period is 24 to 72 hours, so some may not be aware that they are already infected.

The duration of the illness generally lasts 24 to 48 hours. An infected guest is at their most contagious from the moment they become ill to about two to three days after they have recovered.

BL Claims, a trading name of Blake Lapthorn, specialises in personal injury, clinical negligence and travel claims and has lawyers in locations around the country including Southampton, Portsmouth, Oxford, Reading, Cardiff and London.

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