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Landmark Decision About Norovirus

We are told that life, in terms of the legal community, is all about precedent. Well, here’s a precedent for the cruise industry that is going to be celebrated in cruise headquarters from Miami (Royal Caribbean) to Santa Clarita (Princess) to Genoa (Costa).

And it happened in England.

The subject: norovirus.

In a lengthy, wordy document filled with legalese, a British judge last week ruled against passengers who were suing TUI Cruises for becoming ill with gastroenteritis (norovirus) while on the Thomson Spirit, a ship chartered from Louis Cruises. The 43 claimants alleged either that they contracted norovirus because the cruise line was negligent or they were at risk because the cruise line breached its contract with them.

The judge ruled no, in both instances.

In what will be hailed as a landmark decision for cruise lines, here is the most compelling part of the explanation from the law firm that defended TUI:

“The judgment…is of great importance to the cruise industry in recognizing that norovirus is not caused by the ship and that even with high levels of implementation of industry procedures, outbreaks of norovirus do occur.”

Where have you heard that before, in so many words? Right here, because we have long felt the cruise industry has become a poster child for norovirus, a gastrointestinal disease that can strike wherever large groups of people are in close contact.

Like on a cruise ship, but not only on a cruise ship.

The defendant satisfied the judge that the cruise line’s carrier fully implemented systems for cleaning the ship after 16 passengers had suffered from norovirus on its previous cruise, and for reacting to the outbreak on the subsequent cruise.

And guess what evidence was taken into consideration?

Complaints from the stricken passengers about TUI’s procedures. They were no longer allowed to have self-serve food at the ship’s buffet. They were given paper napkins. They were confined to cabins.

That, said the judge, proved the cruise line responded properly to the presence of norovirus.

Will this “landmark decision” change the linkage between cruise ships and norovirus? Probably not. Ships — not daycares or seniors homes or shopping malls — will likely remain the poster child for norovirus.

In the news…

• Viking Star aborts cruise and returns to Bergen for mechanical repair
• Quebec to be latest Canadian port with shore power for cruise ships 
• Kung-Fu Panda restaurant on Quantum of the Seas, now in Singapore

Today at portsandbows.com: The story of the Viking Star's cruise

Holland America Westerdam
7 nights
November 14, 2015
Fort Lauderdale (return): Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Thomas, Half Moon Cay 
Inside: $415
Cost per day: $59

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