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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 September 2006, 15:38 GMT 16:38 UK
Virus hits 200 on luxury cruise
Sea Princess
The Sea Princess will return to the UK one day early
Brian Alder, 61, from Manchester was on holiday on luxury cruise ship when it was hit by a vomiting virus that spread to 200 passengers.

He emailed the BBC News website with the story and soon some of the other 2,000 people on board were also contacting the site.

Their 1,000 seven-day cruise was forced to end a day early.

The Sea Princess will return to Southampton on Friday and miss out the intended destination of Lisbon.

This will allow extra time for the ship to be disinfected.

A 30% refund has been offered to the 2,258 passengers and Princess Cruises says only 15 people are still sick.

Wendy, 58, from the Midlands, said she had spent five years trying to convince her mother to come on a cruise and now her two parents in their 80s had been very sick for two days.

"Most people on board are fed up and it's put an end to the holiday, although things are carrying on," she said.

WHAT IS THE NOVOVIRUS?
It is the most common cause of stomach bugs
Affects 600,000-1m people in the UK each year
It is very easily transmitted by human contact, eating contaminated food or touching contaminated surfaces
Nausea is followed by vomiting and diarrhoea
Outbreaks common in semi-closed environments
Source: Health Protection Agency

The boat departed from Southampton for a seven-night cruise to Guernsey, France, Portugal and Spain.

The virus is suspected to be the Norovirus, which is a common cause of stomach bugs and lasts 48 hours.

Princess Cruises said there had been a smaller outbreak on the last two days of the boat's previous cruise but it does not believe the two outbreaks are linked.

Passengers were informed of the first outbreak when they got to their cabins on Saturday, when a precautionary health notice through their door advised of widespread "Norovirus activity".

But Wendy is outraged passengers were not told before boarding, and given the chance to change plans.

The safety and comfort of passengers and crew is our number one priority
Princess Cruises

"We just don't think Princess Cruises dealt us a fair hand.

"They are decontaminating cabins now but they should have done this before we got on when the ship was empty."

Sick passengers must stay in their rooms for the two-day period of illness, and extra medical staff were joining the ship on Wednesday.

As well as the 30% refund, passengers have been offered a 150 discount on future voyages.

Another passenger, Mr P Wilson, told the BBC News website: "The reaction is that passengers are up in arms at the offer and that Princess are totally responsible for the sanitation of the ship."

At the weekend, 500 passengers had their cruise on board the Van Gogh liner cancelled after more than 100 on a previous cruise fell ill with a stomach virus.

And in 2003, 600 passengers and crew on board P&O's Aurora contracted the same Norovirus.


Your comments

My parents are on this cruise. My mother was so looking forward to her holiday and needed the break. She loves cruises and was very excited. It's horrible to hear the name of the ship my parents are on mentioned on the news. And I am not able to contact my parents to see if they are okay. This holiday cost them more than they can afford and not to mention debacles with getting time off work. To know that their well-needed holiday has been ruined is terrible. Jemma,Yeovil, Somerset

Having cruised many times and not been affected, I find it hard to believe that people still avoid using the hygienic hand gel in the restaurants which a steward actually squirts onto your hands, walking round behind them or even just ignoring them altogether. I believe it's not necessarily the ships fault, but more likely passengers not bothering.
Ron King, Ringwood, Hampshire

I became sick on the second day of our holiday and was confined to the cabin. This meant that I missed out on the visit to La Rochelle. I didn't eat for two days and was frightened to eat after that. It has spoilt my holiday and I will not cruise with Princess again. It is very stressful to be on holiday continuously surrounded by disinfectant and staff with masks. My wife and friends have been paranoid about catching the infection as it is so sudden and violent. They were worried about leaving the ship and going ashore. The ship should not have left Southampton knowing that they had carried the infection only the previous week. We should have been allowed to make an informed decision as to whether to travel or not.
Alan Hill, South Woodham Ferrers, England

I have much experience of cruising and generally have nothing but praise for the cruise lines and cruise packages on offer. Your report focuses on the passengers and their woes and suggests that all responsibility rests with the cruise line/ship in respect of cleanliness. Well let me inform you that you should consider the cleanliness of passengers and the possibility that in some instances it is they who are causing the spread of viruses.
Patrick Cherry, Nottingham, England

My wife and I were on the previous cruise (20th-27th) and also received the health advisory notice in our cabin. It is very easy to keep blaming the cruise line, but we witnessed many, many passengers failing to use the hand cleaning gel provided at the buffet line. Often using their hands rather than the tongs to fill their plates. We hated the cruise, but I can not fault the cleanliness of the ship or the efforts of the crew trying to get people to clean their hands, with the appalling weather conditions many were sea-sick this was swiftly cordoned off and dealt with. But the bottom line is unless passengers are forced to clean hands before eating this will continue to be a problem.
Geoff Stock, Basingstoke, Hants




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