Lawsuit: Passenger Contracts Legionnaires' Disease on Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas

Majesty of the SeasA passenger from Ohio who sailed aboard the Majesty of the Seas last November and developed Legionnaires' disease has filed suit against Royal Caribbean. The passenger alleges that only after he boarded the cruise ship in Miami, and the ship had set sail, did the cruise line notify him, via a notice placed under his door, that Legionella had been discovered in the ship's water system on prior cruises.       

Legionnaires' disease is one of the most serious diseases a passenger can contract on a cruise ship. Legionnaires’ disease is a severe pneumonia caused by inhalation or possibly aspiration of warm, aerosolized water containing Legionella organisms. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), contaminated ships’ whirlpool spas and potable water supply systems are the most commonly implicated sources of shipboard Legionella outbreaks. Symptoms include a cough, shortness of breath, high fever, muscle aches and headache. Although prompt antibiotic treatment can kill the bacteria, 5% to 30% of people infected with Legionella will die from the infection.  

After the cruise ended on November 13, 2015, Royal Caribbean sent an email to the disembarking passengers, stating that they may have been exposed to Legionella during the cruise. It stated that if passengers become ill, they should seek medical attention and undergo testing for Legionella. 

Royal Caribbean stated that two passengers had been confirmed to be infected with Legionnaires' disease from the cruise ship, and that one person was possibly infected. One person was infected during a cruise in July 2015 and one other person was infected during a cruise in October 2015. The email stated that Royal Caribbean had shut down the whirlpools on the ship after it confirmed the first case of Legionnaires' disease associated with the July sailing. The cruise line claimed that it treated the ship's water supplies with extra chlorine (the email mentions "two rounds of treatment with chlorine"), but water samples taken from showers confirmed the presence of Legionella.

Royal Caribbean also sent the email to those people who had booked cruises on the Majesty on future dates, advising that the risk of illness is "low but not zero" and suggesting to future cruisers that they may want to reschedule their cruises for a later date depending on their individual risk factors.       

A few days after returning home, the passenger began experiencing symptoms consistent with Legionnaires' disease. He visited his doctor on an urgent basis and he was immediately hospitalized. His lawsuit lists kidney, heart and pulmonary failure among other complications which he suffered as a result of the disease which he contracted on the cruise ship. 

The lawsuit alleges that Royal Caribbean was on actual notice of Legionella on its ship but notified the passengers only after Majesty sailed and was at sea. In addition to alleging that the cruise line was negligent, the lawsuit states that the cruise line "acted with deliberate and wanton recklessness" in refusing to advise passengers of the Legionella prior to the cruise. Royal Caribbean, the lawsuit alleges, acted in "callous disregard" of the dangers to the passenger's health in order to promote its economic interests.

The lawsuit seeks punitive damages, in addition to compensatory damages, due to the cruise line's intentional misconduct.  

The lawsuit was filed by Miami maritime lawyer Domingo Rodriquez

There was a discussion regarding Legionnaires' disease and this particular cruise last year on the Cruise Critic boards. If the comments are accurate, some of the passengers apparently were not notified of the Legionella on the ship during the cruise but were notified only after the cruise was over. At least one person commenting said that he sailed on the cruise ending November 13, 2015 but never received an email from the cruise line. One poster mentioned that a family member who was on the cruise was allegedly admitted to the hospital with Legionnaires' Disease. She stated at the time: "we did not get the email about the ship being contaminated until the afternoon of Nov. 13, after we had just gotten off the ship . . . This was very irresponsible and unethical on Royal Caribbean's part."  

In my opinion, it is outrageous that Royal Caribbean kept sailing the Majesty if it knew that the ship's water supply was still contaminated with Legionella after multiple "extra-chlorine" treatments. It is Legionellaprobable that some of the passengers or crew members would become sick because, obviously, passengers are going to shower during cruises. Unfortunately, we have seen this cruise line take the "show-must-go-on" attitude to extremes over the years, whether it is recklessly sailing into hurricanes or repeatedly exposing its passengers to noro virus on successive cruises.

There have been a number cases of Legionnaires' disease on cruise ships over the years. The most infamous case involved the Horizon cruise ship operated by Royal Caribbean's sister cruise line, Celebrity Cruises (before it was purchased by Royal Caribbean), back in 1994.

Following a deadly shipboard outbreak which caused Celebrity to cancel cruises and fly passengers back from Bermuda, passengers sued Celebrity alleging that the company defrauded them by refusing to disclose that Legionella was present on the cruise ship. An Associated Press writer wrote that: "on Saturday passengers on the cruise ship Horizon were told the risk of contracting Legionnaires' disease on board was low. On Tuesday they were hustled off the ship in Bermuda as a precaution." (Numerous passengers were nonetheless infected). The AP quoted passengers as saying at the time: "everyone is entitled to a worry-free vacation and this has been anything but that" and "the people who operate this line should be chastised" and "what they did to the passengers is unconscionable."

Celebrity subsequently sued the manufacturer of the ship's pool and whirlpool equipment, alleging that extensive press coverage of the disease outbreak stigmatized the company, thus hurting its reputation and reducing its profits. Celebrity obtained a $193 million verdict, although an appellate court subsequently reduced the verdict.

Regarding the recent outbreak, if Royal Caribbean was uncertain whether the Majesty of the Seas still had Legionella in its water system, merely warning future passengers that the risk of illness was "low" but not canceling cruises was, at a minimum, irresponsible. Not informing passengers who cruised on the ship of the disease until after they sailed is truly reprehensible conduct. 

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Photo credit: Top -  CC-BY-SA-3.0/Matt H. Wade at Wikipedia; bottom - By CDC (PHIL #1187) - CDC Public Health Image Library, Public Domain.

Legionella Royal Caribbean Email

Legionella Royal Caribbean Email


Salt into the Wound: Royal Caribbean Denies Legionnaires Disease Came from Liberty of the Seas

Last week we reported on an article in the BBC about a former Royal Caribbean captain who died after contracting Legionnaire's disease. BBC's story was entitled Ex-Royal Caribbean Captain Died of Legionella. His widow is now proceeding with an inquest back in the UK.    

This is a disturbing story which we looked into last year: Royal Caribbean Delivers Cruel Blow to Widow of Beloved Captain Tore Myhra.

Royal Caribbean initially declined comment to the BBC saying that it does not comment about pending legal cases, but it looks like the cruise line has changed its mind. Royal Caribbean just sent the BBC a statement saying for the first time that "Royal Caribbean is certain that Mr. Myhra did not contract Legionella while sailing on board Liberty of the Seas."  The cruise line further states that Captain Myhra reported to the Captain Tore Myhraship's doctor only with "flu-like symptoms."

It is interesting to contrast Royal Caribbean's denials today with what the cruise line stated when Captain Myhra fell ill on the cruise ship. Back in December 2009, Royal Caribbean did not deny that the cruise ship had the deadly bacteria. It stated only that ". . . we do not know the source of the guest's legionellosis . . " The cruise line further explained that in response to the legionella-related death it sanitized key areas onboard the ship, including whirlpools and the H2O Zone.  

As we reported in 2009 in our article Former Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Captain Dies of Legionnaire's Disease After Sailing on Liberty of the Seas, the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner concluded that Captain Myhra became sick on the cruise ship and suffered "nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory difficulty and dry cough.'' His symptoms worsened and he died of "Legionella pneumophila pneumonia" the day after he departed the cruise ship, on November 1, 2009.

The Miami Herald covered the story and interviewed the Centers for Disease Control: The Herald said that the CDC investigated "five or six cases of Legionnaires' disease aboard cruise ships going in and out of South Florida in the past three months" around the time of Captain Myhra's death.

The South Florida Business Journal reported that during the next cruise, a family on the Liberty of the Seas found the H20 water area and hot tubs were closed six out of seven days of the cruise. A passenger reportedly said "This cruise started off horrible as we were told there had been two cases of Legionnaire's disease on the 11/1 sailing and that Customs was also checking the entire ship . . . " Another passenger mentioned receiving a letter in the stateroom, indicating a passenger on the previous cruise had been diagnosed with Legionnaire's, so the H20 Zone and hot tubs were closed. 

Why is Royal Caribbean now so "certain" that its former captain did not contract the disease on its cruise ship and he had just "flu-like" symptoms?  

It seems like this cruise cruise line will say anything to avoid bad press, even if it means pouring salt into the wounds of Captain Myhra's grieving wife and daughter.  

Passenger Paid Settlement in Legionnaires' Disease Cruise Case

CruiseCritic reports that a passenger whose husband died after contracting Legionnaires' Disease during a cruise aboard Fred Olsen Lines' Black Watch (who would name a cruise ship, Black Watch?) received a settlement after three years of litigation.

Audrey Heath, from the U.K. sailed with her husband, Robert Heath, on the Fred Olsen cruise ship when a number of passengers were affected by the illness while onboard. The cruise line ended the cruise early, Mr. Heath went to see his local doctor, who performed no tests, and sent Mr. Heath Legionnaires' Disease - Cruise Deathhome with antibiotics. He died at home the next day.

An inquest ruled that the cruise line exposed Mr. Heath to Legionnaires' Disease, and his doctors failed to provide appropriate medical treatment or admit him to a hospital.  Following the decree relating his death to Legionnaires aboard the cruise ship - the cruise line and shoreside doctors agreed to a settlement. 

Ms. Heath received a £70k settlement (a little over $100,000), a small amount for wrongful death by U.S. standards. 

The Fred Olsen Lines are in the press quite a bit for many cases of norovirus, which also can be traced to improper cleaning protocols on the cruise ships.

We have written about Legionnaires' Disease in prior blogs:

Liberty of the Seas & Legionnaires' Disease - Disease of the Seas? 

Former Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Captain Dies of Legionnaire's Disease After Sailing on Liberty of the Seas



Black Watch cruise ship photograph                   Milford Haven Port Authority website

Liberty of the Seas & Legionnaires' Disease - Disease of the Seas?

The Miami Herald reports today that a tourist from the U.K. who died from Legionnaires' disease had previously sailed on a seven-day Caribbean cruise on Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas.  

The newspaper identifies the English cruise passenger as Mr. Tore Myhra. 

Previously, there was speculation that Mr. Myhra may have contracted the disease at a local hotel here in Miami, the luxurious Epic Hotel & Residences.  However, the U.S. Center for Disease Control ("CDC") said that the hotel was not implicated in his death because another person who died of the same strain of Legionella had not stayed at the hotel. 

The Herald's article today raises the issue whether Mr. Myhra was exposed to Legionella on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship.  The newspaper quotes the medical examiner's report that Mr. Myhra became sick on the cruise ship and suffered "nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory difficulty and dry cough.''

The newspaper reports that when the Liberty of the Seas ship returned to port in Miami on October 31st, Mr. Myhra was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital. His symptoms worsened and he died of "Legionella pneumophila pneumonia" on November 1st at the hospital. 

Royal Caribbean's PR spokesperson, Cynthia Martinez, is quoted as saying that the cruise ship "reacted quickly" to the report of the Legionnaires' case.  It is less than clear what this means, because the cruise ship kept the sick passenger on the ship and did not request a medevac with the Coast Guard.

The Herald also interviewed a spokesman from the Center for Disease Control.  The newspaper reports that the CDC has investigated "five or six cases of Legionnaires' disease aboard cruise ships going in and out of South Florida in the past three months."

The CDC representative appears to be assisting the cruise line in damage control, based on the CDC's quotes in the newspaper: 

"All appropriate steps have been taken.'' 

"Cruise ships are very aggressive in responding to such outbreaks." 

Cruising is "a very safe endeavor.''

The CDC refused to identify the cruise ships where passengers contracted Legionnaires' disease, which is unfortunate because this should be public information. The obvious question remains - did the Liberty of the Seas have prior cases of Legionella?

It makes me nervous when a Federal agency acts like a cheerleader for the cruise lines while refusing to disclose public information regarding which cruise ships may have Legionella.


The South Florida Business Journal has an excellent article today "Legionnaire's May Be Linked to Ship."  The articles refers to comments posted on the popular CruiseCritic site that a passenger on the Liberty of the Seas had been diagnosed with Legionnaire's, so the H20 Zone and hot tubs were closed . . .

 Liberty of the Seas

Cruise Ship - Legionella Information:

Legionnaires' Disease During Cruise Linked to Water Supply

Legionnaires' Disease Is Cited in Cruise Death On Celebrity Cruise Ship

CDC: What is Legionnaires' disease?




Legionella cells           

Legionella in lungs     

Liberty of the Seas                hassocka5489 (via wikemedia commons)