More than 130 passengers have won a £280,000 group settlement after falling ill on nine separate cruises.

Travel law specialists Irwin Mitchell launched the legal action on behalf of the passengers who suffered from diarrhoea, vomiting and severe stomach cramps during the holidays on board Fred Olsen's Boudicca cruise ship which took place between October 2009 and May 2010.

A spokesman for the law firm said that the cruise operator has agreed to settle the case without formally admitting liability for causing the passengers to fall ill.

Among the holidaymakers who have won a payout are Luke and Emma Ryan from Petersfield,  whose Christmas and New Year break with their five-year-old daughter Abigail was ruined on board the ship.

Mr Ryan, 41, said: ''It was a disaster. This was supposed to be a relaxing time for us to celebrate the festive period, so we couldn't believe it when I fell ill on Christmas Eve with nausea, stomach cramps and gastric symptoms.

''Instead of opening presents on Christmas morning, I had to be seen by a nurse.

''The cruise was cut short by a day due to the illness and, to be frank, the end could not have come soon enough. We hope this settlement will mean we can now move on with our lives.''

Clare Pearson, specialist illness lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, said: ''The fact that some of the passengers who suffered illness during and after trips on the Boudicca cruise ship in 2009 and 2010 still have continuing symptoms demonstrates the seriousness of what they have been through.

''Through our work, we have heard a range of stories of how so many people's breaks - which were often booked as luxury once-in-a-lifetime trips to celebrate Christmas, wedding anniversaries and birthdays - were ruined by illness.

''We are delighted for our clients that they have now received a fair settlement from Fred Olsen after enduring such terrible times on board the Boudicca.

''We hope that this outcome will allow our clients to look to the future and put the terrible problems they faced behind them, while we hope that it also acts as a reminder to cruise operators of the need to uphold the highest standards of safety and hygiene on board their ships.''