Travel giant defends record as holidaymakers sue over cruise ship sickness

Cruise Ship Thomson Spirit.
Cruise Ship Thomson Spirit.

Food safety measures aboard a cruise ship where a Hartlepool passenger was struck by sickness were “thorough, comprehensive and based on best practice”, the High Court has heard.

Barrister, John Kimbell QC, was responding to allegations by a group of eight passengers that their stomach bugs were probably caused by a “breakdown in hygiene standards”.

Ronald Rigg, 67 and from Hartlepool, did not fall ill during the cruise, but is suing for “loss of enjoyment of his holiday”.

The eight are suing travel giants TUI UK Ltd over sickness and diarrhoea they suffered during their May 2009 voyage aboard the luxury vessel, Thomson Spirit.

Some are claiming damages for their distress and inconvenience and others for the allegedly shabby conditions they endured on board.

However, TUI is fighting the case, insisting that the bug was brought on board by a passenger and proper steps were taken to control the outbreak.

At the start of the case at Central London County Court, the passengers’ QC, David Allan, said it was unclear whether the spate of illness was caused by bacteria or by norovirus.

Mr Kimbell insisted that hygiene measures were “well implemented in a highly pro-active fashion”.

On top of that, the ship’s “sanitation system” had been checked and “found to be satisfactory” during two independently conducted investigations, he told the court. There was also, he argued, a lack of expert evidence from the claimants to establish defective food safety standards.

Mr Kimbell also rejected the “quality complaints” pressed by some of the group as lacking substance.

They focused on claims of dirty crockery, glasses and linen, “insufficient measures to control insects”, unpleasant smells, and “unhelpful staff”, the court heard. But the barrister said some of them boiled down to comments such as “the decor in my room appeared tired”, or about allegedly bland food.

The case is continuing and the judge is expected to reserve his decision until a later date.