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Holiday Illness Complaint

Gastric illness, Salmonella and hygiene issues reported by guests at the Iberostar Playa Pilar in Cuba

18th September 2017

There have been reports in the mainstream press and in online reviews that guests of the Iberostar Playa Pilar in Cuba have been exposed to questionable hygiene standards, some of which say that they suffered a severe gastric illness, with one reviewer commenting that they received a diagnosis for Salmonella.

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The Iberostar Playa Pilar in Cuba

Advertised on an all-inclusive basis to British holidaymakers by Thomas Cook, the Iberostar Playa Pilar is situated in the Cayo Guillermo region of The Cayos in Cuba. The resort features a selection of restaurants and is situated on the beach, but from recent reviews, it appears that this taste of paradise has been a holiday nightmare for several British tourists.

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British tourist offered paltry compensation for severe gastric illness

It's recently been reported in the Mirror, The Sun and the Mail that a British tourist suffered a severe gastric illness after staying at the Iberostar Playa Pilar, suffering a temperature that according to the Mirror "soared to a dangerous 41 degrees", diarrhoea, and weight loss of "a stone since falling ill". As a result of his condition, he was "put on a drip on the third day of his holiday" and told that "they would rush him to hospital by helicopter if [his temperature] didn't come down".

He informed the press that they experienced several hygiene concerns at the Iberostar Playa Pilar, providing them with pictures of flies in uncovered buffet dishes and undercooked chicken that was still bloody. They also highlighted issues with the standards of cleanliness at the resort, again, providing pictures as evidence.

The reports say that Thomas Cook told them that there was no proof that he had been ill on holiday, despite being put on a drip and being told by medical practitioners that he may be hospitalised by his condition. Because of this, they were only initially offered £500 in compensation, although this was readdressed by Thomas Cook after the ill holidaymaker saw his local GP and had further tests carried out.

This is a prime example of why it's important to receive legal advice from a travel law specialist before attempting to claim compensation from your tour operator if you've suffered a gastric illness on holiday.

If you've suffered symptoms such as diarrhoea, nausea, a fever, vomiting, headaches or other typical food poisoning symptoms as a result of an all-inclusive package holiday to the Iberostar Playa Pilar, please contact a member of our travel law team.

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Hygiene concerns, gastric illness and Salmonella reported

Although reviews for the Iberostar Playa Pilar are mainly positive on TripAdvisor where the Cuban hotel is ranked as one of the best in Cayo Guillermo, with an average rating of 4.5 out of 5, the following reviewers have highlighted hygiene and health and safety concerns, with one reviewer saying that they received a diagnosis of Salmonella:

'audreymurdoch' wrote a review of their stay in July titled "[Very] honest review" in which she says that "the pool area is never cleaned resulting in sticky patches from [spilt] drinks [that are] covered in ants and flies". She comments that "despite the hotel only being open for 18 months, the pool is in a bad state of repair with many missing or broken tiles".

Talking about her room, she says that it "was nice but the cleaning of it was awful". Amongst a list of complaints, she says that "mugs [were] not cleaned for 7 days after use, [their] linen [was] only changed twice in 2 weeks and [there weren't] fresh towels daily as promised".

When commenting about the food, 'audreymurdoch' says that it "was poor", adding that it was served "lukewarm and not replenished regularly", and that it was "not always labelled, so [it was] difficult to know what you were eating".

She goes on to explain that the "food was all uncovered, allowing flies to land on it", and that they "saw a lot of cockroaches running on the floor and walls". She also says that "the crockery in the dining room was also regularly dirty".

She comments that the hotel "lobby area had a huge fly problem", adding that "there was no attempt by the hotel to address the problem", before explaining that "the toilets in the lobby area were a major concern". She says that they were "mostly out of order but the ones that were working had missing seats, urine and faeces all over the seats, horrific odour and never any toilet paper".

Commenting on the health and safety at the Iberostar Playa Pilar, 'audreymurdoch' says that the boardwalk steps "into the water are treacherous", explaining that "they are slippy and have bits missing, making some of the steps very narrow", and that the resort walkways "are very slippy, especially when wet". She states that she "witnessed several people falling down them".

'audreymurdoch' concludes her review by stating that "basic hygiene and cleanliness is lacking in this hotel", and that these "problems could be easily sorted if the management would be willing to address them".

Quote about food quality from 'edmundstaylor' on TripAdvisor

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Birmingham holidaymaker 'edmundstaylor' wrote a review of her stay at the Iberostar Playa Pilar in June titled "Most awful hotel ever, Thomas Cook Signature 4* plus NEVER" in which, amongst other complaints, she comments that they "had no hand towels for a few days and was told there was not enough in the hotel".

She highlights issues at the hotel "buffet restaurant", commenting that "a lot of the dishes have no names on, so you don't know what you are eating and the food was never hot enough". She says that on one occasion, her "husband had cornflakes and the milk had gone off" and on "another day [she] poured a glass of milk from a carton that had just been brought from the kitchen and it was […] also off".

'edmundstaylor' makes further comments about issues with the restaurants at the Iberostar Playa Pilar, before summarising that the "worst [issue] is the flies that are around you all the time when you are eating", stating that "they kept flying around your head and food".

She also comments on the issue of health and safety at the Iberostar Playa Pilar, saying that "the paths [around] the resort are a hazard, especially when wet", saying that "it was like walking on ice". She adds that her "husband slipped on the stairs when they were wet and bruised [his] arm and back".

'edmundstaylor' also comments that "only about 30% of the public toilets […] work and these are dirty and stink". She explains that "the others are under maintenance", however, she "was there [for] two weeks and no work was ever done on them".

'Paul M' from Yorkshire wrote a review of his stay titled "Moved after 4 days" in which he says that he believes that some of the issues he encountered "were down to poor management and all of them could easily be sorted out".

He comments that the "main pool [was] out of use from day one due to Algae, followed by a second pool having the same problem", stating that "it was still out of action when [he] left" the hotel".

He also says that the "toilets in [the] public areas were mostly out of order and dirty", the "food in the buffet was poor" and "there were complaints of stomach problems" around the resort.

Quote about Salmonella from 'Natalie F' on TripAdvisor

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Basildon holidaymaker 'Natalie F' wrote a review that was simply titled "Very disappointed", in which she says "for a hotel that's only 2 years old, it's lacking maintenance".

She explains that in "the lobby at least 5 of 10 toilets were out of order and the ones that weren't out of order were in a very poor state of repair", commenting that "they were […] poorly kept and smelt very bad", and that "the rooms were never cleaned properly at all".

Commenting on issues of health and safety, she says that "the kid's pool area was in a poor state of repair" and had "missing tiles". Due to "a lot [of] gardening work" being carried out around the resort, she says that "the floors, [which] are so smooth and slippery already" become "like an ice rink", which meant that her "eldest son fell over twice".

She says that "the flies in the lobby bar were also a huge problem" and "were everywhere", and that "the food hygiene is unbelievable", explaining that she saw "flies and cockroaches on the food".

'Natalie F' says that she, her "husband and [her] sons all became really unwell" during their stay, explaining that she and her husband "had [an] upset stomach" and her "sons needed antibiotics", indicating a possible bacterial infection. She goes on to say that her "eldest recovered but [her] youngest son didn't and was admitted to hospital when [they] arrived home".

She explains that their doctor "grew cultures and confirmed that [her] 17 month old was suffering from Salmonella". She goes on to say that "even though the rep and the hotel [doctor] knew how poorly [her] children were, getting water [for them] proved impossible" and she "literally had to beg for it".

'Natalie F' concludes her review by saying that "this hotel needs major improvements" and needs to stop "making people sick due to poor hygiene" as "Salmonella is not pleasant".

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Hotel responds to family affected by Salmonella infection

In response to 'Natalie F's review "Very disappointed", in which she states that her holiday party were diagnosed with Salmonella, the IBEROSTAR Cuba Quality Manager had the following comments:

After thanking 'Natalie F' for staying with them and apologising for the issues that she encountered, they say that they "apologize for the issue [she] had with the housekeeping and maintenance in [her] room and [in their] public areas toilets", stating that the "managers in question have been updated immediately and [they] are already taking the necessary actions".

Concerning the issue with flies at the resort, they say that "the hotel has taken all the measures in order to prevent flies in the dining area with daily and periodic fumigation in all [of their] service points, twice and three times per day". They go on to say that they "have also created barriers in the perimeter to prevent the amount of flies entering [their] facilities", adding that the Caribbean climate makes managing issues with insects difficult to control.

The IBEROSTAR Cuba Quality Manager also states that they "have a doctor on site to assist [their] guests, and they report [to them] every day all visits received of ill guest" so that they "can act quickly if there is an anomaly". They say that they "have strict Health & Safety controls, supervised by [their] Health & Safety Department", and that "everything is checked, from conservation temperatures, to food preparation". They explain that they "receive […], without previous warning, external audits from the Department of Public Health of Cuba (MINSAP)", who "verify [their] system procedures".

Contradictory to the aforementioned reviews and reports in the press, they say that "they have not found any traces that indicate that these were not up to the required standards", arguing that had this "been the case, [they] would have had more reports of guests or staff being sick". They go on to imply that the illness suffered by 'Natalie F's family was caused by factors out of their control, before saying that they hope that she and her family make a quick recovery.

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Salmonella on holiday

Salmonella is a type of bacteria that is commonly contracted through food poisoning, usually by consuming contaminated meat that hasn't been cooked adequately; most notably chicken that is still pink or bloody.

Symptoms of this debilitating illness can include diarrhoea, abdominal pain and stomach cramps, a fever and vomiting.

Although it's possible to recover from Salmonella without treatment, it's advisable to see a medical practitioner as soon as possible, as they should be able to expedite your recovery, which can reduce the risk that you'll suffer any further health complications, such as a long term condition like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

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Claim holiday illness compensation

If you've suffered a slip or fall due to poor health and safety standards, or if you've been diagnosed with a gastric illness on an all-inclusive package holiday, then under The Package Travel Regulations 1992, you could be entitled to claim compensation from your tour operator.

Our travel law specialists can provide you with a free no-obligation consultation on your case, and if we represent you, we can do so on a 'no win no fee' basis.

Contact us about your holiday illness claim

To find out more about claiming compensation for illness at the Iberostar Playa Pilar in Cuba; speak to Daniel Ross by calling us on 0808 145 1353 or complete our enquiry form and we will call you back.

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