Plague ship passengers return home to describe hell of 'vomit-strewn corridors' and how the sick were 'treated like animals' – but Oriana sets off on new cruise TONIGHTAround 300 passengers were struck down with the bug on P&O's Oriana
Parts of the ship were closed off to stop the virus spreading any fasterSick passengers 'couldn't get off at ports' and ship ran low on toilet roll
Couples who paid up to 1,429 for Christmas trip called it a 'nightmare'Captain even 'admitted the vessel couldn't cope' at height of the epidemicPassengers return to Southampton today but ship will leave again at 8pmBoarding passengers confident they won't be at risk of catching virus

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UPDATED:

18:37 GMT, 14 December 2012

Furious passengers today spoke out about their 'holiday from hell' on the 'plague ship' as they stumbled ashore today after a 10-day cruise ruined by an unprecedented outbreak of norovirus.

Holidaymakers demanded refunds as they disembarked in Southampton, Hampshire – but shockingly, the P&O ship was preparing to take to the seas again within hours, at 8pm this evening.

Passengers are expected to start checking in from 3pm for a 23-night trip to Portugal, Spain, Malta, Cyprus, Israel, Greece and Sicily.

'Nightmare': Holidaymakers demanded refunds as they disembarked back in Southampton - but shockingly, the ship was preparing to take to the seas again within hours

'Nightmare': Holidaymakers demanded refunds as they disembarked back in Southampton – but shockingly, the ship was preparing to take to the seas again within hours

Draining experience: Large parts of the ship were closed off to avoid the virus spreading further and passengers were quarantined as many were sick in corridors, theatres and restaurants

Draining experience: Large parts of the ship were closed off to avoid the virus spreading further and passengers were quarantined as many were sick in corridors, theatres and restaurants

Gerry Hunt and his wife Carol

Passengers David Stringer(57) and wife Diane(56)

'Dropping like flies': Gerry Hunt and his wife
Carol said some were 'prisoners' on the vessel, left, while David
Stringer and wife Diane, right, were ordered to stay in their cabin for
48 hours when they fell ill on day two

Around 300 passengers who paid up to 1,429 for the Baltic tour of Christmas markets were struck down by the winter vomiting bug on the fateful cruise.

'WE SHOULD BE FINE': PASSENGERS ARRIVE FOR NEXT CRUISE TONIGHT

Defiant holidaymakers today arrived for their Christmas cruise onboard the Oriana – and dismissed fears they may also catch norovirus.

Boarding travellers said they were undeterred by the stories told by disembarking passengers and even blamed them for the outbreak.

Retired oil company worker Barbara King, 65, from Edinburgh, said: ‘I think the virus spread so rapidly because of their hygiene.

'A lot of people don't bother to even wash their hands anymore – so the blame can't be put on the ship company.

‘We should all be fine, the company has had enough time and they won't want something as bad as this to happen again.’

Fred Allen, 76, from Chandlers Ford, Hampshire, said: ‘I'm not worried at all. The ship will leave at 8pm tonight – that should give them plenty of time to give it a good clean.

‘All of the people I've spoken to aren't worried either. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed that everything goes okay and I'm sure it will,' the retired television engineer said.

‘P&O are under a bit of pressure after what happened and I'm sure they'll to everything they can to make our trip very enjoyable.’

Oriana is due to depart Southampton at 8pm tonight, having arrived in port this morning. Staff have been giving it a thorough clean.

It will visit Portugal, Spain, Malta, Cyprus, Israel, Greece and Sicily on a 23-day voyage. Travellers will spend Christmas in Haifa, Israel, and New Year's Eve in Messina, Sicily.

Large parts of the ship were closed off
to avoid the virus spreading further and passengers were quarantined as many were sick in corridors, theatres and restaurants.

Those who fell ill were ordered to stay in their cabins and miss stop offs as the crew battled to contain the highly contagious virus, which also causes diarrhoea.

Angry cruise-trippers today spoke out about the nightmare journey on P&O’s Oriana and the foolishness of taking the boat back out again so soon.

Pete Baker, 67, a retired salesman,
from Grantham, Lincolnshire, said: 'The ship needs at least a week's worth of cleaning but I can’t believe people would ever dream of getting on it again.

'I'd never want anyone else to experience this horrendous virus, it’s disgusting. My 64-year-old wife, Carol, fell
really ill on the third night of the cruise and was being constantly and
violently sick all night.

'I felt I was in the dark as no one
could tell us what was going on or how many people were ill.'

Phil Handley, a civil servant in the Ministry of Defence, said he had been saving for the trip for months 'but we just feel
now it’s 1,000 we’ve wasted'.

Ship owners P&O advertised the
856ft vessel as 'elegant and attractive' and many were expecting the
trip of a lifetime on the cruise, which took in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Bruges and Oslo.

'In the end it was a holiday from hell,' said retired firefighter David Stringer,
57, who was on the cruise with financial controller wife Diane, 56.

Both were ordered to stay in
their cabin for 48 hours when they fell ill on the second day.

Mrs Stringer, from Walsall, West Midlands, said:
'When we arrived there were letters on our bed saying there had been an
outbreak of norovirus on the previous cruise.

Wet: Oriana passengers disembarking this morning at a rain swept Southampton after their nightmare trip

Wet: Oriana passengers disembarking this morning at a rain swept Southampton after their nightmare trip

'That was a worrying start. We looked at each other and hoped nothing would happen to us.

'But on the very first day a woman collapsed in the cinema and then everyone else started dropping like flies.

Traumatised: Passenger Pete Baker, pictured with recovering wife Carol, said the ship needed at least a week's cleaning - and even then he couldn't believe people would dream of getting on it again

Traumatised: Passenger Pete Baker, pictured with recovering wife Carol, said the ship needed at least a week's cleaning – and even then he couldn't believe people would dream of getting on it again

'The day after I came down with the
bug. /12/14/article-2248085-167B33D4000005DC-766_634x696.jpg” width=”634″ height=”696″ alt=”Fateful journey: Sick passengers were unable to disembark when the ship stopped at Christmas markets in Zeebrugge, Hamburg (inset), Copenhagen or Oslo before returning to Southampton” class=”blkBorder” />

Fateful journey: Sick passengers were unable to disembark when the ship stopped at Christmas markets in Zeebrugge, Hamburg (inset), Copenhagen or Oslo before returning to Southampton

'As soon as we got on board the ship we knew something was wrong – the conditions were horrendous. Being confined to our cabins all day felt like we were being treated like animals.'

Returning: Paul Gilman, a passenger on the Oriana, is pictured at the terminal building in Southampton on arrival

Returning: Paul Gilman, a passenger on the Oriana, is pictured at the terminal building in Southampton on arrival

Passenger
Glynis Cornell, 61, from Uxbridge, Middlesex, was looking forward to a
relaxing cruise with husband Paul, 63, and daughter Abigail, 28.

Instead, it was fraught with worry as diabetic Mr Cornell was hit by sickness and failed to keep food down.

Mrs
Connell, a customer service assistant, said: 'I was so worried about
Paul because he is insulin dependent and had thrown up so much that his
sugar levels were terrible.

'We saved for ages for this – our second ever cruise – and longed to see more of the world from a luxury ship. Instead we spent it seeing people vomiting in the corridors.

'From the first day waiters were having to pass you food while wearing plastic gloves. It was far from the glamorous break we had imagined.'

Retired electrical contractor Gerry
Hunt and his wife Carol, both 71, from Tenterton, Kent, said some felt
like 'prisoners' on the vessel.

Mr
Hunt said: 'People that fell ill were ordered to stay in their room for
two days and were banned from leaving the ship at ports.

'Luxury': Passengers claim there was a lack of food and toilet paper after the outbreak of the vomiting bug, while others say they are still waiting for laundry to be returned to them

'Luxury': Passengers claim there was a lack of food and toilet paper after the outbreak of the vomiting bug, while others say they are still waiting for laundry to be returned to them

'That angered passengers and left some feeling like prisoners on a plague ship. The virus engulfed the liner but crew tried to blame passengers for bringing it on board.

'Passengers were being sick everywhere and one vulnerable woman who had been having chemotherapy collapsed.

'Angry groups of people gathered in the atrium to discuss what we could do about the situation.

'I also tried to speak to the captain three times to get some answers buts never managed to talk to him. People wanted a great holiday but have been left very disappointed and will be calling for compensation.'

Sick passenger Maria Wyatt, 46, from
Southampton, said: 'I’m so glad to finally get off the ship so I can get
home and recover. It was a nightmare.'

Coming home: The arrivals building at the Southampton terminal where passengers were arriving off the ship

Coming home: The arrivals building at the Southampton terminal where passengers were arriving off the ship

Phil and Sue Handley, both 55, from Saltash, Cornwall, said people fell ill from day one.

Phil added: 'We had never been on a cruise before but our friends told us how amazing they were, so we saved up – but found it to be a holiday from hell.'

Chris Meadows, from Southampton, who
attended a crisis meeting at the height of the outbreak, said the liner's captain Thomas Lane admitted to passengers that the
crew 'could not cope'.

'We had a show of hands of how many people were affected, which was filmed by many of the passengers that attended the meeting.'

The luxury liner’s owners Carnival UK have offered to waive fees for anyone who had to visit the on-board doctor.

Clean-up: Contractors work around the cruise terminal in Southampton after the P&O liner Oriana docked

Clean-up: Contractors work around the cruise terminal in Southampton after the P&O liner Oriana docked

Carol Marlow, managing director of P&O Cruises, said: 'The
number of people affected was at an unprecedented level but we did not
put profits before health.'

Oriana has been hit by bouts of norovirus several times in recent years. In 2009, 67-year-old Mary Smith died from the disease three days after a Baltic cruise on Oriana with family.

I'm sorry: Carol Marlow, managing director of P&O Cruises, apologised to passengers whose holiday had been ruined by the latest outbreak

I'm sorry: Carol Marlow, managing director of P&O Cruises, apologised to passengers whose holiday had been ruined by the latest outbreak

Ms Marlow apologised to passengers whose holiday had been ruined by the latest outbreak.

She said: 'We are very sorry that we have had some people with norovirus on this cruise. It’s a very unpleasant virus, particularly when you are on holiday.

'Unfortunately, it is prevalent in society at the moment, in schools and hospitals, and cruise ships are not immune.

'We have had around 300 reported cases on board the ship during the ten-day cruise, mainly at the beginning. It is an unprecedented level.

'Our teams worked tirelessly to contain it and we now have just five people returning home today that have symptoms.

'There were a small number of people on the previous cruise that had norovirus but we thoroughly cleaned the ship at the end of that trip. We believe somebody unwittingly brought the virus onto the ship at the start of the latest cruise.

'The virus has an incubation period of 15 to 24 hours but the first case was reported on board just four to six hours after leaving port. That means they could not have caught it on board.'

Ms Marlow revealed the company will consider compensation on a 'case by case' basis.

Tickets cost 1,429 for passengers in a balcony cabin, up to 949 for an ocean view outside cabin, and 799 for an inside cabin. The captain of the ship told passengers staff ‘could not cope’.