Cruise

Your rights when a gastro outbreak ruins your cruise

Alison and Jillian Barrett

Whether you are young, old, single, married or travelling with a family, cruises cater for everyone and are becoming increasingly popular.

The recent gastro outbreak on the Sea Princess cruise ship reminded us that things can go wrong, especially when there are thousands of people in close proximity and activities like rock climbing and water slides. What do you need to know from a legal perspective?

Most cruise ships have a 24-hour onboard medical centre staffed by qualified doctors and nurses available for medical needs that have arisen onboard the ship.

Treatment you know you will require while on holiday, for example, removing a cast from a broken limb where the break occurred prior to the cruise, is not provided.

 You will be subjected to charges that are not covered by Medicare or private health, if you have travel insurance this will likely allow you to claim for reimbursement.

Be aware, there may be an excess, depending on your policy. Keep receipts for any expenses as you will be required to prove the cost to your insurer.

 You should also keep contact details for your insurer and your policy number handy with you while on the cruise, in case you need to contact the insurer while travelling.

 If you become so ill as to not be able to enjoy the cruise, and it’s from something like a gastro outbreak, then you should contact the cruise provider and request compensation for your loss, such as a part-refund or a discount on your next cruise.

Your travel insurance provider may provide a partial refund, depending on your policy.

Usually, you can only receive compensation from one source, either your insurer or the cruise.

Unfortunately, there can be far worse incidents that can happen on the open water.

There have been many reports of people falling overboard while on a cruise.

There have also been many instances of sexual assault with one report in 2011 stating that the rate of sexual assaults on board cruise ships was 50 per cent higher than on land. In fact, Australian Ms Brimble, was killed in 2002 on a cruise ship.

Usually the law that applies on board a cruise ship will be that of the Country in whose waters the ship is travelling.

Each country can claim territorial sea for up to 12 nautical miles from the low-water line on the coast.

If an incident happens outside this area though, when the ship is in international waters then the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea will come into force.

There can be a number of different possibilities when determining which law applies and what rights you therefore have: the law of the country where the ship is registered, the law of the country from where the ship departed, or the law of the country from where the involved passengers reside.

Often, a number of different countries will claim legal jurisdiction and it is not straightforward.

If you have had to make a claim on your travel insurance and you are unhappy with how the insurer has handled it, then speak with the independent Financial Ombudsman Service

If you are unhappy with the cruise itself, then you can contact the Department of Fair Trading in your State or the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission.

This article originally appeared in The Brisbane Times, Travel Weekly has republished with permission from Maurice Blackburn Lawyers.

Alison and Jillian Barrett are both principals at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers. The Queensland sisters are experienced lawyers and passionate social justice campaigners. Alison juggles motherhood, as well as heading up a major legal practice area. Younger sister Jillian also leads a team of lawyers and sports a double degree in Law and Journalism.


Do you have something to say on this issue? Get in touch with Travel Weekly Editor Daisy Doctor here to share your thoughts. 

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