Passengers caught in a series of gastro outbreaks onboard Sun Princess are preparing to take legal action against the ship for “disappointment” and personal injury.
Since the middle of December the 21-year-old cruise ship has been at the centre of 3 large-scale norovirus infections involving hundreds of passengers.
The ship had just completed a 12-day voyage from Papua New Guinea, during which about 100 passengers fell ill.
Previously, Sun Princess was involved in another outbreak during a 13-day coastal cruise off Western Australia in December.
Shine Lawyers’ Transport Law Manager Thomas Janson said they had been contacted by several passengers and were keen to hear from others laid low by gastro on their Sun Princess cruise.
He said a legal precedent existed in the case of Baltic Shipping versus Dillon, in which a Sydney cruise ship passenger successfully sued for disappointment when the vessel sank halfway into a two-week trip.
“The High Court awarded the passenger USD 5000 which at the time (1986) was a considerable sum,” said Mr Janson.
In addition to securing adequate compensation for passengers aboard the Sun Princess, Mr Janson said he would like to see a change in the laws to allow government officials to inspect cruise ships.
In the case of the Sun Princess, passengers were disembarked for just two hours when the 18-deck ship arrived from Papua New Guinea in order for it to be cleaned.
Mr Janson said the next step would involve approaching the cruise company Carnival Australia to discuss compensation, and if they did not wish to compensate satisfactorily, file a class action.
“At this stage (the claim) would be seeking damages for disappointment, a full refund and damages for any personal injury due to the outbreak of illness,” he said.
A Carnival Australia spokeswoman said they were unaware of any legal action.
“We are aware that is the practice of some law firms to seek business in this way but we have no knowledge of any class action and are confident in the high standards maintained by Princess Cruises,” said the spokeswoman.
It is common cruise ship practice to confine passengers with the norovirus symptoms of vomiting and diarrhoea to their cabin to prevent infection spreading.
Ships also dispense antibacterial hand gel at the door of restaurants and frequently wipe down handrails, lift buttons and chairs.