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Refunds offered after virus breaks out on cruise ship

A travel company has apologised to hundreds of passengers whose cruise trips were ruined by a viral outbreak on their ship.

The tour operator Travelscope offered refunds to around 500 holidaymakers, all of whom were British, whose seven-day trip to Norway on the Van Gogh was cancelled yesterday.

Passengers waiting to board at Harwich docks in Essex were turned away as the vessel was detained, because dozens had fallen ill with a gastrointestinal virus on the previous journey.

Around 70 passengers and 16 crew suffered symptoms including diarrhoea and vomiting on the second day of the cruise, the operator, Travelscope said. A coastguard spokesman said 14 passengers were still suffering from the same symptoms when it docked. Passengers who were unable to set sail yesterday would be offered refunds and the company was still working out what package to offer those who had become ill, a company spokesman, Tim Knight, said yesterday.

Two elderly passengers in their 80s were taken to hospital by ambulance after being carried from the Van Gogh on stretchers. They were taken to Colchester Hospital's accident and emergency unit but were later discharged, a hospital spokeswoman said.

The vessel and its crew were being monitored for 48 hours for outbreaks of the virus, and Travelscope said that the ship would be disinfected before it was due to sail again on Saturday.

Mr Knight said that some passengers who had long journeys home and were unable to board yesterday were provided with accommodation, while others had been provided with coach transport.

It is not yet clear what caused the outbreak of what is believed to be the norovirus on the ship. It was detained by the Maritime Coastguard Agency at the advice of the local director of public health.