Call for Urgent Health & Safety Enquiry into Passenger Cruise Ship

HolidayTravelWatch has recently dealt with complaints from holidaymakers, following their cruise aboard the MS Thomson Spirit, during the Iberian Delights Cruise in May 2009.  It is now of concern that further complaints are being made about the previous cruise.  This Organisation discovered that a number of holidaymakers were ill during both cruises, all expressing concern on the standards on board the ship. 

Here is what some of the passengers had to say about their May cruise experience:

"A couple of days into the holiday, I became very ill with profuse vomiting, severe stomach cramps followed by diarrhea. I duly informed the medical staff on board who gave me some antibiotics and anti sickness medication and I was confined to my cabin for 3 days, missing many of the ports I was looking forward to visiting. Once this time passed I was allowed out again, but two days before my return the symptoms returned. This was diagnosed as norovirus. As far as I am aware over 200 other passengers were also affected" (9239)

"Rang reception in the morning to report they were ill, they asked for the cabin number and informed....someone from the medical centre would attend the cabin, they did not visit the cabin until quarter past 5 that evening. Swabs were taken....there was also asked what they had eaten and had they eaten anywhere else other than onboard the ship?  They both took Imodium.   When they felt well enough....called reception to see if it was ok to leave the cabin, he was told he could, he took the forms he had to the medical centre to hand them in, they told him that he should not be there he would contaminate others.  They were getting different information from different people....he signed the forms and remarked there was a pile of forms just like his it must have been a foot high, when staff were trying to tell them only some passengers were ill.  He said he saw many many trays outside the cabin doors.   It was only after passengers were ill that they saw the wipes and the sprays appear, before that some used them and some did not, when they have been on other cruises you always had to use the wipes and sprays, he watched one member of staff cleaning down tables and chairs, he must have sprayed and wiped 20 tables he did not rinse out his cloth in the bucket once . They returned to the cabin one day, the floor was soaking wet, the toilet was leaking , they came to mend it twice, [The Holidaymaker] fixed it once himself.   They sat on the coach waiting to go on a trip and watched passengers from a returning coach re board the ship, the driver and someone from the ship were in conversation then men in white coats from the ship boarded the coach presumably to clean it, the rumour was that a passenger on the trip had projectile vomited on the coach. Everyone on their table and others had been ill" (9300)

"This was their first ever cruise and it was a treat for her 60th Birthday. 3 days into the cruise her husband became very ill with Sickness, Diarrhoea, Vomiting & Stomach Cramp's. They went to the medical centre and thereafter were confined to their cabin. They received a letter confirming that he had caught 'Norovirus'. A nurse came to the cabin and took a stool sample and returned a result within 24 hours as being confirmed Norovirus. When they went several days later to the medical centre they describe the scene as being like seeing lots of 'wounded soldiers'.  She did not suffer with anything but she was required to remain in the cabin. They missed many of the sights. Up until that time they had not realised that so many people were ill, many were confined to their cabins, one put a notice on her door with the word 'Prisoner' on it. Because she was confined to the cabin, she began to suffer with claustrophobia and felt that she could not breathe - one single woman came out of her cabin very distressed because she could not take the confinement. When this holidaymaker's husband became very ill, they went to the medical centre and he was told that he had seasickness and given an injection for £37. They considered that the ship needed updating and the engines were vibrating throughout the ship. There was a rumour going around the ship that the problem came from the water containers in the Lido restaurant and that before this cruise the ship had come from Egypt. They advise that at the start of the cruise they had a letter pushed under the door to tell them that they would probably contract Norovirus! Anti-bacterial regimes were not enforced" (9314)

It was no surprise to HolidayTravelWatch to also receive complaints about the previous cruise on this ship, the 'Pyramids & Piazzas' Cruise, which sailed at the end of April into May 2009. 

Here is what one passenger had to say about their experience on the April/May cruise:

"His wife was ill on 25/4/09 this continued for duration of cruise and after.  Has photo of complaint form filled in on board.  When she was ill asked at desk if they could cancel trip and have money back, told no only if you go to doctor pay and get letter can you have your money back, her husband was appalled . Everything that she ate went straight through her.  On the outside deck at finish of sitting food was just covered in clingfilm and re heated next day.  Orange from post mix drinks tasted odd.   Everyone using same scoop for ice cream.   Food was just added to food, there was lipstick on cups, plates were dirty, he remembers seeing trays outside other passengers cabin doors, he just thought they were eating in the cabin.  "We couldn’t pinpoint the reason she contracted this but, we did notice some unusual practices in the restaurants that could have contributed to this. Serving dishes were replenished with food instead of being removed and replaced with fresh. Milk jugs were replenished, when empty, without being washed. The porridge pot was also replenished as was the chilli con-carne dish. All of these practices encourage the possibility of the growth of harmful bacteria.  In the Compass Rose restaurant we saw a waiter empty a water jug and wipe it with a tea towel, that he had previously wiped a table with, before putting the jug in a store cupboard. The quality of the food was poor, there wasn’t enough choice and the food wasn’t hot when it arrived at the table".  Restaurant staff not as well dressed as on previous cruises some were quite tatty, he remarked they were sitting in the lounge waiting to disembark ship at Ibiza, they got into conversation with passengers that had already  joined the ship for the next cruise called "Iberian Delights ". (9349)

HolidayTravelWatch has commented on the recent MS Marco Polo cruise illness cases and called for the implementation of an EU wide Ships Sanitation Program.

Frank Brehany, the Senior Consumer Advocate for HolidayTravelWatch states,

"I am naturally very concerned to hear that there were wider problems on board this ship than we first believed.  Given the growth in cruise holidays it once again underlines the need for the implementation of an European Vessel Sanitation Program.  For the present we would urgently call for the relevant Port Authorities to act and restore confidence in this vessel, particularly in light of the already fragile travel market - confidence needs to be restored!"

He continues,

"I sincerely hope that the EU Commission is closely monitoring the nature of holiday complaints on cruise ships, in anticipation of its review of the Package Travel Directive and the need for a Vessel Sanitation Program.  I call upon the EU Transport Commissioner to act on this important issue". 

He concludes,

"In this case it is clear that there have been many more holidaymakers affected by illness on these two cruises and we would suggest that they contact us for Free Advice & Assistance as soon as possible".