Sickness bug hits cruise ship again

A LUXURY cruise liner run by Ipswich-based Fred Olsen has been hit by three outbreaks of the winter vomiting bug in as many weeks, it has been reported.

Simon Tomlinson

A LUXURY cruise liner run by Ipswich-based Fred Olsen has been hit by three outbreaks of the winter vomiting bug in as many weeks, it has been reported.

A total of 519 passengers have fallen ill with norovirus during three cruises on the Boudicca - despite its owners insisting the ship was free from the disease.

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines said the vessel had been deep-cleaned twice following the outbreaks, but the virus has returned to plague passengers at least twice.

Three people also died during the last cruise, though the company said their deaths were not connected to the virus.

According to a national newspaper, Derek and Marina Eaton were among those confined to their cabins after contracting the virus on the last cruise.

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The couple paid �10,155 for a 14-night Christmas cruise to Madeira and the Canaries staying in the ship's most expensive suite.

But Mrs Eaton, 70, a retired manager, described it as the “cruise from hell”.

On the initial 12-day cruise to the Canaries, which departed from Portsmouth on December 6, 180 of the 800 passengers aboard fell ill.

The firm said that when the 28,000-ton ship returned to Portsmouth on December 18, it was deep-cleaned and was free from the virus.

Later that day, it departed on a four-day mini-cruise to Amsterdam. Around 50 of the 827 passengers were then diagnosed with the stomach bug.

Again when the Boudicca returned, the company said it would be thoroughly cleaned and the next cruise departed for Madeira on December 22 as scheduled.

This time, 289 of the 795 passengers were diagnosed with the stomach bug and the ship - which can carry up to 900 passengers - returned to Portsmouth yesterday, a day early. It will now undergo three days of intensive cleaning.

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines has blamed infected passengers for bringing the virus aboard.

The latest outbreak would be the seventh time in the past year that one of firm's fleet has been hit by the illness.

There was another outbreak on the Boudicca in October.

Mr Eaton, 75, a company owner, from Woburn Sands in Bedfordshire, said he and his wife had been looking forward to spending New Year's Eve in Madeira to see the island's fireworks display, which is said to be the largest in the world.

But after falling ill, they spent the night confined to their cabin and missed the display.

They had to spend a total of four days in their cabin and missed three of the six islands on the cruise.

Mr Eaton said: 'The management of the company should have cancelled the cruise once the first set of passengers fell ill.

'I don't believe for one second that they deep-cleaned the ship because there wasn't sufficient time.'

Noroviruses - a group of viruses - are the most common cause of gastroenteritis (vomiting and diarrhoea) and affect up to one million in Britain every year.

A company spokesman said it would refund passengers for returning from the cruise a day early. It also offered each passenger �100 for the inconvenience.

But there will be no compensation for days lost due to sickness.

'Throughout every cruise great attention is paid on a daily basis to the hygiene and cleanliness of the vessel,' she said.

'At the end of each cruise where there were a number of gastro cases a programme of deep cleaning and disinfection was carried out, with subsequent departures delayed as necessary.'

More than 250 passengers on another Fred Olsen vessel - the Balmoral - have also fallen ill with norovirus.

The ship left Dover for the Canary Islands on December 21 with 1,350 passengers and is due to return today. A spokesman said it would be deep-cleaned in one day.

There were also outbreaks of norovirus on the Balmoral last February when 200 fell ill and in September when 78 caught the virus.

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