The MS Balmoral
The MS Balmoral saw an outbreak of the vomiting illness norovirus during a cruise in NorwayReuters

Passengers are taking legal action against Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, after becoming ill during a cruise of the Norwegian fjords. It is believed large numbers of passengers were affected by a suspected outbreak of the norovirus during the voyage on the MS Balmoral earlier this month.

The cruise had to end a day early so the ship could be "systematically sanitised" before its next trip, according to a report in the Daily Mail.

Richard and Diane Early, 68 and 67, from Rustington, West Sussex, say they experienced diarrhoea, vomiting and abdominal pain during the eight-day trip on the liner. The Earlys said this "completely ruined" their holiday.

"It was just awful," said Mr Early. "I was so ill that I had to seek medical attention from the medical staff on board the ship. No one actually came to see us and we were only contacted by telephone.

"We were so relieved when the cruise finished early as we were both keen to get back home, although we both continued to suffer with symptoms after our return."

The couple have instructed solicitors Irwin Mitchell to investigate the outbreak. Irwin Mitchell says it has been contacted by large numbers of other passengers from the cruise.

The MS Balmoral was forced to return to its home port for a "deep clean" before a subsequent cruise to the Azores and Madeira, which left Southampton on 11 May. However a number of passengers on that cruise also suffered gastric illness symptoms and were confined to their cabins.

A spokesperson for Fred Olsen Cruise Lines said: "We are sorry that Mr and Mrs Early have had their cruise holiday impacted in this unfortunate way, and we are endeavouring to reach a settlement directly with them, even though it seems that this illness was brought on board the ship by one guest and was outside our control."

The company said that guests who are ill are asked to remain in their cabins, with complimentary room service and entertainment, to minimise contact with other guests. It said that guests complete a medical questionnaire before each voyage and that they are reminded to use sanitising hand gel and to take other precautions while they are aboard. It also said frequent cleaning of all areas of the ship is carried out.