Types of Illnesses Caused by Cruise Line Negligence

No one wants to get sick while on a cruise, but the recent headlines involving cruise ship cleanliness, or lack of, is hard to ignore.  More cruise ships failed health inspections in 2017 than any other year the past decade, according to a recent report.  Last year alone, there were 14 instances in which a cruise ship failed a health inspection.

Violations include everything from seemingly minor sanitation issues to those that could lead to shipwide outbreaks of GI illnesses, like the feared Norovirus.  Just last month, a Royal Caribbean cruise ship returned to Florida after hundreds of passengers contracted a gastrointestinal illness.  During the five-night cruise, 332 cases of the illness were reported.  Due to the close confines, illnesses can spread quickly on a cruise ship.  Even a well-staffed infirmary at sea may be unable to manage and treat a serious shipwide illness.

We will examine the most common types of illnesses contracted on a cruise ship and whether passengers who contract these illnesses have legal rights against the cruise line.

Cruise Line Negligence

The first step in establishing liability in this type of situation would involve determining if the cruise line company was negligent. Negligence is a legal determination that someone was not exercising “reasonable care.” In the situation of a cruise line, it would need to be proven that they were not exercising reasonable care in ensuring the safety and well-being of its passengers. However, the fact that someone got sick on a cruise line does not mean that they were negligent. If someone gets sick as a result of the cruise ship not exercising reasonable care, then the cruise line company may be liable for the sick passenger’s injuries.

Common Types of Illnesses Caused by Cruise Line Negligence 

Generally speaking, there are three specific diseases passengers can contract as a result of a cruise line’s negligence. These illnesses include:

  • Norovirus;
  • Food poisoning; and
  • Legionaire’s Disease.

The level of liability that falls upon the cruise line depends on how serious the illnesses are, as well as the circumstances through which the illness was contracted.

What Is Norovirus?

Norovirus is more commonly known as the stomach flu. This illness involves nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, fever, and abdominal cramps. It is definitely not the type of illness someone wants to contract while confined to a boat out at sea. Norovirus is extremely contagious and can spread from physical contact with someone who has the illness or by touching something that someone who had the illness touched. It can also spread by contaminated food or water. Therefore, if a cruise ship employee had the norovirus and spread this illness through food he or she handled or prepared, the cruise line could be held liable.

What Is Food Poisoning? 

Food poisoning is actually quite common when it comes to any type of industry where food is being prepared and served.  If a sanitary violation occurred by one of ship’s personnel when preparing food for passengers on the ship, it is possible that the cruise could be held liable for food poisoning illnesses contracted by passengers on board.

What Is Legionnaires’ disease?

The previous two illnesses are serious by all means, but Legionnaires’ disease is an extremely devastating health condition. The disease has a fatality rate of around 15 percent, and even if someone does survive after contracting the disease, getting back to “normal” can take years. Legionnaires’ disease actually comes from a bacterium, specifically the Legionella bacterium. It is commonly found in warm water, like in hot tubs, but it also can grow in larger, more complex heating and plumbing systems found in hotels, cruise ships or office buildings.  The bacterium is killed by hot water. An outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease is serious, and it can be caused by cruise ship negligence, such as when the ship does not heat the pools or hot tubs on board sufficiently enough to kill the bacterium.

Proving Negligence is Key

If a passenger wants to show that the cruise ship was responsible for him or her contracting an illness, it is important that he or she shows negligence on behalf of the ship or ship’s employees. If it is an isolated occurrence with only one person on the ship getting sick, it can be hard to prove negligence. However, if it involves an outbreak, proving negligence can be a little easier. The key is showing that the ship or its crew should have known or knew of the condition, which resulted in the outbreak of sickness.

A word of caution is to keep an eye on the statute of limitations. Depending on where the injury or illness happened, the time allotted to report the illness caused from negligent behavior can range from two to six years after the illness was contracted. Contact an attorney as soon possible, even if you are still on your cruise, to discuss your rights and the time you have to file a claim.


If you have been injured on your cruise, on a wet and slippery deck, down a poorly lit staircase or steep gangway, in port on an excursion, or on a tender boat- it is important that you speak as soon as possible with a lawyer who specializes in personal injury claims against cruise lines. Most cruise lines, including Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Norwegian, MSC, Disney, Holland America, Princess, Costa, Regents Seven Seas and Oceania require that claims against them be pursued in a very specific place under very strict deadlines. Failure to comply with each individual cruise lines deadlines can result in a complete loss of any and all legal rights.

Aronfeld Trial Lawyers is a personal injury firm located in Miami, Florida since 1991.  We have fought hard to hold cruise lines accountable when they put their profits ahead of passenger safety.  We are available 24/7 and encourage you to contact us even if you are still on your cruise. The sooner we can begin our investigation and preservation of key evidence, such as the CCTV footage of your trip and fall, slip and fall, assault or other type of injury the more likely we will be able to understand and prove how the incident occurred. Remember, the cruise lines have the most aggressive and well funded defense lawyers in the world- protecting their profits.  You need an experienced legal advocate in your corner who will fight to obtain the compensation you deserve for lost wages, medical expenses, transportation reimbursement and pain and suffering.  Call us today and speak with a cruise ship claims lawyer about your potential claim- toll free 1-866-597-4529, 305-441-0440, or by email. We are ready to help.