The Sun Princess was impacted by back-to-back outbreaks of the norovirus on eight trips between December 2016 and February 2017.
The Sun Princess was impacted by back-to-back outbreaks of the norovirus on eight trips between December 2016 and February 2017.

Final insult after gastro cruise

A PASSENGER who was struck down with gastro during what was meant to be a dream cruise holiday has spoken of her misery - and the final insult that prompted her to join a class action against the company.

Lorraine Thomas is among more than 16,000 passengers impacted by back-to-back outbreaks of norovirus on eight Sun Princess journeys between December 2016 and February 2017, who may be eligible for compensation, according to Shine Lawyers.

Mrs Thomas, from Queensland, had saved up $2200 for a 14-day voyage to New Zealand with a friend who was celebrating a birthday.

The trip began well enough, aside from an overflowing toilet and cabin keycard difficulties. But about halfway into the voyage, the two friends began to suffer the awful symptoms of the dreaded norovirus.

'IT WAS HORRENDOUS'

When the vomiting struck, Mrs Thomas was diagnosed over the phone by the ship's doctor and told to remain quarantined in her cabin.

She was told someone would come and check on her - but was made to wait 11 miserable hours.

"To be quite honest, it was horrendous," Mrs Thomas told our sister paper news.com.au.

"It was a small cabin and - I can't put this any more politely - there was only the ice bucket to be sick in. The basin was blocked, and we had problems with the loo anyway and it kept overflowing.

Lorraine Thomas spent the second half her cruise to New Zealand sick with gastro. Picture: Lorraine Thomas
Lorraine Thomas spent the second half her cruise to New Zealand sick with gastro. Picture: Lorraine Thomas

"I kept ringing down to ask if someone could come up ... They kept saying they were busy and would get to us as soon as they could."

Eventually, cleaners in Hazmat suits came to Mrs Thomas' cabin for a "deep clean" - which she said was anything but.

"They sprayed the back of the bathroom door and the other side of the bathroom door and that was it," she said.

"They did not change my bed linen, they did not change the towels. There was no proper deep clean. I was still vomiting and laying on the bed.

"Because of the length of time I was left feeling so ill, I did think that was wrong."

Mrs Thomas was one of an estimated 140 people or more who got norovirus on the New Zealand cruise in February 2017.

"It was just a nightmare," she said. "There were parts of the ship that smelled of sewerage so bad, it was awful."

While there was some attempts by staff to stop the spread of the insidious virus, such as suspending self-service of food and wiping down surfaces, she believed the virus was already on the ship when they boarded at Brisbane.

Cleaners clean the railings of the Sun Princess after it docked in Brisbane following an outbreak of norovirus in February 2017. Picture: Claudia Baxter
Cleaners clean the railings of the Sun Princess after it docked in Brisbane following an outbreak of norovirus in February 2017. Picture: Claudia Baxter

The Sun Princess had previously been struck by a norovirus outbreak on a cruise to Papua New Guinea.

"I feel quite strongly it was already on the ship when we got there and that was my biggest issue," Mrs Thomas said.

"They should have given us that information, and we could have made an informed decision as to whether we wanted to go."

THE FINAL STRAW

But things got worse was when Mrs Thomas was back on land. She spent months repeatedly trying to contact the ship's operator Princess Cruises to report her experience before she got a response.

That came in the form of a $250 goodwill voucher, to be spent on a future cruise. Mrs Thomas said that added "insult to injury".

"I said, you have to be joking - after half a holiday that we couldn't enjoy, to sail with them again?" she said.

"I won't risk going back on another Princess cruise."

Norovirus struck eight Sun Princess journeys. Picture: Tara Croser
Norovirus struck eight Sun Princess journeys. Picture: Tara Croser

Mrs Thomas was then told the credit couldn't be used towards another cruise she was planning with Princess Cruises' stablemate P&O - which, like Princess, is owned by Carnival.

And that's what finally prompted her to join the class action.

"I didn't want to in the beginning because I thought I needed to give them the chance to come to the party and acknowledge that there were mistakes, there were problems," Mrs Thomas said.

"And then when they gave the gesture of goodwill and didn't honour it, I thought, well, no. You really, really don't care about your customers.

"If they really, genuinely, wanted to, they could have honoured the $250 against the P&O cruise and they chose not to.

"I know I'm only one voice, and only one person who won't affect them in the least, but it's wrong they continue to do this. It's not something you'd want to go through."

'THERE WERE VERY SHORT TURNAROUNDS'

Shine Lawyers said more than 16,000 Australian passengers could be eligible for compensation for either being sick with, or impacted by, the eight norovirus outbreaks.

"Our investigation revolves around an alleged failure of a duty of care by Carnival to properly and adequately sanitise the Sun Princess on each cruise and also to give adequate guidelines and safeguards to passengers in preventing them from coming down with norovirus," Shine's transport law manager Thomas Janson said.

The Sun Princess, which was built in 1995, is operated by Princess Cruises, which is owned by Carnival.
The Sun Princess, which was built in 1995, is operated by Princess Cruises, which is owned by Carnival.

"Best practice dictates the ship should have been put into dry dock for up to 48 or 72 hours and cleaned thoroughly.

"What we've been told is that there were very short turnarounds, usually of around two hours, to clean the ship before the next lot of passengers and new crew boarded … that's manifestly inadequate to sanitise a ship that's the size of a skyscraper."

Mr Janson said compensation could be the equivalent of a full refund, plus damages.

In a statement to news.com.au, a spokesman for Carnival Australia said: "Princess Cruises leaves nothing to chance in maintaining a healthy on-board environment with policies and procedures that are in line with the highest international public health standards.

"The incidence of gastrointestinal illness is much higher in the general community than on a cruise ship. Even in the comparatively rare case of gastrointestinal illness on board, the risk of actually becoming ill is one in 5500 as a result of the focus on the well being of guests as a priority."

The investigation of class action against Carnival Australia comes as the beleaguered company faces criticism over violent brawls that broke out on another of its cruise ships, the Carnival Legend, during a recent cruise of the South Pacific.

She was among a reported 140 people to contract norovirus on that journey. Picture: Lorraine Thomas
She was among a reported 140 people to contract norovirus on that journey. Picture: Lorraine Thomas


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