QM2 cruise halted after propulsion unit problem

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The Independent US

A 38-day cruise on Britain's biggest ocean liner the Queen Mary 2 (QM2) has had to be halted because of a propulsion unit problem.

With about 2,500 passengers on board for a cruise around South America, the 150,000-tonne Cunard vessel had to return to port at Fort Lauderdale in Florida shortly after sailing yesterday.

"There is a problem with one of the four propulsion units and it was thought best to go back to port," a Cunard spokesman said today.

He went on: "The vessel had just left Fort Lauderdale when it was discovered that there was something wrong with the unit, known as a pod.

"The passengers are all still on board and divers are going down to inspect the pod."

Named by the Queen in January 2004, the Southampton-based QM2 was due to sail around South America, including stops at Rio de Janeiro, Valparaiso in Chile and Acapulco, Mexico.

Meanwhile, passengers on another UK vessel, the 69,000-tonne Oriana, have been hit by the Norovirus stomach bug while on a 100-day world cruise, which started when the P&O Cruises' vessel sailed from Southampton on January 8.

The bug, which causes vomiting and diarrhoea, has laid low a number of the 1,700 passengers on board.

The vessel was able to dock at Athens yesterday and was calling at Port Said in Egypt today.

The port of Athens had refused to allow another P&O vessel, the Aurora, to dock in November 2003 after the Aurora had been badly affected by the Norovirus bug.

P&O Cruises said today: "There has been an increased incidence of a mild gastrointestinal illness among passengers on board the current sailing of Oriana.

"We have confirmed the illness is caused by Norovirus (formerly known as Norwalk Virus) which is the most common cause of gastroenteritis in the developed world. Only the common cold is reported more often. There are currently outbreaks throughout the UK."

P&O went on: "We work closely with local and international public health agencies and have developed and implemented our extensive sanitisation programme on board to interrupt the spread of illness.

"Passengers who are unwell are being treated at no cost and have been asked to comply with the ship's doctor's instructions. This includes a brief isolation in their cabin until they are non contagious."