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Last Updated: Friday, 2 June 2006, 08:02 GMT 09:02 UK
Virus ship docks in Southampton
Sea Princess
The Sea Princess had a similar outbreak on its last outing
A luxury cruise ship has returned to port a day early after 200 passengers were struck down with a vomiting virus.

The Sea Princess docked in Southampton, missing out the intended destination of Lisbon, to allow extra time to disinfect the ship.

A 30% refund has been offered to the 2,258 passengers on the seven-day trip, and Princess Cruises said fewer than eight people were still sick.

But passengers leaving the ship have reacted angrily to the offer.

It was a holiday from hell. That's not even describing it. It was worse than that
Philip Wilson

Suzanne Wilson, 44, from Radstock, near Bath, who was on board with her husband Philip and two children, told the BBC: "It was very, very unpleasant.

"We were kept in our cabins, we couldn't go ashore, we couldn't go out on the ship. I'm just very, very angry.

"They [Princess Cruises] hold full responsibility for what's happened.

"We want a full refund because with children as well, to see them in the state they were in was so upsetting, I just wouldn't want to go through that again."

Mr Wilson, 50, said: "It was a holiday from hell. That's not even describing it. It was worse than that."

The Wilson family
The family said they felt like prisoners on the ship

One passenger aboard told the BBC News website it had ruined her holiday.

Wendy, 58, from the Midlands, said she had spent five years trying to convince her mother to come on a cruise.

But her two parents, who are 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 NOROVIRUS?
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.

Peter Shanks, of Princess Cruises, said the virus was not a usual occurrence on a ship, claiming it must have come from the shore.

He said an extra 24 hours had been added to the turnaround time of the ship, to ensure it would be "beautifully clean" and healthy for its next outing.

Earlier, the company admitted 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 was outraged that 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."

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: "Passengers are up in arms at the offer. 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.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
See the cruise ship docked in Southampton



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