Curse of P&O strikes as virus hits 200 passengers

The passengers returning to their luxury cruise after a sightseeing stop at Lisbon were in for some bad news. Just two days out of its home port of Southampton, the ship's captain was to inform them that there had been an outbreak of the contagious and debilitating norovirus on board P&O's £165m cruise liner Oceana.

The passengers returning to their luxury cruise after a sightseeing stop at Lisbon were in for some bad news. Just two days out of its home port of Southampton, the ship's captain was to inform them that there had been an outbreak of the contagious and debilitating norovirus on board P&O's £165m cruise liner Oceana.

Within hours more than 200 people - one in ten of those on board - were confined to their cabins, stricken with symptoms of nausea, headache and vomiting.

For P&O, which endured days of damaging headlines earlier this year and a £26m bill when its flagship Aurora was reduced by engine trouble to circling the Isle of Wight instead of embarking on a round-the-world trip, the situation evoked painful memories. Two years earlier the Aurora was dubbed "plague ship" by the media when a similar outbreak struck passengers.

Yesterday, however, P&O insisted that the worst of the outbreak was over. "We hope we have this under control. We are seeing a significant downward curve," said a spokeswoman. By the afternoon the number of passengers suffering symptoms was reduced to 50 and falling, she said. It is believed the mild form of gastro-enteritis was brought on board by a passenger at Southampton. There are currently outbreaks within the UK, the company said. Norovirus, formerly known as norwalk virus, is spread by human-to-human contact, and thrives within the close quarters of a ship. While almost never fatal, it produces debilitating though short-lived symptoms. Those affected remain infectious for two days.

Sufferers on board the Oceana were asked by the ship's doctor to confine themselves to their cabins, for which they can expect to receive compensation from P&O for each day of their isolation. Meanwhile, the crew set to work on an "extensive programme" of cleansing and disinfecting around the 77,000-ton vessel. This meant checking dishwashers and cleaning handrails, slot machines and gym equipment.

The sick were given bottled water to prevent dehydration and everyone on board was given an advisory leaflet describing the symptoms and what they should do if they have them.

The Oceana was playing host to 2,015 passengers, some of whom had paid up to £5,000 for the 17-day cruise around the Mediterranean. Within the opulent confines of the ship, holidaymakers had been looking forward to evenings of cabaret entertainment and fine dining. The five-year-old ship was in Portugal on the first stop of the cruise and is now carrying on with its planned itinerary, stopping at Dubrovnik next, and taking in Palma, Sardinia, Naples, Rome, Corfu and Malaga before returning to Southampton on 5 June.

A spokeswoman for P&O said that research had shown up to 1.5 million Britons contract the norovirus each year. The chances of catching it on land are one in 12 compared to one in 4,000 on a cruise.

Carnival Corporation, which owns P&O, revealed the financial damage caused by the Aurora debacle. Engineering problems meant the ship was out of action for longer than had initially been feared. In addition, Carnival was forced to provide a full refund to its 1,700 passengers, as well as a 25 per cent discount on the price of the next cruise.

Cruises all at sea

* November 2003: More than 500 passengers on board the Aurora contract the norovirus. Passengers are refused the right to disembark by the authorities in Greece.

* January 2005: P&O forced to abandon 103-day world cruise after engine trouble on board the Aurora. Passengers enjoy extra entertainment and a free bar as they spend 11 days sailing around the Isle of Wight.

* February 2005: Carnival admits that the Aurora fiasco has cost the company $48m.

* May 2005: More than 1,000 cruise passengers have to abandon their holiday because toilets on board the Thomson Celebration fail to flush.

* May 2005: Some 200 passengers on board P&O's Oceana contract the norovirus.

Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
News
peopleOrlando Bloom the pin-up hero is making a fresh start
Arts & Entertainment
tvGrace Dent on TV
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Life & Style
The exterior of a central London Angus Steakhouse
food + drink
Sport
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain drives in the rain during the qualifying session of the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix in Shanghai
sport
Extras
indybestFake it with 10 best self-tanners
Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sportThe city’s fight for justice after Hillsborough is embodied in Steven Gerrard, who's poised to lead his club to a remarkable triumph
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Arts & Entertainment
filmLife for Leslie Mann's can be challenging sometimes
Voices
For music lovers: John Cusack with his vinyl collection in 'High Fidelity'
voices...but don't forget rest of the year
News
The energy drink MosKa was banned for containing a heavy dose of the popular erectile dysfunction Levitra
news
Environment
People are buying increasing numbers of plants such as lavender to aid the insects
environment
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    NGO and Community Development in Cambodia

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: There are many small development projects in ...

    Sports coaching volunteer jobs

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Kaya Responsible Travel offer a variety of sp...

    Turtle Nesting and Coral Reef Conservation in Borneo

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Volunteer with Kaya in Borneo and work on a p...

    Elephant research project in Namibia

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: If you have a passion for elephants and want ...

    Day In a Page

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit