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18 March 2014, 16:22 | Updated: 18 March 2014, 17:20
More than 130 passengers have won a £280,000 group settlement after falling ill on nine separate cruises.
Travel law specialists Irwin Mitchell launched the legal action on behalf of the passengers who suffered from diarrhoea, vomiting and severe stomach cramps during the holidays on board Fred Olsen's Boudicca cruise ship which took place between October 2009 and May 2010.
A spokesman for the law firm said that the cruise operator has agreed to settle the case without formally admitting liability for causing the passengers to fall ill.
Among the holidaymakers who have won a payout are Luke and Emma Ryan from Petersfield whose Christmas and New Year break with their five-year-old daughter Abigail was ruined on board the ship.
Mr Ryan, 41, said:
"It was a disaster. This was supposed to be a relaxing time for us to celebrate the festive period, so we couldn't believe it when I fell ill on Christmas Eve with nausea, stomach cramps and gastric symptoms.
"Instead of opening presents on Christmas morning, I had to be seen by a nurse.
"The cruise was cut short by a day due to the illness and, to be frank, the end could not have come soon enough. We hope this settlement will mean we can now move on with our lives.''
Clare Pearson, specialist illness lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, said: "The fact that some of the passengers who suffered illness during and after trips on the Boudicca cruise ship in 2009 and 2010 still have continuing symptoms demonstrates the seriousness of what they have been through.
"Through our work, we have heard a range of stories of how so many people's breaks - which were often booked as luxury once-in-a-lifetime trips to celebrate Christmas, wedding anniversaries and birthdays - were ruined by illness.
"We are delighted for our clients that they have now received a fair settlement from Fred Olsen after enduring such terrible times on board the Boudicca.
"We hope that this outcome will allow our clients to look to the future and put the terrible problems they faced behind them, while we hope that it also acts as a reminder to cruise operators of the need to uphold the highest standards of safety and hygiene on board their ships.''
A spokeswoman for Fred Olsen Cruise Lines said:
"Irwin Mitchell and their clients may rest assured that all Fred Olsen Cruise Lines' ships meet the highest standards of health, safety and hygiene at all times, and comply fully with the strict requirements and inspections of their flag state and relevant authorities.
"Fred Olsen Cruise Lines rejects any allegations made in the claim by Irwin Mitchell solicitors - as it has all along - regarding the standards of cleanliness and hygiene aboard its ships, which are of the highest standard across its fleet.
"In particular, Fred. Olsen ensures that it upholds the most rigorous hygiene standards when preparing and serving food on board its ships, and refutes any allegations made by Irwin Mitchell to the contrary.
"Unfortunately, from October 2009 to May 2010, there was a higher incidence than usual of gastric illness, also known as 'norovirus', or 'winter vomiting virus', within communities in the United Kingdom, which is commonly identifiable in areas where people reside in close proximity.
"Most people do not report incidences, but on a cruise ship - where movement is restricted - cases are particularly highlighted.
"The virus - which is more contagious than the common cold, and is spread very easily by contact with surfaces and from person to person - is also particularly prevalent during periods of cold weather.
"Symptoms of the illness include a sudden onset of vomiting and/or diarrhoea; some people may have a temperature, headache and stomach cramps. Commonly, the illness abates within one or two days.
"It is frustrating that, even with the extra preventative and containment measures that were put in place, a number of guests on board these cruises were affected by this illness.
"All Fred Olsen Cruise Lines' guests are made aware of the importance of meticulous hygiene at all times; guests are asked to complete a medical questionnaire before embarkation, and are reminded regularly to use the hand sanitiser provided and to take the necessary precautions on board to minimise the infection.
"In the event of a gastric illness outbreak, Fred Olsen Cruise Lines takes every precaution to ensure the swift containment of the illness on board, and a number of public areas, including all public toilets and the self-service buffet, are closed.
"Frequent cleaning of all areas of the ship is carried out, and any guest showing symptoms of the virus is asked to remain in his/her cabin, with complimentary room service and in-cabin entertainment, until he/she is considered to be symptom-free by the ship's doctor, before being able to join the rest of the ship.
"At Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, the health, safety and well-being of all our guests and crew remains our utmost priority at all times, and we believe that our systems for preventing the spread of illness on board our ships are amongst the best within the industry.''