Liner returns after cruise ruined by stomach bug

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The Independent Online

The virus-hit luxury liner Aurora returned to Britain yesterday to the threat of legal action by angry passengers.

The virus-hit luxury liner Aurora returned to Britain yesterday to the threat of legal action by angry passengers.

The £200m ship was at the centre of a diplomatic incident with Spain after its passengers were earlier banned from landing in Greece because of a stomach bug which struck down passengers.

Five hundred of its 1,800 passengers came down with the highly infectious norovirus, which causes vomiting and diarrhoea.

Yesterday the ship's owner, P&O Cruises, said two men in their seventies had died during the trip, but their deaths were not related to the virus.

The liner left its home port of Southampton on 20 October for a European cruise. After passengers became ill it was refused permission to dock at Piraeus in Greece. When the ship entered Gibraltar on Monday, Spain closed the border with the Rock for the first time in 18 years, fearing the illness might cross into the country. Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, called the move "unnecessary and disproportionate". Passengers well enough to go ashore had to hand in their passports so they could not cross into Spain, but the border remained closed until the liner left.

Some passengers have threatened P&O Cruises with legal action over the cruise, which they said was like being in hospital. They say staff sprayed the ship with chemicals to contain the virus and passengers with the virus were confined to their rooms.

The ship docked at Southampton's Mayflower Cruise Terminal at 6am with passengers disembarking from 8.30am. Health officials were meeting managers on the ship to talk about the virus in a standard procedure. A P&O spokeswoman said only one passenger was still showing signs of the illness.

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