Passengers Take Legal Action Six Years After Disastrous Cruise

August 1, 2012

(11:30 a.m. EDT) -- British passengers are suing a cruise line for injuries they sustained during a stormy Atlantic crossing – a full six years after the event.

The ill-fated cruise took place on the British-Australian owned Classic International Cruises' 580-passenger Athena in September 2006, during a 24-day voyage to New York, New England and Canada. One passenger died after falling down a flight of stairs and some 17 sustained injuries as the ship pitched and rolled.

According to the Eastbourne Herald newspaper, the 16 claims of negligence against the cruise line and its owner, Arcalia Shipping Company Ltd, include failing to warn passengers to stay in their cabins – and allowing the ship in the first place to set out in bad weather. The partner of the passenger who died, who was a doctor from the Channel Islands, is claiming £400,000 compensation, according to the BBC.

Part of the defense, though, is that there have been "inordinate and inexcusable delays" in bringing the cases to court and that crucial witnesses, such as the ship's then safety officer, may not even be traceable and therefore able to attend a hearing so long after the event. The case is further complicated by the fact that the tour operator through which the passengers booked, Travelscope, went bust in 2007.

It was, however, decreed in the High Court this week that although the delay was “at the very least unsatisfactory,” the hearing could go ahead. The case is expected to be heard later this year or early in 2013.

Cruise Critic has contacted Classic International Cruises and are awaiting a response.

--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor