‘Explosive diarrhoea’: Woman’s horror cruise

Cruise ship company Carnival are being sued over a virus outbreak on a series of cruises in 2016 and 2017.
Cruise ship company Carnival are being sued over a virus outbreak on a series of cruises in 2016 and 2017.

Around 200 former passengers could join a class-action lawsuit against Carnival cruises after a norovirus outbreak caused widespread vomiting and diarrhoea.

Julie McLean-Phillips is representing the large group of passengers who travelled on the Sun Princess ship for any of the eight cruises between December 2016 and February 2017.

She became sick after she and her family embarked on a 13-night cruise that departed Fremantle in Western Australia on December 5, 2016.

Ms McLean-Phillips said she was promised a “relaxing and pleasurable cruise” but instead spent the majority of her time confined to her cabin with her ill sister.

Cruise ship the Sun Princess from P&O as it cruises in Australia.
A woman is suing after a virus outbreak on the Sun Princess cruise ship in 2016.

Both women reported experiencing “uncontrollable vomiting”, “explosive diarrhoea” and difficulty walking on their own.

Ms McLean-Phillips said she was not offered any alternative accommodation when her sister fell ill only a few days after their departure.

She claimed she was forced to remain in an unhygienic room soiled by vomit and faeces before she also succumbed to the highly contagious virus.

By the end of the cruise, Ms McLean-Phillips stated that 339 passengers and 13 crew had contracted the illness.

As a result, she claims she was unable to enjoy the facilities and activities on-board the ship, including the hot tub, art gallery, casino and library.

Ms McLean-Phillips is seeking a full refund of the $1609 cost of the ill-fated cruise plus additional damages for inconvenience, distress and disappointment.

A passenger said she was unable to enjoy the amenities on the cruise. Picture: P & O Cruises
A passenger said she was unable to enjoy the amenities on the cruise. Picture: P & O Cruises

She argues the cruise company is liable because it failed to tell passengers about the risks of norovirus and the potential impact of an outbreak.

The lead applicant claimed passengers should have been informed after three people fell ill with norovirus one day after the start of the cruise and offered the opportunity to disembark.

She said she and the other afflicted passengers would not have bought tickets had they known the risks and impact of an outbreak.

However, Carnival argued the risk of contracting the contagious illness on a cruise “would merely be an ordinary risk inherent in activities where people congregate and there is no prospect the court would find that any required warning would include detailing aspects of the norovirus”.

On Friday, the Federal Court was told that about 200 former Sun Princess passengers could be eligible to join the class-action proceedings.

The court was told the number represented 1 per cent of passengers who embarked on the eight cruises at the time.

This Carnival Australia aerial handout photo shows the superliner 'Sun Princess' (L) entering Sydney Harbour with superliner 'Diamond Princess (docked) already having arrived in Sydney Harbour, 10/12/2009.
Passengers of eight sequential cruises on the Sun Princess were allegedly affected by the outbreak.

Carnival’s barrister Jesse Kennedy told the court that it had taken eight months to learn how many people were affected.

“That’s a reflection of how hard it is to get information from over six years ago,” he said.

The court was told the group might have to be divided into subgroups if all of the eligible passengers elected to join the proceedings.

The matter will return to court next month before a “fairly substantial case management hearing” before Justice Ian Jackman later this year.

Carnival is also embroiled in High Court proceedings regarding a Covid-19 outbreak on the Ruby Princess cruise ship, which infamously docked in Sydney in March 2020.