Passengers tell of virus hell as ‘plague ship’ cruise ends

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A cruise liner dubbed “a plague ship” by passengers struck down with the norovirus vomiting illness docked at Southampton yesterday.

Emerging into the rain after their 10-day voyage, passengers on the P&O vessel Oriana spoke of their ordeal.

Chris Meadows, from Southampton, who attended a crisis meeting between the captain and passengers, said the captain told travellers staff were struggling to cope.

Mr Meadows told The Daily Telegraph: “The captain has admitted at the height of the outbreak the crew could not cope.”

Scores of passengers were laid low by the virus.

One woman passenger told Sky News: “It was poorly organised. The crew were running around like headless chickens. They didn’t seem to know what to do and we were told it was all our fault.”

A male passenger told Sky that passengers had had to rely on room service for food as parts of the ship were shut off. “The wait was around two-and-a-half hours,” he said.

P&O Cruises managing director Carol Marlow apologised to passengers. She told Sky: “We had a number of people who were taken ill. I have written to all the passengers saying how sorry I am.

“These are our passengers. We want them to have a good time so they sail with us again.”

She invited passengers with particular concerns to contact the company and added that any compensation would be dealt with on an individual basis.

The ship, which carries 1,843 passengers, returned after a Baltic cruise. Oriana left Southampton on December 4, with passengers paying up to £1,400.

A spokeswoman for P&O’s parent company, Carnival, said there had been “an incidence of a mild gastrointestinal illness” among passengers. She said “the number of passengers with active symptoms” as the ship returned was five.

She said: “Enhanced sanitation protocols have already been implemented to help minimise transmission to other passengers.

“The safety and comfort of passengers and crew is always our number one priority.”

The spokeswoman said the ship’s captain regularly updated passengers and crew on the situation and those unwell were asked to comply with the doctor’s instructions to isolate themselves in their cabin until non-contagious.

She said that they were also asked not to go on shore trips, with all appropriate excursion and medical costs being refunded.

During the cruise, passenger Paul Gilman, 62, told the Daily Mail: “People were falling like flies, yet the crew were trying to insist everything was fine. Everyone is saying, ‘this is a plague ship’. It’s a living nightmare.”

The ship was subjected to an intensive cleaning programme before it was due to set sail again last night.

Passengers aboard the previous cruise had also reportedly suffered from the vomiting bug.