Ready to go on a cruise? Here’s what you need to know.

Ready to go on a cruise? Here’s what you need to know.

Ready to go on a cruise? Here’s what you need to know. 1080 1080 Panter, Panter & Sampedro

Now that most cruise lines have returned to pre-pandemic operations, more travelers are choosing to spend their family vacations on cruise ships. With increased cruise operations, comes an increased risk of illness and severe injury. 

The following is what travelers should know about current cruise line guidelines and legal recourses before casting off. 

Cruise Line Coronavirus Guidelines

Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s “COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships” has not been in effect since July 18th, 2022, the agency continues to publish guidelines for potential sailors. The CDC recommends: 

  • All travelers are up-to-date on their covid-19 vaccines before boarding
  • Individuals with weakened immune systems should speak to a medical professional about potential risks before boarding, even if they are fully vaccinated. 
  • Before boarding, individuals should speak to the cruise line and learn about their testing and vaccination protocols. 
  • Individuals should get tested for coronavirus no more than three days before travel. 
  • Once an individual has returned, they should get tested again within three to five days of disembarkation. 

Rules and protocols both before boarding and while on the ship vary with each cruise line. Individuals should check with their cruise line regularly leading up to their cast-off date. 

Does every cruise ship have medical staff onboard?

Although the size of the medical staff will vary from ship to ship, it is common practice to have at least one doctor and two nurses on a cruise ship. However, international maritime law does not require a doctor to be onboard. One crew member with medical training is deemed sufficient. 

The American College of Emergency Physician guidelines requires on-board physicians to be available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. In addition, the guidelines require physicians to have a minimum of three years of post-graduate experience in general and emergency medicine or be board certified in emergency, internal, or family medicine. Cruise line staff should be certified in advanced life support.

According to Conde Nast Traveler, pre-screening protocols have become more rigorous since the pandemic. Along with the traditional written or verbal questionnaires used to identify ill patients, many cruise lines now employ their medical staff in the pre-screening process. The protocol may include temperature checks, assessment of possible covid-19 symptoms, and proof of a negative test before boarding. 

What happens if someone gets sick on a cruise? 

If an individual begins to feel sick while on a cruise, the first step they should take is to call the ship’s medical facility. Many ships now allow guests to book appointments with online physicians to assess their symptoms. When an individual visits the onboard medical facility, they will likely find two rooms – a control care area for potentially infectious patients and a non-infectious patients area. Larger ships may have more than one medical facility. 

Physicians will determine what is best for the health of the patient while trying to limit exposure of any infectious disease to other guests. Each illness is treated differently, depending on the immediate needs of the patient, crew, and guests. In wake of the pandemic, this increasingly means guests may be required to quarantine in their quarters or they may be asked to disembark. Although most cruise ships are equipped to deal with minor emergencies and may provide stitches or IV fluid, a guest with more serious illnesses and injuries will have to disembark at the next port of call to receive the treatment they need from a local hospital. 

Can you sue a cruise line if you get sick? 

As with other personal injury cases, whether or not an individual may successfully sue a cruise line comes down to whether they can prove negligence on the part of the cruise company or staff. On a cruise ship, proving negligence means being able to provide evidence that the cruise line or crew did not exercise reasonable care, and because they failed to do so, the individual became ill. 

The most common illnesses experienced by passengers due to crew or cruise line negligence include: 

  • Food poisoning
  • Legionnaires disease
  • Norovirus

Although individuals have been attempting to sue cruise lines for exposure to coronavirus since the pandemic first came into public consciousness in 2020, the courts have ruled that cruise lines “may not be held vicariously liable for the negligence”, as stated in Consumer Reports

Cruise ship doctors may be held liable for medical malpractice if it can be proven that the physician breached their standard of care or was negligent in their treatment and caused further injury to the patient.  Most commonly, this occurs when a patient suffers an injury at the hands of a physician or when the treatment or medication prescribed results in further injury or death. 

What is the statute of limitations for pursuing a cruise-related claim? 

In Florida, there is a four-year statute of limitations for personal injury cases and a two-year limitation for medical malpractice and wrongful death suits. However, there is one exception. 

A cruise ticket package typically contains a contract that states that a passenger must provide notice of a claim to the cruise line within six months and commence a lawsuit within one year. For non-physical injuries, such as illnesses, cruise lines require claimants to file within days of exposure or onset of symptoms. 

Call Panter, Panter, and Sampedro For Help With Your Cruise Ship Claim

Proving liability in a cruise ship case is complex. For the best results, individuals should work with a legal team experienced in maritime law. For over twenty-five years, Panter, Panter, and Sampedro’s cruise ship accident attorneys have been representing individuals and families in recovering fair compensation for their injuries and other losses. Speak to a dedicated attorney today at (305) 662-6178.



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