The descriptor “floating Petri dish” for cruise vessels can be quite accurate. It’s a small world wherein thousands of people are in very close proximity for a week or more. A single sick passenger can infect hundreds and some pathogens are particularly hard to kill. With communal pools, onboard casinos and handrails everywhere, the possibility of catching a contagion can run high.

A guide to a clean ship

The Center for Disease Control has created a Vessel Sanitation Manual to ensure cleanliness. The 300 page guide covers a range of topics from detecting known viruses, having potable water, safe food handling and pest management.

The manual is highly regimented. It outlines how to clean walls, floors, dishes and even bedside bibles after an outbreak has occurred. It includes detailed instructions on what kind of soap, how much and how long to let it sit on the impacted area. There is also a section of administrative guidelines that includes information on how to report infractions. But what happens when those guidelines are not followed? What happens if you get sick because someone was negligent in their duties?

Liable for negligence

However thorough, in the end the manual is only a tool and negligence is possible. Cruise lines are supposed to exercise attention to detail to ensure passengers are safe aboard their ships. When a cruise line fails to clean their ships thoroughly after an outbreak or a sick employee is allowed to handle food or bedding, they may be liable.

If you suspect your illness was caused by negligence you need to be able to prove it. If you became sick it is highly likely other passengers did as well. Pay attention to any indications of a widespread concern and document anything you find. While a cruise is meant to be a pleasurable vacation, it could turn into something else entirely when safety precautions are not followed.