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Last Updated: Monday, 3 November, 2003, 17:27 GMT
Q&A: Cruise ship rights
P&O is likely to be facing legal action from passengers following an outbreak of a vomiting virus on its Aurora cruise ship. BBC News Online explains what rights you have as a cruise ship passenger.

My mother has been ill on board the Aurora is she entitled to compensation?

P&O says it will deal with passenger complaints on a case-by-case basis and urges customers to contact it on their return to the UK.

According to the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), cruise firms have a reputation for settling cases quickly.

However, holiday litigation specialists believe that Aurora passengers could have a case to sue P&O under the UK Package Holiday Regulations.

"P&O have a duty to ensure passenger safety," Jonathan Betts at solicitors Alexander Harris told BBC News Online.

"If the crew of the Aurora can be shown to have reacted slowly or improperly to the outbreak of the Norwalk virus legal action could be successful."

Whatever the pros and cons of the case, Brenda Wall of the consumer group Holiday Travelwatch advises disgruntled passengers to seek legal advice and not merely accept P&O's offer of compensation - if it makes one.

She's 75 years' old. I don't think she wants to go to the trouble of finding a solicitor.

It is likely that your mother will enjoy safety in numbers. High profile cases, such as this, often end in a group, sometimes called class action, lawsuit.

As a rule of thumb, group actions have a greater chance of being accepted by solicitors on a no-win no-fee basis.

Holiday Travelwatch advises people involved in a virus outbreak when on holiday to take the name and addresses of fellow sufferers, in case they decide to sue.

What can she claim for?

According to Mr Betts she could sue for the pain and distress of the illness, which for most passengers was short-lived but very uncomfortable.

But that's not the end of it. Passengers can also sue for the disappointment and loss of enjoyment.

"If the cruise was a once in a lifetime holiday, such as a honeymoon, the passenger may be entitled to enhanced compensation," Mr Betts said.

My mother's friend Gladys accompanied her but remained well. Can she get some money back?

It is a possibility that Gladys could have a case, if she can show that the cruise holiday was made less enjoyable by the outbreak.

For example, was she confined to her cabin during the holiday nursing her friend?

If so, she may have a case to be included in any group action lawsuit.

Will travel insurance cover the cost of any legal action?

According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), most travel insurance policies will not cover legal expenses if holidaymakers choose to sue their tour operator.

In addition, travel insurance will not compensate passengers for a couple of days spent in bed.

However, if medical bills are incurred then travel insurance should cover it.

But passengers should examine their home insurance policies as some include legal expense cover which could pay for a claim.

'Bug ship' sparks border row
03 Nov 03  |  Europe

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