Piro Zinna Cifelli Paris & Genitempo, LLC Attorneys at law
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Planning a vacation? Don't plan a cruise

Are you already looking forward to spring or summer vacation? A lot of people start their planning right about now because the influx of money from their tax returns allows them to look ahead into the year and put that money toward real fun and relaxation.

However, if someone suggests taking a cruise, it might be wise to turn a deaf ear and go do something safer -- like bungee jumping or swimming with sharks.

Cruise ships are only inspected twice yearly for safety -- and there's virtually no oversight afterwards. While cruise ships are supposed to take corrective action on health and safety violations, there's no specific time limit for how long they have to do so. Inspections are actually voluntary and the government is only permitted to protect the spread of disease into the United States -- not force corrective action on the ships itself. Additionally, "corrective action" may amount to little more than giving a crew member a slap on the hand after the incident is already passed and the damage is done.

For example, some of the violations found on one inspection of a cruise ship included:

  • Food workers performing their job duties and handling the food of guests while actively ill with a stomach virus.
  • Crew members eating in the mess hall with other crew members while sick with stomach viruses.
  • Allowing metal tongs that can easily become contaminated with bacteria to remain in the food in between prep and serving times.

While these might sound relatively minor, in a closed environment like a cruise ship a stomach virus can spread like wildfire among both crew and passengers. One outbreak ended up making almost 200 people on a Royal Caribbean Cruise ill.

In fact, there have been more failed health inspections by cruise ships in the last year than in any other year in a decade.

If you're still determined to take a cruise this year, you want to look carefully at the health grades of whatever cruise line you are considering -- as well as what corrective action was taken. In addition, experts suggest that you might want to schedule your cruise for shortly after an inspection -- when you know the staff is most conscious of recent issues. That's the best way to avoid ending up in a personal injury lawsuit later over sickness and a ruined vacation.

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