Cruise passengers take legal action over illness

More than 130 British holidaymakers are taking legal action against Fred Olsen after allegedly falling ill on board one of its ships.


The cruise line was this week accused of “repeatedly failing to protect the health of tourists” on the MV Boudicca following several outbreaks of sickness.

Irwin Mitchell, a British law firm that specialises in travel-related cases, is representing 138 people who claim they suffered severe gastric illness on the ship, which sails to the Canary Islands, Europe and west Africa, between 2009-2011. Some of those passengers have blamed poor hygiene.

Fred Olsen accepts that illness has occurred on the ship, but says the symptoms suffered by passengers were indicative of norovirus – a common cause of infectious gastroenteritis that it says is beyond its control.

Eric Swift, 75, and his wife Margaret, 80, from Halesowen, West Midlands, said they fell ill when they boarded a cruise to Cape Verde in April. Mr Swift said he had spoken to at least 20 people who were suffering from similar symptoms and suggested that at least one in eight passengers was unwell. He criticised the standard of food and claimed he was served undercooked meat.

He suggested that past instances of illness on the ship demonstrated that it had an “inherent problem”, and he alleged that a Fred Olsen representative told him there had been an outbreak of sickness on the ship during its previous voyage.

“The ship should not have been allowed to sail without thorough cleaning and checks,” he added. Mr Swift said that he and his wife, who each spent three nights confined to their cabin, were later offered a discount on a future cruise, compensation which he described as “derisory”. They contacted Abta, the travel association, and were put in touch with Irwin Mitchell.

Elizabeth Tetzner, travel law expert with the firm, said: “We are aware of guests who have travelled on nine different cruises on board the Boudicca since October 2009, many of whom have reported similar symptoms of diarrhoea and vomiting, which raises concerns about the adequacy of protection given to passengers.

“What is needed, in situations like this, is a full investigation and, if necessary, a thorough deep clean, in line with the accepted current guidelines. Likewise, any crew members who are suffering symptoms or are otherwise able to pass on an infection must be stopped from sailing.”

Although Fred Olsen blamed the outbreaks on norovirus, Irwin Mitchell claims that one of its clients was confirmed as having campylobacter, a bacterium that is usually associated with eating contaminated food.

Fred Olsen rejected suggestions that poor hygiene was responsible for any outbreaks of illness. “Norovirus is very infectious and can spread to other people very quickly,” it said in a statement. “As the onset of the illness is so sudden and there are no warning signs, it is not possible to detect it until symptoms develop.

“The health, safety and wellbeing of our guests and staff on board remains our priority at all times, and we believe that our systems for preventing the spread of illness on board our ships are among the best within the industry.”

Earlier this year, Irwin Mitchell and another travel law firm, Pannone, reported that there had been a sharp increase in the number of British holidaymakers seeking legal representation after falling ill abroad, particularly at hotels in Turkey and Egypt.

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