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What you should know about cruise ship food poisoning

A cruise is a unique vacation. It's a way to take in the expanse of the ocean, the beauty of new sights and the food and culture of different lands. While it's great to get away and have everything catered to you under one roof, there are a few downsides to cruise lines.

Most people who watch the news have hard about virus outbreaks and food poisoning on cruise ships. When the vacation you've been looking forward to is ruined by illness, who is liable for your suffering and damages?

A unique environment

When hundreds (or thousands) of people come together, especially living within close quarters, it can introduce bugs and viruses you may not experience at home. The popularity of buffet lines, where the general public can have direct contact with your food, adds to the issue.

Besides the tight living conditions while at sea, tourists are isolated on the ship. When an illness strikes, the cruise ship's clinic is your only option for treatment and there is no firm land to restore your sense of stability as you rest.

A closer look at food poisoning

Food poisoning is a recurring fear for cruise travelers. Those who have experienced it know the uncomfortable helplessness of being ill at sea. Frequent causes of food poisoning include bacteria, viruses, parasites and toxins--that can be avoided by proper food preparation, cooking and storage.

Norovirus is the most common form of food poisoning, both on land and sea. In total, it affects about 20 million in the US each year, including more than 55,000 hospitalizations. It's airborne and contagious.

When it happens at sea

The most common cause in any food poisoning case is negligence. Whether it happens at butcher or harvest, packaging or preparation, most food poisoning is preventable. Trained foodservice workers understand the need for thorough washing of vegetables and proper cooking of meats and seafood to remove harmful results.

To sue for damages, you'll need proof that the cruise food workers didn't perform their jobs adequately and that their inattention caused your illness--this could be undercooked seafood or an unguarded buffet line. The best way to strengthen a case is to document evidence. There is strength in numbers. The more food poisoning reports on a cruise ship, the stronger your claim will be.

Common items to watch for include:

  • Busy clinics or medical staff
  • Medical quarantines on a ship
  • Public announcements of health concerns on the ship
  • Additional health precautions onboard after the announcement of illness

A responsibility to customers

When your vacation turns from a relaxing getaway to recovery or treatment in bed, it's emotionally disappointing, financially burdensome and physically painful. Food poisoning is taxing on the body and everyone recovers differently. Cruise ships may be on the seas, even traveling to foreign lands, but they are like any other business: they are responsible for the well-being of their customers. If a cruise ship fails to provide adequate safety--including your health--they are liable for the damages caused.

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