Page last updated at 16:16 GMT, Saturday, 11 July 2009 17:16 UK

Virus tour ends with full refund

Marco Polo
Passengers had threatened to refuse to disembark unless they got a refund

Passengers on a cruise liner at the centre of vomiting bug outbreak have been promised their money back.

The Marco Polo spent three days at Invergordon on the Cromarty Firth after about 400 passengers and crew took ill with norovirus.

Operators Transocean Tours of Bremen said fares would be refunded as a "gesture of goodwill".

More than 750 passengers will also get a refund of money spent on alcohol, and a 50% discount on a future cruise.

The Marco Polo left Invergordon on Thursday with about 600 passengers on board. Another 120 had opted to take a specially chartered train home from Inverness.

The ship returned to Tilbury on Saturday, seven days after it left the Essex port on the ill-fated voyage.

An elderly man had died on Monday as the liner arrived at Invergordon. A post mortem examination found he had heart and chest problems.

Several other passengers required hospital treatment as norovirus spread throughout the ship.

Cause unknown

A statement issued to passengers on Friday said: "The investigation into the virus outbreak that has affected this cruise is still ongoing and, at this time, its cause remains unknown.

"However, without prejudice to those issues, after due consideration, it is advised that, as gesture of goodwill, you will receive, via your tour operator, an ex-gratia payment in full compensation of the full amount of your cruise fare."

The statement added: "We reiterate our thanks for your patience and understanding during the last few days but sincerely hope that we shall have the privilege of welcoming you aboard Marco Polo, in happier circumstances, again in the future."

Some passengers had complained of poor communication from management and, after a meeting, had threatened to refuse to disembark at Tilbury unless they were promised a full refund.

One of the passengers, Helen Winchcombe, said the Marco Polo spent a few hours in dock before the port authorities gave the all-clear for passengers to disembark on Saturday morning.

She said: "We're just relieved to be going home. The crew have been fabulous and worked really hard, but we're just all over it now and want to go home."

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