Holiday Advice - How do I deal with cruise, hotel, medical or tour operator 'help' for my holiday illness?

There are occasions when a situation may get out of hand at a holiday hotel or on-board a cruise ship, whereby many people are affected by illness.  In those circumstances, the situation often arises where holidaymakers are quite angry that they have been exposed to a bug and will often demand that the hotelier and the tour operator does something to end their exposure to sickness!  The response that holidaymakers receive varies quite considerably from one of indifference to a complete 'management' of the holidaymakers expectations.  So you may ask, what is wrong with having my 'expectations' being managed; a fair question!  The problems arise in the response given to you which can have an important impact on any claims that you may make when you return to the UK.

The range of reactions from a tour operator could include the following:

  1. Indifference & denial of a health issue at your hotel or on-board your cruise ship;
  2. Confinement - this usually occurs on-board ships though we have known holidaymakers in hotels to suffer the same fate;
  3. Increased activity in cleansing your holiday hotel or ship;
  4. Free access to medical consultation and treatment;
  5. Provision of stool sample tests;
  6. Subsequent advices that the stool sample test returned a negative result;
  7. Separation of 'complaining holidaymakers' from other holidaymakers;
  8. Threats made against holidaymakers who complain;
  9. Customer Complaints forms not available;
  10. Detailed reports taken from holidaymakers of the nature of their illnesses;
  11. Satisfaction surveys that collate information on your return home;
  12. The 'promise' that your complaints will be resolved when you return to the UK.

These are just some of the issues that holidaymakers have faced when they have been caught up in illness situation!

To help you navigate this minefield, what follows are the typical questions from holidaymakers who find themselves in this situation:

There are lots of people who are sick at my hotel, us included; what do I do?

The first thing you should do is use any self-medication you have brought with you to try and settle your illnesses.  If these preparations do not work, then you should see a doctor or visit a health clinic.  If you cannot find one, ask your tour operator's representative or hotel reception for help.  Speak to other holidaymakers, get their names and addresses (make two copies and separate them amongst your family group).  If you have a mobile phone, take photos and video. Keep a daily diary whilst on holiday recording what was said, by whom, how you felt etc.  These three points are important as this is part of your evidence  If you are not sure about the medical advices you have been given, call your GP in the UK for further guidance.  Finally, make sure that you have made a written complaint with the representative!  To summarise:

  1. Administer medicines brought from home to you and your family;
  2. If you do not recover, seek medical assistance;
  3. If you are unsure about the medication you have been given, call your GP in the UK for further guidance;
  4. Get details of other holidaymakers also affected - take photos & video - keep a daily diary - this is part of your evidence!
  5. Make a written complaint with the tour operator's representative!

The tour operator and the hotel are denying that there is a problem; how can they?

Quite simply, this is what they do!  The reason that companies take this action is officially to 'manage' the situation and to try and put a 'balanced' spin on what is happening.  It is often the case that we hear that the 'denials' are based around the fact that in say a hotel with 2,500 guests, 'less than 3% were ill', this then gives a different slant to the press who are no doubt involved at this stage.  They are for all intents and purposes managing the ligation that will follow even at this early stage!  The issue here is that you are in the situation, you can see what is happening to you and other families and you may also witness the closure of swimming pools, the closure of food outlets, increased cleansing and so on.  The important thing to do is to talk to other holidaymakers, keep a diary and record everything that happens or is said to you!  To summarise:

  1. Denial of the problem is a fact of life;
  2. Statements made by tour operator's and hotels often try to limit the perception of something seriously wrong;
  3. This is about litigation & press management;
  4. Talk to other holidaymakers, keep a diary, record everything that is done or said to you!

They have confined me to my hotel room/cabin; can they do that and why?

This often causes the most anger amongst holidaymakers and is often practised on cruise ships.  Holidaymakers are often annoyed about this for two reasons; firstly they are made aware that there was pre-existing illness in their resort and secondly they are told that their confinement will prevent the spread to other holidaymakers.  The reality is that it is often only those who are ill who are confined, leaving their family to freely roam and perhaps spread the contagion!  Cruise companies insist that it is necessary as they operate in an enclosed environment and there will often be clauses that allow them to take this action.  They will also rely on the on-board 'medical opinion' and many holidaymakers report that they have never seen the doctor, simply spoken to a 'nurse' on the phone.  Many holidaymakers often report that when they try to leave a ship or complex, they are prevented from doing so as the access key 'blocks' their exit.  In situations like this, you should ensure that you make a formal written complaint and if you are not sure about the medical advices received, call your GP in the UK for further assistance.  To summarise:

  1. Holidaymakers often find when they arrive that there is pre-existing illness;
  2. Many are confined to 'quarters' to apparently prevent the spread of infection!
  3. Contract clauses may allow them to do this!
  4. Make a formal written complaint - keep a copy;
  5. If you are not sure about the medical advices you have received, call you GP in the UK for further assistance.

I have been offered access to free medical treatment, that's good isn't it?

In serious situations we have heard of holidaymakers being offered free medical treatment - conversely, we have heard of holidaymakers being charged excessive amounts per passenger for medical consultation!  There is no such thing as a free lunch; you have to ask 'if I am not paying for this treatment who is?'  If it is the tour operator/hotel, then you should ask why are they doing this and what is happening to your medical records - who has access to them - where are they being stored and so on?  You should ask these questions in writing - quite likely you will only get a response when you return to the UK, but you should ask the question before you leave your resort and ask for copies!  If the medical assistance is being paid for it is likely that this will be used as evidence against you, particularly if you have failed to reveal something when you were at your most vulnerable!  To summarise:

  1. There is no such thing as a free lunch!
  2. If the hotel/tour operator is paying the medical bill ask why, who has access, where are they stored, can you have a copy!
  3. Make sure you put such requests in writing before you leave your resort;
  4. Remember, this is potential evidence they will use when you may have said something or failed to reveal something when you were most vulnerable!

I have been given injections - or offered injections; what do I do?

This is very common and many holidaymakers pay for the privilege for having such injections.  Many holidaymakers accept the injections without question and those that do ask what they are for are often told that they are to prevent dehydration or sickness!  It also appears that the 'medics' offering this treatment ask for very little in the way of medical history which could contra-indicate such treatment.  The simple rule is ask and if you are not sure, call your GP in the UK for further guidance.  To summarise:

  1. Always ask what the injection is for!
  2. If you have a medical history which suggests care when receiving medication, make sure that you make the doctor aware of that condition;
  3. If you are not sure about the treatment, call your GP in the UK for advice.

I have provided a stool sample - or - I have been offered a stool sample test; what do I do?

In recent years there have been several hotels/tour operators who have adopted this tactic; take care on this point!  Why? Because such stool sample tests appear to be paid for by the hotel/tour operator and as such they 'own' the test and its information.  In addition, the question often asked but never answered is what are they testing for?  We have heard of such tests being returned within 6 hours; such a quick return will not allow culture's to develop with any certainty - you have to ask 'is the test being managed/operated correctly?'  There is a further more serious issue; what has happened to the body sample you have provided, where is it being stored, who has access to it and so on?  In this situation you should make sure that you formally (in writing) ask these questions and request copies of all the test documentation and the return of your sample.  If you suspect that the test was not carried out to high medical standards you should consider complaining to the country's medical authorities.  If you are not sure, do not go ahead with the test - talk to your GP first!  To summarise:

  1. Take care on this issue!
  2. The tour operator/hotel may 'own' the information if they have paid for it - they will try to use it as evidence!
  3. Ask what they are testing for?
  4. Ask where your body sample is and who has access to it?
  5. Ask for all the test documentation and the return of your sample;
  6. If you are not sure, do not go ahead with the test - talk to your GP first!
  7. If necessary complain to the country's medical authorities if you suspect mishandling of your sample!

My medical sample returned a negative test result; I have no claim!

This is incorrect!  Remember all those other people who are ill - they are your witnesses!  In addition the fact that you had to seek medical assistance is also evidence.  Do not assume that you cannot make a claim, many holidaymakers in this situation succeed!  You should remember that the stool sample test you underwent in resort may not have been carried out correctly - you should provide another when you return to the UK - many do and many return a positive result!  To summarise:

  1. Do not assume you cannot make a claim;
  2. Do not forget all the other holidaymakers who were ill - they are your witnesses;
  3. Do not forget you had to see a doctor - that is your evidence;
  4. Get another stool sample test kit when you return to the UK.

When I complained I was threatened and not allowed to talk to other holidaymakers; what do I do?

This is more common than you realise!  This is done to try and isolate those who perhaps have good skills at gathering a group - those that comply with the hotel/tour operator (free drinks, close attention etc) are clearly not concentrating on what is happening to them and it will be difficult to gather those into a list of names you may be gathering!  Again, this is all about litigation management!  If you are isolated, do not worry, contact us without delay - we will guide you on what to do directly!  To summarise:

  1. Do not worry if you are isolated;
  2. The tour operator/hotelier are managing the litigation;
  3. Call us at HolidayTravelWatch without delay and will will guide you directly!

I have been threatened when I complained; I am frightened - what do I do?

This is the most serious of complaints and we have examples of holidaymakers who have been evicted, threatened with eviction, had the police attend to speak with them, had their rooms burgled, had security follow them night and day!  This is a worrying time for you, quite simply call us WITHOUT DELAY and we will guide you through this difficult holiday complaint directly!  To summarise:

  1. We know of many holidaymakers who have been threatened or bullied against making complaints;
  2. Do not panic - call us without delay and we will guide you further!

I have given so much information in writing; I am sure that they will put this right!

You may be right, on the other hand, we find that rarely are such serious illness situations resolved!  Remember, the tour operator's representative will have taken a detailed 'story' of who was ill in your family.  In addition, when you complete the customer satisfaction questionnaire, you will have provided more information!  Is this sufficient to lodge your complaint?  We say no because this is their record and you may have failed to tell them all the detail of what has happened to you because of the stress you were under!  Before you leave your hotel or ship, make sure that YOU have put your full complaint in writing and that you keep a copy!  To summarise:

  1. Beware the details recorded by the rep or in a questionnaire - does it have the full story?
  2. Remember you were under stress when these items were completed!
  3. Make sure you provide a full written complaint before you come home and keep a copy!

I hope that this brief guide will help you through this difficult situation!

It may help you to understand some of the terminology used by searching our dictionary.

You may find information on your rights within the 'Holidaymakers BackPack' useful!

If you have been affected by any of the issues here and are unsure what to do, then e mail us or call us for Free Advice & Assistance.

Visiting a doctor abroad

We always hope that you have a good holiday and that you return in better health than perhaps you were in before you went! 

Be prepared!

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