Couple's holiday from hell on 'plague' cruise ship

Reporter:

Jennifer Meierhans

A COUPLE endured a holiday from hell on board a norovirus- stricken cruise liner, dubbed the “plague ship” by passengers.

Graham Hodgson, 68, from Penyffordd and his wife Karen spent 10 days on P&O cruise ship Oriana.

Their dreams of a festive tour of the Christmas markets of northern Europe turned to a nightmare almost as soon as they stepped on board.

The pair watched in horror as fellow passengers fell ill with the winter sickness bug and even saw vomit in the corridors.

Staff segregated holidaymakers in a bid to stop the contagious virus from spreading.

The cruise left Southampton on December 4 with about 1,800 passengers headed for day trips to Bruges, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Oslo and Hamburg.

But by its return on Friday, December 14, about 400 had been hit by severe sickness.

Mr Hodgson, a retired sales manager, said: “People started falling ill more or less immediately.

“They confined us to certain dining rooms and they closed down a lot of the ship.
“Quite a lot of the passengers were ill.

“It was often the case that the husband would get it and then the wife would fall ill and vice versa.

“It did feel like a plague ship and that’s been well repeated.

“It wasn’t pleasant being in that situation. It’s not something you would choose.

“You wash your hands 50 times a day and I’m not exaggerating.

“If you wanted to go to the loo you went back to your cabin.

“We walked back and someone had had an accident. They had been sick.”

Mr and Mrs Hodgson escaped the full effects of the illness.

He said: “I don’t know if we had it but then some people cope better than others.

“I’ve felt worse since coming home really.”

He added: “I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

“It has put us off cruises to a point. I will be writing to them. (P&O)”

A P&O spokesman said:  “There was an incidence of a mild gastrointestinal illness among the passengers on Oriana’s last cruise. This illness is suspected to be norovirus, which is highly contagious and typically transmitted from person to person.

Norovirus is common throughout the UK, Europe and North America and has affected a number of schools, hospitals, nursing homes and children’s day care centres this winter and has been well documented in the media recently.

“Oriana returned to Southampton on Friday following a 10-night Baltic cruise, which departed December 4. There were 1,843 passengers on board, the number of passengers with active symptoms on Friday was five.

“Enhanced sanitation protocols were implemented to help minimise transmission to other passengers. These comprehensive disinfection protocols have been developed by P&O Cruises in conjunction with UK and US public health authorities.

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

As is currently standard procedure across our fleet, all the ship’s passengers were provided with a precautionary health notice advising of widespread norovirus activity and the health measures to avoid contraction and spread, both on board and whilst ashore.”

See full story in the Leader

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