The Court of Appeal has ruled: British holidaymakers who fell ill onboard a Fred Olsen ship are entitled to compensation.
The 16 passengers suffered gastric illness symptoms, including vomiting, severe stomach cramps and diarrhoea, while sailing on Boudicca to the Canary Islands, Cape Verde and Iberian Peninsula in March-April 2011.
Three judges - Lord Justice Gross, Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson and Lord Justice Christopher Clarke - rejected an appeal by the UK-based cruise line and found it liable for norovirus outbreaks that ruined the passengers' holidays.
In 2015 Judge Robert Owen, sitting at Birmingham County Court, found Fred Olsen Cruise Lines guilty of neglect for the suffering of the passengers, including some who were so ill they were confined to their cabins.
Lord Justice Gross rejected the cruise line's claim that it was not at fault, and agreed with the trial judge there were 'multiple failures' to implement a plan to prevent the spread of the stomach bug.
The ruling now paves the way for the passengers to receive a fair settlement of their claims.
One of the passengers was 70-year-old Diane West, from Reading, Berkshire, whose cruise was ruined after her husband fell seriously ill on board the ship and had to spend the last few days confined to the cabin. She said:
'I am relieved that our legal battle is finally over. Our cruise was a nightmare and I just wanted justice for what happened.
'My husband Raymond was suffered terribly with diarrhoea and vomiting. We had to see the doctor on board who prescribed some medication for him to try and settle his stomach but it ruined our trip.
'I was concerned about the hygiene standards on board the ship, in particular the staff’s efficiency of cleaning on board, especially our cabin.
'The staff didn’t seem to pay much attention to the bathroom and I did not think they had cleaned it properly.'
Simon O'Loughlin, a solicitor from the law firm Irwin Mitchell, which represented the passengers, said:
'This Court of Appeal victory will finally give the passengers who suffered illness during and after cruises on the Boudicca cruise ship in 2011 a sense of justice.
'They booked their trips expecting a relaxing cruise but instead ended up suffering illness often confining them to their cabins for days.
'It’s extremely disappointing that Fred Olsen have fought this to trial, and then all the way to the Court of Appeal, but we are delighted that the court has again ruled in our clients’ favour and they will now finally receive a fair settlement from the cruise company after enduring such terrible times on board the Boudicca ship.
'There are strict procedures and plans in order to prevent the spread of illness on board cruise ships, which include the need for ships to be subject to an extensive deep cleaning process following reports of problems.
'Sadly in this case the plans were not implemented sufficiently which should have been a priority after the number of passengers who had become ill.
'Whilst nothing can ever fully make up for the suffering they endured during the cruise, this is a great result for our clients and I am very pleased to see that the court has fully recognised the need for cruise lines to take appropriate and sufficient steps to prevent passengers from contracting illness.'
A Fred Olsen spokeswoman said:
'Fred Olsen Cruise Lines is extremely disappointed by the court’s decision, particularly in light of the permission to appeal the original ruling.
'Fred Olsen believes that it made every reasonable effort, in accordance with its approved norovirus outbreak prevention and control plan, to prevent and contain the virus on board Boudicca.
'In the original ruling, the Judge deemed Fred Olsen’s norovirus outbreak prevention and control plan to be "an appropriate plan consistent with authoritative advice and with industry standards".'
The spokeswoman said outbreak prevention is of utmost important and every crew member is aware of the plan's strict requirements. The spokeswoman said:
'Fred Olsen guests are all made aware of the need to maintain the highest standards of personal hygiene at all times and are educated regularly as to how to prevent the outbreak and spread of the virus on board.'
Irwin Mitchell claimed that it has represented more than 200 passengers who say they were affected by similar symptoms on board the Boudicca from 2009 to 2013.
The law firm secured a settlement of £280,000 for passengers who fell ill in 2009 and 2010, and is still seeking compensation for passengers who fell ill in 2012 and 2013.
For reports on other Boudicca ship accidents see at CruiseMinus.com