PASSENGERS were disembarking this morning at Southampton docks from a cruise ship after hundreds of them were struck down with norovirus.

But instead of tales of an incredible holiday many were telling of a miserable experience while suffering from the stomach virus and said they were simply delighted to be home.

One passenger described "complete and utter chaos" and staff "unable to cope with the situation".

Others told how their laundry had still not been returned, there was no food and a lack of toilet paper while one passenger said the medical staff had been "rude".

This morning Carol Marlow, a spokesman for Carnival, the parent company of P&O, said just five people were still ill as the ship returned but the numbers of people who had been affected were at "an unprecedented level". She denied Carnival was putting "profits before health".

However, when asked would compensation be awarded to passengers who had been affected, Ms Marlow replied that the company would be "waiving fees" for anyone who had to visit the doctor on board. She said letters had been sent to everyone on the ship two days ago apologising for what had happened and if their holiday had been disrupted.

Ms Marlow confirmed a small number of people were ill when Oriana originally set sail for the 10-day Baltic cruise and a deep clean was carried out. The city's port authority had come on board before she departed.

Passengers embarking at that time were given letters asking if they had been in contact with anyone with the virus, as it is prevalent in the community at this time of year, she added.

Ivor Evans, 71, who was on board with wife Sheila said: "When we got on board they were already serving us with gloves on. That was a bad sign straight away.

"We didnt get letters until we were on board. We should have been told before, but I dont think anyone would have got on if they had known.

"Luckily we didn't get the bug, but a lot of people did and I can understand why they are so unhappy.

"It ruined the holiday for a lot of people."

The Daily Echo understands crunch meetings were held yesterday between the passengers and crew of the Oriana after the highly-contagious bug led to many of the P&O Cruise ship’s attractions being closed.

Yesterday a letter from the captain was read out by a passenger to those who were demanding compensation from the firm, which is owned by parent company Carnival.

The captain said he would not join the meeting and expressed his disappointment that the world’s media had been informed.

Passenger Chris Meadows from Southampton was at the meeting.

“The captain has admitted at the height of the outbreak the crew could not cope.

“We had another show of hands of howmany people were affected, which was filmed by many of the passengers that attended the meeting.”

Another meeting was held last night where the captain was expected to read out a statement.

There were suggestions that some passengers may stage a sit-in today in protest to the way the situation has been handled.

One passenger previously told the Echo: “It has more or less taken over the whole ship. Some people are refusing to get off the ship on Friday in protest.”

Although a spokesman for P&O Cruises said that nine people were suffering from norovirus at the beginning of the week holidaymakers say 400 people had suffered from it.

It has meant many holiday makers have been unable to see some of the Baltic cities on the cruise including Amsterdam, Oslo, and Hamburg.

The ship is expected to be in port for longer than usual to thoroughly clean the ship.

P&O’s parent company, Carnival, said anyone who feels strongly should write to the Southampton firm.

Officers from Southampton's Port Health Authority are currently examining the ship.

It is due to set sail at 8pm tonight ahead of a 23-night cruise around the Mediterranean.