The Balmoral
The Balmoral

Travel question of the day: Simon Calder on cruising and Norovirus

Have a travel question that needs answering? Ask our expert Simon Calder

Simon Calder
Friday 13 May 2016 10:19
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Q My wife and I are booked to sail aboard the Balmoral, the Fred. Olsen cruise ship that has an outbreak of Norovirus on board. Can we cancel?

Name withheld

A Not without losing some or all of your money. Norovirus is a very unpleasant gastro-intestinal disease that spreads easily in crowded and confined spaces, such as cruise ships. It causes vomiting and diarrhoea. Norovirus is highly contagious and is typically spread by an infected person touching a surface - such as a handrail, a lift call button or utensils in a buffet. The next person to touch can pick up the bug and ingest it.

On the current Fred. Olsen cruise aboard Balmoral, between the UK and North America, so far 277 of 915 passengers have reported being ill - slightly more than three in 10. In addition, nine of the 520 crew have caught the virus. Victims are confined to their cabins until the symptoms clear - usually after 48 hours or so.

It’s the latest in a series of cruises affected by this unpleasant illness. But passengers who fall ill have few rights. If the cruise actually ends early, so you don’t get the length of voyage you paid for, you will normally get a refund and/or credit towards a future cruise. But if you wanted to see the coast of New England or Norway and instead saw the inside of your cabin’s bathroom, there is no recompense. And there is no option to cancel without penalty if you are worried about contracting the virus.

To minimise the risk, be scrupulous about keeping your hands clean. Don’t shake hands with people (or, if you do, wash your hands before you touch your face or eat, drink or smoke), and stick to freshly cooked food rather than help-yourself buffets.

The cruise line says: “Fred. Olsen has been undertaking extensive sanitisation measures and cleaning of the ship, following the company's strict illness containment and prevention plan.

“Fred. Olsen’s cruise ships meet, at all times, the highest safety, hygiene and health standards.”

Every day, our travel correspondent Simon Calder tackles a reader’s question. Just email yours to s@hols.tv or tweet @simoncalder

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