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Last Updated: Monday, 29 May 2006, 13:06 GMT 14:06 UK
Virus-hit cruise firm apologises
Van Gogh cruise ship
Two passengers with the virus were taken to hospital
A travel company has apologised and offered a refund to hundreds of passengers whose cruise holidays were ruined by a virus outbreak.

More than 100 passengers and crew suffered diarrhoea and vomiting on their second day aboard the ship Van Gogh with tour operator Travelscope.

After docking at Harwich on Sunday, it was detained by the coastguard.

Five hundred passengers waiting to board at the Essex port for a seven-day trip to Norway were sent home.

Leon Hill from Oxford who was due to board the ship at Harwich told BBC News the cancellation of the cruise was not the worst part of what happened.

"We were hanging around in what can only be described as a shed at Harwich for three hours," he said.

'No information'

"They didn't provide any food and then said there was free tea and coffee, but it took an hour to get it.

Leon Hill
Mr Hill said they had to queue for an hour for a drink

"No-one was telling us anything. No-one was really being honest about what the situation was."

Travelscope spokesman Tim Knight said passengers who were unable to set sail on Sunday would be offered refunds and the company was still working out what package to offer those who had become ill.

A statement from the holiday company said: "We are very sorry that the holidays of some passengers were affected by this virus."

Two passengers in their 80s were taken to Colchester General Hospital by ambulance after being carried from the Van Gogh on stretchers.

They were later discharged.

Monitored

It is not yet clear what caused the outbreak of the virus on board the ship, which was detained by the Maritime Coastguard Agency on the advice of port health inspectors and the local director of public health.

The Van Gogh and its crew will be monitored for 48 hours and it is expected to be able to set sail with the next scheduled departure on Saturday, 3 June.

The ship had been due to depart for a seven-day trip to Norway on Sunday evening, calling at Bergen, Flam, Gudvangen and Rosendal.

The vessel, which can carry up to 795 passengers, is run by charter company Travelscope Holidays Ltd.


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See an interview with a passenger who could not board



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