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Norovirus Cruise: Did you catch it?

You've decided on a cruise. You've saved up for this vacation because it's going to be a special one for you and your significant other. Not long into your trip you’re struck down with vomiting and diarrhoea, and you remain cabin-bound for the remainder of your holiday.

As unwanted as this may be, there have been incidents occurring on cruise ships affecting large numbers of passengers and crew. Most recently, the Sun Princess cruise ship. The main culprit is Norovirus, a highly contagious virus that spreads rapidly in closed environments – like those on a cruise ship.

What is the norovirus?

The norovirus is actually a strain of virus named after an outbreak in Norwalk Ohio back in 1972. It’s quite common in our everyday environment, but when it occurs aboard a cruise ship it gets much more publicised.

The first thing you need to know is; did you catch it before you got aboard? If you were healthy with no bouts of diarrhoea or vomiting prior to walking up the gangplank, then it's likely you got it aboard ship.

The next question is; did you catch it from another passenger or crewman? The virus can survive on hard surfaces for quite a while, so it could have been waiting for you to catch it for a while.

If you see or hear of other people vomiting on board you should be asking when did the cruise line became aware of the virus or was the cruise line already aware there was a problem aboard ship?

If so, what steps did the management and crew take to eliminate the problem? This is key to any issue of liability on the part of the cruise line.

Who the claims are made against

If you're aboard an excursion cruise around Australia or down to Tasmania, you look to the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) for possible compensation. If you were sailing to an international port of call, including New Zealand and Vanuatu, you would look to the Athens Convention (Athens) for compensation.

Depending upon the circumstances you might claim under Athens or the ACL. Given the legal cost involved most people try to fight it out on their own to get some compensation for a trip they believe was ruined.

A vacation away from it all should never involve being locked away in a room no matter how stately it may be. If you or someone you know was affected by the norovirus on a recent cruise, you should seek legal advice.

Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: May 25, 2017.

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