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​The truth about Norovirus and how Travel Agents and Tour Operators could soon be sued over the Common Cold!

Press release   •   Jun 12, 2015 10:59 BST

I have never heard of anyone suing a Travel Agent or a Tour Operator for catching a cold or Flu on holiday, but it could happen. The ‘Common Cold’ – or, to give it its proper name, ‘Rhinovirus’ or ‘Coronavirus’ – and Flu are contagious. We have all caught them by being in close proximity to someone who has it in the workplace, or at home. You could just as easily catch it on holiday from a fellow guest. Should Flu mean that you are laid up in your hotel bed for a couple of days, I doubt that you would blame the hotel, your Tour Operator or Travel Agency, let alone sue them!

So, why do cruise customers feel that it is appropriate to try to take action against cruise lines when they pick up another common virus – Norovirus? Whilst gastric illness is unpleasant, the principles are the same as with the Common Cold and Flu – they are viruses. They are all passed from person-to-person and from the surfaces that a person touches. But Norovirus is far more virulent. It may be more contagious than the Common Cold and spreads very easily, but it is a virus, just like the others.

Some newspapers and lawyers would have you believe that Norovirus is found only on cruise ships. It is not. Others falsely believe that, because it is a stomach bug, the source must be food or food preparation. Not the case. The only illness more common than Norovirus is – you guessed it – the Common Cold. There are around 267 million cases of Norovirus worldwide each year. It spreads in any community, whether that be schools, libraries, hotels, army barracks or, indeed, hospitals. That’s right: last year in England and Wales, 676 hospitals experienced outbreaks of Norovirus. A hospital, with all its doctors, nurses and staff, still can’t stop such a contagious illness – yet for some inexplicable reason, a cruise line is expected to succeed where medical professionals cannot? Notably, Norovirus also only tends to be highlighted in places where there is a medical centre on hand to monitor and record reported cases – such as on a cruise ship.

Fortunately, cruise lines have very high standards of hygiene and do an outstanding job of containing outbreaks – as is acknowledged by many of our guests, who commend our extremely comprehensive plans and procedures. Cruise lines devote a huge amount of time and resource into raising awareness of Norovirus and the importance of personal hygiene. Even so, there are occasions when the virus cannot be stopped – most notably when guests do not ‘own up’ to any symptoms when boarding (all Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ guests have to sign a declaration stating they have not been ill within the last 48 hours). That said, as symptoms are not physically evident until 12 to 48 hours after catching the virus, there are times when some cruise guests may be innocently unaware that they are carrying the virus on board.

As soon as someone has had diarrhoea or been sick, there is every chance that they will spread the virus, unless they remain in confinement, which is why cruise lines ask guests to remain in their cabins to protect other guests (providing complimentary room service and entertainment), so that we can concentrate our cleaning and sanitising efforts on where they will have the best chance of being able to contain the outbreak. The virus can survive on inanimate objects for days, so everything that someone touches will have the virus on it for someone else to pick up – of particular risk are handrails and door handles – as are any areas where someone has been ill.

This is why cruise lines have meticulous cleaning procedures and, on very rare occasions, will even end a cruise early to carry out a ‘deep clean’ with chemicals to disinfect the entire ship. But – and this is what makes combating the virus so difficult – it only takes one guest to bring it back on board and undo all that hard work.

At Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, we do everything that we possibly can to stop and contain Norovirus, but sadly it is – and will continue to be – found anywhere and everywhere, at home, at work, in hotels and hospitals, until such time as it is eradicated. Everyone needs to understand what it is and how to prevent it.

In the meantime, we are left in the rather ironic position where a guest, who it appears has helped to spread the virus around the ship for an entire day (after being physically ill), is now seeking compensation from us for having caused their illness and ‘loss of enjoyment’.

If we, as holiday companies, have to pay compensation every time someone is ill on one of our holidays – through no fault of our own – then where does it end? If I stay at a hotel in Barbados and catch Flu from a fellow guest, meaning that I spend two days in bed, then should I sue my Tour Operator for ‘loss of enjoyment’? If I catch a cold at work, should I seek compensation for my illness over and above my regular sick pay?

If Common Law is not sensible, then we will all catch more than a Common Cold.

Nathan Philpot
Sales and Marketing Director
Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines 

Fred. Olsen Cruise Line operates in the UK with four intimately sized ships for a more personal cruising experience.

Comments (8)

    I am in 100% agreement with your summary, seems to me to be extremely daft to sue for compensation a firm or company where an individual or individuals are the cause rather than the company or firm.

    - Laurence - Jun 13, 2015 15:42 BST

    Nathan Philpot - You are perfectly correct in your comments. We have enjoyed 11 cruises with Olsen and know how meticulous the crew are in looking after the guests - their health and enjoyment. Many passengers feel they can ignore the basic hygiene rules and then try to find someone else to blame.

    - Jean Elizabeth Mundy - Jun 13, 2015 16:34 BST

    We totally agree with Nathan - that person should be paying Fred.Olsen (not expecting compensation) for all the inconvenience and extra work that they caused to the crew and land based staff - not to mention the passengers who had their cruise ruined. Hope that person can sleep easy in their bed at night! We have been on many cruises with Fred.Olsen and can't fault how well the crew look after you and their attention to detail regarding the cleanliness of the ships.

    - Chrissie - Jun 15, 2015 13:10 BST

    I agree 100%
    Being a travel agent we hear this all the time, especially with families. Does not matter if you stay at home, travel in your own Country or abroad.
    Common sense seems to leave the moment people start their holidays. I tell my clients to make sure they pack it first!

    - Coralee - Jun 17, 2015 14:53 BST

    I tend to agree with the article. However I would like to see anti-viral foam as well as anti-bacterial gel dispensers on F.O ships. The VIRUS word is the operative bit!

    - Stephen Jolly - Jun 18, 2015 19:15 BST

    I too wholeheartedly agree with the above comments. I work in an Operating Theatre and having witnessed first hand the continuous cleaning/sanitising regimes aboard Balmoral, l cannot and will not criticize their efforts to keep this ship clean.
    I'm so fed up of irresponsible people trying to 'make a buck' from anyone they can these days.
    GET A GRIP and take some responsibility for your own health in these matters by ensuring your own handwashing routine is up to scratch and adhered to at every opportunity, especially after using the toilet (we've all witnessed people who still don't!) and before eating, and PLEASE use the sanitising gels offered!
    We are so looking forward to our trip with you to the Fjords on 3rd July and this has in NO WAY put us off!
    Fred Olsen staff can do no more, and should NOT be held accountable for this common virus

    - Jan Cheetham - Jun 18, 2015 20:25 BST

    I was a passenger on Balmoral last month and although I contracted the bug I have nothing but praise for the crew's hygiene procedures. The plain fact is that there are some people whose personal hygiene leaves a lot to be desired; and they will eventually need to be told so in plain language, otherwise loyal cruisers will be lost.

    - Robert Tapsfield - Jun 22, 2015 14:09 BST

    We have done in excess of 20 cruises with FO, the most recent being on Balmoral to UK and Ireland, May 31st to June 9th. We noticed immediately on going to dine in Spey the additional hygiene restrictions, individual menus, waiter service in the buffet, chairs wiped down as guests left during open seating. There was a constant stream of staff wiping down hand rails and door handles, and it was noticeable that the Capt ended his addresses over the PA every time stressing the use of the anti-bacterial hand wash. The crew could do no more than they did and I hope the recent 3 day cancellation has given them time to get the ship clean. We agree that nobody should make money out of these occurrences.

    - Peter West - Jun 23, 2015 16:49 BST

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