14/12/2012 08:18 GMT | Updated 14/12/2012 10:06 GMT

Oriana Cruise Ship Struck by Norovirus Bug Returns To Southampton (VIDEO)

A cruise liner dubbed "a plague ship" by passengers struck down with the norovirus vomiting illness has returned to Southampton.

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


Passengers began to describe the Oriana cruse liner as a 'plague ship'

Chris Meadows, from Southampton, who attended a crisis meeting between the liner's 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 10-day Baltic cruise.

Oriana left Southampton on 4 December, with passengers paying up to £1,400 for their voyage.

A spokeswoman for P&O's parent company Carnival said there had been "an incidence of a mild gastrointestinal illness" among the passengers.

She added that "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.


"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."

The spokeswoman explained that 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 is to be subjected to an intensive cleaning programme before setting sail again on Friday.

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