An unexpected gastro outbreak on Balmoral forced Fred Olsen Cruise Line to scrap its mini cruise from Southampton, England, to Newcastle, England, with a deep cleaning initiative underway.

Fred Olsen Cruise Line has cancelled its two-night mini-cruise in England from Southampton to Newcastle just hours before the ship was set to depart on February 28, 2024. 

The action was taken in response to several gastro-related illness cases reported among previous passengers aboard Balmoral, which concluded a two-week Northern Lights cruise to Norway on the morning of February 28.

In a statement to Cruise Hive, a spokesperson for the cruise line conveyed the gravity of the situation and the steps to address it.

“For the safety and comfort of our guests, we will be completing a deep clean, which will cause delays to our planned departure time from Southampton on this short cruise,” said the Fred Olsen Cruise Line spokesperson.

Photo Credit: StudioPortoSabbia / Shutterstock

“In addition, sailing with no guests on board will enable this deep clean to be as effective as possible before new guests embark in Newcastle.”

The 43,537-gross-ton Balmoral departs as scheduled on February 28, 2024, from Southampton, without accommodating any of its up to 1,350 passengers for its repositioning ahead of its 9-night Northern Lights voyage departing on March 1.

As a repositioning cruise from Southampton to Balmoral’s new homeport of Newcastle, the “2 Night Mini-Cruise to Newcastle” was marketed with rates as low as £99 to put heads into beds as the ship made its 35-hour transition. The cancellation of the cruise has left many passengers disappointed and faced with the challenge of making alternative travel arrangements.

“We wrote to guests earlier this week notifying them of this change to our schedule,” said Fred Olsen Cruise Line’s spokesperson.

For travelers who needed to transfer between Southampton and Newcastle regardless of the cancellation, costs to do so via plane or train exceed the discounted cruise offer, which included meals and entertainment.

Photo Credit: StudioPortoSabbia / Shutterstock

In response to the cancellation, Fred Olsen Cruise Lines is offering affected passengers the opportunity to transfer their bookings to an alternative voyage aboard the larger 62,735-gross-ton Bolette, set to embark on a two-night spring mini cruise in April, offering a new route from Southampton to Liverpool, England.

The sailing is also a repositioning voyage between two Azores-focused itineraries. For those unable or unwilling to join the April cruise, the cruise line is also offering a full refund as an option.

“All guests who were due to join us on this cruise have been offered the chance to transfer their booking or receive a full refund,” said the spokesperson for Fred Olsen Cruise Line.

The April journey promises similar scenic views along the south coast of England and through the Irish Sea, with cabins priced at £199 per person.

With their closed environments and high passenger densities, cruise ships can become hotbeds for the spread of illnesses, particularly gastro-intestinal viruses. These outbreaks can quickly affect a significant portion of passengers and crew, leading to the need for immediate action to prevent further spread.

Cruise ships, for their part, have protocols in place to manage outbreaks, including deep cleaning and sanitization procedures and, in severe cases, cancellation of voyages to ensure the health and safety of everyone onboard.

Read Also: Cruise Ship Illness: How to Protect Yourself

Balmoral is scheduled to depart from Newcastle to Bodo, Norway, on March 1, 2024, to kick off a series of “In Search of the Northern Lights” roundtrip voyages. The ship will call on Narvik, Tromso, and Alesund, Norway, before returning to England on March 19.

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