SEASICK: Hundreds of British cruiseship passengers caught in norovirus outbreak

The Balmoral, image courtesy Gary Bembridge.
The Balmoral, image courtesy Gary Bembridge.
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NATIONAL NEWS: Some 252 British passengers have fallen sick with norovirus on the Balmoral cruiseliner

Over a quarter of the 919 passengers aboard the Balmoral cruise ship fell ill with the stomach virus which causes vomiting and usually last for two days.

The Balmoral interior, image courtesy Gary Bembridge.

The Balmoral interior, image courtesy Gary Bembridge.

The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has boarded the ship to investigate and the ship's owners said most of those on board are British, with two US nationals also affected.

The Balmoral docked in Portland, Maine, on Sunday, having left Southampton on England's south coast on 16 April, and is now traveling to Canada.

Experts at the CDC previously boarded while the ship was docked in Baltimore over a week ago and since then the number of passengers affected has increased.

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines said in a statement: "We can confirm that a gastro-enteritis type illness has affected a number of guests on board Balmoral's 34-night L1608 'Old England to New England' cruise.

"There are currently 15 guests who have been required to remain in their cabins, out of a total of 1,434 guests and crew on board. The majority of guests on board are British.

"Balmoral has undergone inspections by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ‎(CDC) and US Coastguard and received a US Public Health score of 91 per cent. Balmoral has now left the US and is due to arrive in Saint John, New Brunswick later today (May 9). At no point has Balmoral been quarantined in any port on this cruise, and is continuing as planned.

"Fred Olsen has been undertaking extensive sanitisation measures and cleaning of the ship, following the company's strict illness containment and prevention plan. It is believed that the highly-contagious gastric illness was brought onto the ship, and is spread by person-to-person – or surface-to-surface – contact.

"Clusters are more commonly seen in areas where people are in close confines, such as hotels, schools and hospitals, as well as cruise ships.

"Most people do not report incidences, but on a cruise ship, cases are particularly highlighted. Commonly, the illness abates within one or two days. Those guests who are affected are asked to remain in their cabins during this time – with complimentary room service and in-room entertainment."

"Fred Olsen’s cruise 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, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and other relevant authorities."

The outbreak represents the fourth on the same ship in recent years.

A passenger was blamed for spreading the infection in a previous outbreak on the same ship in 2009, which left 91 passengers with the vomiting bug.

Do you have a relative aboard the Balmoral? Get in touch on nick.charity@jpress.co.uk or 01623 450 301