Page last updated at 19:56 GMT, Tuesday, 8 September 2009 20:56 UK

Cruise liner hit by vomiting bug

The Balmoral
Dozens of passengers and crew were suspected of having the virus

A cruise ship struck by a suspected outbreak of the norovirus vomiting bug now has 82 ill people on board, its owners have said.

The Balmoral is the second liner in two months to be hit by the sickness after visiting the Highland port of Invergordon.

The ship, which has 1,280 passengers and 516 crew, was due to berth at Portree on Skye at 1100 BST.

But poor weather forced it to abandon the attempt to dock.

It is now heading for Tobermory on the Isle of Mull.

The liner arrived in Invergordon from Dover on Monday morning but was given the all-clear to carry on to the Isle of Skye at night.

'First we knew'

The 43,537-tonne ship is operated by Fred Olsen Cruises. It had been reported that there were only 20 ill people on board last night.

That number has since risen and there are now 78 passengers and four crew affected.

Among those who became ill were George and Doreen Thompson, from Gillingham in Kent.

Mr Thompson, 67, told the BBC Scotland news website they first began to feel unwell just after leaving Dover but his 75-year-old wife, who is wheelchair-bound, went on to be sick for most of the night.

"The nurse said there were a lot of people with these signs and gave us some sickness tablets," Mr Thompson said.

He said the couple arranged to leave the ship but were told by the doctor they were in quarantine.

"This was the first we knew of this," he said.

Mr and Mrs Thompson were eventually given permission to leave the ship by environmental health officers.

A spokesman for the firm said staff aboard the Balmoral had stepped up the hygiene and disinfecting regime.

Health officials

He added that the virus was probably introduced by a passenger who became unwell shortly after joining the cruise at Dover on Saturday.

A Highland Council spokesman confirmed that environmental health officials had visited the Balmoral and, although some passengers had gone on excursions, they had taken place before it was know the illness was on board.

The consultant in Public Health Medicine has also been advised of the situation on board the 218-metre ship.

Two months ago there was anger when about 400 passengers on board the Marco Polo, operated by Transocean, were struck down by norovirus.

One man died on board the ship, although his death was associated with other medical problems.

The ship had left Tilbury and arrived in Invergordon, where the bug spread throughout the vessel.

Excursions from the Marco Polo had continued despite knowledge of the illness.

And there was further fury among passengers when it was later revealed there had been an outbreak on the cruise ship on a previous voyage, but the information was not passed to port authorities in London.

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