Hundreds of passengers sue cruise line over coronavirus outbreak


DELRAY BEACH, Fla .– Hundreds of passengers have been infected and dozens of people have died after a cruise ship departed at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.The Ruby Princess has made national headlines and has a direct connection to South Florida.

Over the years Diane Fish has taken on countless cruise ships, experiencing new adventures all over the world.

“I decided a few years ago that I wanted to start living my dream, which is to travel,” said Fish, a travel agent from Delray Beach.

She’s been to the Caribbean, Italy, and Norway to name a few trips, but the chance to explore downstairs was almost at the top of her list.

“I wanted to see a real kangaroo in its environment,” Fish said.

Fish spent two years planning the trip to Australia with a group of clients. Her group was able to spend several days in Australia earlier this year before boarding the Ruby Princess for a 14-day cruise around New Zealand.

“It’s the cruise, we’re just enjoying it,” Fish said, in a video recorded on his cell phone.

Fish’s one-time voyage left Sydney Harbor on March 8, just three days before the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic, and countries around the world were on high alert.

“I haven’t heard of sick people, I mean we went to happy hour every day and enjoyed it,” Fish recalls.

Fish said it looked like a normal cruise, but Vicky Antzoulatos, with Shine Lawyers in Australia, told WPTV it was part of the problem.

“There were clearly passengers within days of this cruise starting who were exhibiting symptoms consistent with the coronavirus and no one said anything,” said Antzoulatos, head of class action practice at Shine Lawyers.

Shine Lawyers said the Ruby Princess was linked to 28 deaths and around 900 COVID-19 infections.

Now, more than 800 passengers have joined a class action lawsuit, which was filed in July, against Carnival Plc and Princess Cruise Lines Ltd for negligence. Antzoulatos, who is part of the legal team representing these passengers, said the cruise line did not warn everyone on board of the risks of a deadly virus.

“Do you think this cruise should never have left in the first place? WPTV asked.

“I don’t think the cruise should have left in the first place, that’s part of our case,” Antzoulatos said.

With nearly 2,700 passengers on board, the Ruby stopped at several ports as tourists explored the towns. Then, as Australia put restrictions on the virus, the Ruby turned back to Sydney and cut the trip short.

“This particular cruise has been the cause of the spread of COVID not only to different parts of Australia but around the world,” Antzoulatos said.

Fish tells WPTV that all 10 people in her group have tested positive, including her and her husband, after making the long trip home.

“We left Sydney through San Francisco and the rest went to their destination, namely we went to Philadelphia, we went to Fort Lauderdale and all the way to Orlando,” Fish said.

A NSW government investigation says health officials made “inexcusable” and “serious” mistakes in allowing sick passengers to disembark. The investigation also says NSW Health should have made sure cruise ships were aware of protocol changes regarding COVID cases, which essentially took the blame on Princess Cruises.


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