Page last updated at 21:52 GMT, Thursday, 9 July 2009 22:52 UK

Cruise passengers demand refund

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Passengers criticised the tour company but praised staff on board the ship

Passengers on a cruise liner at the centre of a virus outbreak have said they will stay on the ship until they are promised their money back.

The Marco Polo was berthed at Invergordon on the Cromarty Firth for three days after hundreds of passengers and crew became ill with norovirus.

More than 600 passengers remain on board the ship which sailed for Tilbury in Essex at 2010 BST on Thursday.

After a meeting they warned they would not disembark unless they get a refund.

Helen Winchcombe, who was at the meeting, said: " The operators haven't come back and said this is what we are going to do for you. Everybody is in limbo

"They don't know whether to go to their own insurance companies, whether to go to the people they booked through. We've all got to wait to find out what the company will offer. The best they can do is say here's a full refund."

It felt like you were sitting on a hospital prison ship waiting to get sick - death row if you like.
Derek Cloke
Passenger

There was no immediate reaction from the cruise operator, Transocean Tours of Bremen.

Earlier one passenger, Derek Cloke, described his confinement on the liner as like being on a "hospital prison ship", with people waiting to fall sick.

Mr Cloke told BBC Scotland: "Management I have to say was poor, it was really poor.

"I have never been through such a traumatic experience.

"It felt like you were sitting on a hospital prison ship waiting to get sick - death row if you like."

Mr Cloke and his wife Pam were among up to 120 passengers to have taken a chartered train from Inverness for their journey home.

Other passengers praised the ship's crew and medical workers for their response to the problems.

But some complained about a lack of information on the virus, its spread and plans to take them off the ship.

'Poor communication'

They said they relied on BBC News, the BBC Scotland news website and Sky TV for information about what was happening.

One of those who took ill, Phyllis Hamilton from Fairlie, Ayrshire, said: "I must speak most highly about the ship's staff and medical staff.

"District nurses and local doctors took turns to come in and we were looked after by the kitchen staff who came round with invalid food."

Her husband Douglas, who also took unwell, said the bug spread "quite dramatically" through the ship.

Linda Russell, from the Midlands, who was on her first cruise with her family, said: "We are very disappointed with the turn of events, but I have got to say, and I know it is a cliche, but everyone has been treated wonderfully."

The majority of the 769 passengers chose to remain with the vessel.

The Marco Polo is expected to arrive at Tilbury docks on Saturday.

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

Seven people have been taken to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness since the ship's arrival.

Two remain in hospital.


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