IT was supposed to be an early Christmas present.

But a European cruise turned into a nightmare for John Millns when it ruined his entire festive season.

Now the Hampshire pensioner has won a four-year battle for compensation from a leading cruise firm.

The 74-year-old is among passengers receiving a combined £42,000 after multiple norovirus outbreaks on the Boudicca liner.

Daily Echo: John and Jacqui Millns

Owners Fred Olsen Lines denies liability for the illness striking the same ship on six separate occasions between November 2009 and April 2010.

But now they have settled with solicitors Your Holiday Claims on behalf of 26 passengers.

Mr Millns, from Mottisfont, received £600 from the firm while some claimants are said to have received up to £2,000.

The retired electronics designer and wife Jacqui boarded the liner in Portsmouth with two friends in December 2009. But problems began when many passengers fell ill with the diarrhoea and vomiting bug during the four-day tour of Christmas markets in Belgium and Holland.

Mr Millns succumbed to the illness on returning home on December 22 and was forced to cancel family Christmas plans until he recovered a week later.

The company previously sent passengers a letter warning of an earlier norovirus outbreak on its previous trip to the Canary Islands but he claims they failed to inform them of its full extent.

Mr Millns said it was a “relief” the battle is over and added: “This has gone on for so long.

“Had I been aware of the true extent of the previous problems I would not have travelled.

“Our mini cruise should have been cancelled to allow proper cleaning to take place. I hope it will cause them to buck up their ideas.”

Solicitor Tracy Stansfield for Your Holiday Claims – a division of Farnworth Rose solicitors – said: “This was a very serious and sustained outbreak which spread from cruise to cruise.

“We are delighted that our clients have now received compensation.”

But Fred Olsen denied the allegations of poor cleanliness, stressing it upholds rigorous hygiene standards at all times, including while preparing and serving food. A spokeswoman put the illness down to “a higher incidence” of norovirus in Britain during that period.