A COUPLE celebrating their silver wedding anniversary told how their dream cruise trip turned sour when an outbreak of norovirus swept through their luxury liner.
David and Lynn Thirlwall paid more than £1,400 for a 10-day Christmas cruise on P&O’s Oriana touring festive markets across Europe stopping at Oslo, Copenhagen and the medieval city of Bruges.
But just days into the trip – which they had planned to celebrate their 25th anniversary next year – a virus broke out and Mrs Thirlwall was left confined to her cabin for two days.
Mr Thirlwall said passengers were falling ill one by one as they sat eating their dinner and sections of the ship were put into lock-down as cruise ship workers battled to contain the outbreak.
The father of two, 51, who lives in Sherburn Hill, Durham, with Lynn, 49, and sons, Mark, 21, and Jonathon, 17, said rumours spread that some passengers were being stopped from leaving the Oriana.
He said: “People were coming round with mops and buckets. Because of concerns about the spread they said they were closing the self-service restaurant.
“There was one evening where there was a row of tables and at least one person from each table was falling ill as the evening went on. They were dropping like flies.
“It doesn’t do much for your appetite – it was like a game of Russian roulette. My wife was taken ill the day before we were suppose to arrive at Oslo.
“She had really bad sickness and she was told not to leave the cabin. She was given injections and was confined to the cabin for two days.”
Around 300 passengers who paid up to £1,429 for the tour of Christmas markets were struck down by the winter vomiting bug on the cruise.
Large parts of the Oriana 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.
The cruise departed from Southampton on December 4 with 1,843 passengers onboard and returned to the same port 10 days later.
Mr Thirlwall is now part of a group of passengers to contact solicitors at Irwin Mitchell to consider compensation.
Suki Chhokar, an expert in illness claims at Irwin Mitchell, said: “We have heard hugely-worrying eyewitness accounts from passengers who were onboard the ship, including suggestions of people being confined to cabins for days on end and suggestions that staff were not forthcoming with information and updates on the problems.
“Now the ship has docked, reports indicate that the cruise ship operator is working quickly to do everything it can to minimise the risks faced by future passengers.
While this is very welcome, it is very clear there are many people who have suffered difficult breaks abroad as a result of these issues and they simply cannot be forgotten.”
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.”
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.
“We had around 300 reported cases on board the Oriana during the 10-day cruise. It is an unprecedented level.”