Page last updated at 15:53 GMT, Wednesday, 8 July 2009 16:53 UK

Virus liner anger over train move

Marco Polo
The Marco Polo is due to leave Invergordon on Thursday

Passengers on a cruise ship at the centre of a vomiting bug outbreak have raised a petition against plans to get them home by train.

The Marco Polo has been berthed in the Cromarty Firth since Monday.

Operators, Transocean Tours of Bremen, have now given them the choice of taking the train or staying with the ship, which is to sail on Thursday.

A post-mortem examination has shown the cause of a man's death on the ship on Monday was lung and heart conditions.

The procurator fiscal service declined to comment on whether norovirus, or other sickness bugs, contributed to 74-year-old Roy Sillett's death.

In a further development, the London Port Health Authority said the vessel's operator could face legal action because the authority was not informed of illness on board the ship when it docked at Tilbury in Essex at the weekend, before setting sail for the tour of Scotland and Ireland.

The young man who gave the announcement was very, very emotional
Helen Winchcombe

Transocean claimed on Tuesday that the ship was given a "clean bill of health" at the port.

Train Chartering said it had arranged to take passengers from Inverness by railway on Thursday.

It would take them to London via York and Peterborough. The service is due to leave at 1000 BST in the morning.

The Marco Polo, meanwhile, is to head for Tilbury, arriving there on Saturday.

Three people remain in Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, while three others have been discharged.

NHS Highland said 400 people have been assessed after taking unwell.

Helen Winchcombe, a passenger on the ship, believed the majority of people planned to stay on the ship.

The authority was not informed of any illness aboard the vessel prior to it calling at Tilbury on 4 July
London Port Health Authority

She said: "The young man who gave the announcement was very, very emotional and I think most of the passengers were too.

"It was such relief on the ship that we can go back to sea and not have to struggle on trains or buses."

She added: "There was a petition down at reception this morning demanding that we wanted to go back by sea and not by buses or train and I think we won the day."

Transocean confirmed passengers had been given a choice of staying on board, or travelling by rail and then by coach to Tilbury.

Meanwhile, the London Port Health Authority said its officers and doctors planned to visit the ship on its return to the Essex port.

A spokesman said: "The authority was not informed of any illness aboard the vessel prior to it calling at Tilbury on 4 July.

"However, following a request to the ship's agent to explain why no such notification had been received, the authority has now been sent a document stating that 31 passengers and two crew members were suffering from gastro-intestinal illness, prior to the ship calling at Tilbury."

Disobey orders

The Cromarty Firth, where the cruise ship is berthed, is no stranger to unrest on vessels.

In 1931, sailors on 15 ships staged what became known as the Invergordon Mutiny.

The country was in economic turmoil at the time and the Treasury was trying to get to grips with a budget deficit of £170m.

A commission was set up to find savings and among its recommendations was a cut to Royal Navy pay by 10%.

Reports of the reduction broke as the fleet weighed anchor in the Cromarty Firth, but some newspapers mistakenly announced pay was to be slashed by as much as 25%.

Outraged sailors formed a strike committee and decided to disobey orders until the reduction was reviewed.

The action ran for two days before the proposed cuts were withdrawn.

The mutiny had a part to play in Sterling being taken off the gold standard - the standard international measure of a currency's value - in September 1931, leading to a cheap pound and a revival in export trade.

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