Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines to fight norovirus sickness bug court action

DISGRUNTLED Suffolk and Essex holidaymakers are among scores of claimants involved in a High Court battle with an Ipswich-based cruise giant.

A joint writ has been issued between 137 passengers claiming their holidays with Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines were ruined by an outbreak of the sickness bug, norovirus.

They claim being struck down by a range of symptoms including diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach pains and fever while aboard the Boudicca ship between October 2009 and April 2010.

The test case, for which no court date has yet been fixed, could potentially be worth more than �1million.

Fred. Olsen has refuted the “baseless” accusations and says the firm’s systems for preventing the spread of illness are among the best in the industry.

Law firm Irwin Mitchell says some passengers claim they were served under-cooked food. Others say their cabins were not cleaned properly and some report soiled bed linen left out in the corridors.

The majority of those taking legal action complain that at no point before boarding were they made aware of previous norovirus outbreaks, despite the risk of further illness.

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Among the claimants are: Thomas and Sarah Scrivener of Heron Road, Ipswich; Eileen Patricia Car and Janet Landon of Cherry Garden Road, Maldon; and Margaret Mackenzie of Greenways, Maldon.

Clive Garner, head of Irwin Mitchell’s travel law team, said: “The pattern of illness outbreaks on board the Boudicca is a matter of great concern to us and our clients.

“It is highly unusual for us to see repeated illness outbreaks of this kind cruise after cruise and the accounts of many of our clients’ experiences on board are alarming.

“Often illness can have devastating, long term impact on victims. Some of our clients are still suffering symptoms as a result of their illnesses even now.

“Cruise operators owe legal duties to ensure reasonable standards of hygiene and safety and they have a duty to warn passengers if there is a clear risk of them contracting illness on board. We are calling on Fred. Olsen to work with us so that all of these claims can be dealt with swiftly and amicably.

“Cruises topped the list of sources of illness complaints our team received last year. More needs to be done by the industry and the authorities to tackle this problem and significantly reduce the risk of illness being contracted on board cruise liners.”

A spokeswoman for Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines said: “We reject utterly 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 quality across its fleet.

“These very serious allegations are baseless, and are entirely refuted by Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines.

“At Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, the health, safety and well-being of our guests and crew 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 amongst the best within the industry.

“Irwin Mitchell and their clients may rest assured that all Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ ships meet, at all times, the highest safety, hygiene and health standards, and comply fully with the strict requirements and inspections of their Flag State and relevant authorities.”