Couple files suit against cruise line

Pair sues Holland America for ruined vacation trip

Posted: Wednesday, August 07, 2002

VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Two cruise ship passengers who say their holiday was ruined after an outbreak of a flu virus aboard a Holland America ship have filed suit against the company.

Beverly and Larry Jones of Duncan, British Columbia, seek to have their lawsuit encompass several hundred passengers who contracted the Norwalk virus last week during a return trip from Alaska to Vancouver aboard the Ryndam.

The writ filed in B.C. Supreme Court alleges the Seattle-based cruise line showed a callous disregard for passengers who experienced severe flu-like symptoms.

It also says Holland America failed to warn passengers about an outbreak of the virus aboard the ship a week earlier, preventing them from canceling their cruise and avoiding the illness.

Larry Jones did not become ill but could not enjoy the trip because his wife was sick, according to the writ.

Last week, the cruise line canceled a seven-day Alaska cruise by the Ryndam - which had been scheduled to depart Aug. 1 from Vancouver - because of the virus that sickened more than 400 people over the two previous trips.

"We certainly intend to vigorously defend ourselves," said Rose Abello, Holland America vice president. "We don't believe the lawsuit has any merit."

Abello added the cruise line acted responsibly and took "all appropriate measures" to safeguard the health of their passengers, operating with the advice and cooperation of government health authorities including Health Canada and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

She noted that 87 percent of those on the July 25 cruise had no symptoms, that the Norwalk virus is prevalent in the Pacific Northwest right now and that it likely was brought on board by a passenger.

The cruise line was dealing with passengers whose vacation was "seriously disrupted" on a case by case basis, she said Tuesday in a telephone interview.

The gastrointestinal ailment affected 165 passengers and nine crew members on the July 18 Alaska cruise of the Ryndam.

On the July 25 voyage, 212 passengers and 31 crew members fell ill, Abello said earlier.

The Norwalk virus typically spreads on ships or trains when passengers already affected by it come on board, the B.C. Center for Disease Control has said.

The Ryndam will sail Thursday on its scheduled Alaska voyage, Abello said. Health Canada spokesman Harsh Thakore confirmed the vessel could leave Vancouver's port on Thursday.

Thakore said there have been several recent outbreaks of the Norwalk virus in British Columbia and Alaska.

About 100 of the 170 children at a camp about 30 miles northwest of Vancouver became ill with the virus last month.

"We are seeing much higher activity this summer," Thakore said, adding people should wash their hands regularly and practice good hygiene to prevent the virus from spreading.

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