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New norovirus outbreak on Azura after 417 cases reported on board Oriana
It is a picture that paints a thousand angry words.
Scores of furious cruise passengers stand together in a mutiny against the captain of a Southampton-based cruise ship.
Angry and ill holidaymakers crammed into corridors and lined stairways on board the P&O ship Oriana to vent their disgust, after norovirus swept through the luxury liner.
And it was revealed last night that passengers on board another P&O liner, Azura, had also reported symptoms of the virus.
It is understood that around 10 cases were reported on board the ship, which docked in Southampton at 6am this morning.
As previously reported, attractions and restaurants were closed and entertainment cancelled on board Oriana, after 417 of the 1,800 people on board contracted the highly-contagious sickness and diarrhoea bug.
It left scores of passengers facing daunting medical bills of up £3,500, while many were confined to their cabins, unable to see some of the Baltic cities on the cruise including Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Oslo.
It even led some holidaymakers to compare the experience to being in prison.
But yesterday - just hours after the final passengers disembarked the stricken ship - P&O bosses said it had been deep cleaned and given the all clear by Southampton's Port Health Authority to allow hundreds of new passengers on board, ahead of a 23-night Mediterranean cruise.
Bosses at P&O Cruises, which is owned by parent company Carnival, yesterday issued a grovelling apology to passengers and pledged to refund all medical expenses they incurred while on board.
But many upset passengers say it is not enough and have vowed to lodge bids for further compensation, after claiming their holiday was “ruined”.
One passenger, Dave Stringer, 57, a retired station officer for the West Midlands Fire Service, was confined to his cabin for two days after being struck down by the virus. He organised a number of mass meetings between passengers during the 10-day cruise, before eventually being invited to speak to Captain Robert Camby on Thursday.
Mr Stringer said: “He told me his job was on the bridge and that he didn't have time to speak to passengers. I said: 'that's very well, but there are people here with questions they want answering.
“He was unhappy that we had been holding meetings in communal areas. Other staff overheard what was said and there were shouts of 'we want the captain.'
“He must have seen that as a threat and because it was his first time as captain, I think he got a little scared. He said to me: 'please don't storm the bridge.'
Mr Stringer added that it was “a totally miserable cruise from start to finish” and claimed that he waited more than four hours for room service when he was confined to his cabin.
Mary Ellcone, 66, from Portsmouth, who was travelling with her partner, John Cross, 74, described it as “the holiday from hell”.
She added: “They left us letters when we got on board explaining about norovirus and that procedures were in place. The fact that they knew it was on board before we got on and still let the ship sail is terrible.
“The one trip we wanted to go on more than any other was to Copenhagen to see the Christmas market and we had to cancel that.”
Pete Baker, 67, from Grantham, in Lincolnshire, told how he thought his wife Carol was having a heart attack when she was struck down by the virus.
Mr Baker said: “We set sail on the Tuesday and on the Thursday we went to the theatre and three-quarters of the way through the performance my wife collapsed in the chair.
“I thought she was having a heart attack or a stroke. It was terrifying. The next thing I know she started vomiting.”
Mrs Baker was taken to the medical unit on board the ship, before returning to her cabin with her husband.
But she said their room was not thoroughly sanitised by P&O staff - and compared the room service to life in prison.
Mrs Baker said: “You would wait for hours to get something to eat and when it eventually came it was awful. I've never been to prison but I'm sure they get better meals there.
“You were made to feel like you were an inconvenience to them. They couldn't cope with it.”
Sandra Pearce, 56, whose husband Dennis contracted the virus, said: “We could hear people vomiting in other cabins next door and above. All you could hear was people crying and screaming.”
Mavis Miell, 71, and her husband Robert, 71, from Shirley, have been on 14 previous cruises with P&O, six of which were on board Oriana - but are now reluctant to travel with the firm again.
Mrs Miell said: “The room staff worked their socks off, but we have seen very little of the official crew or the captain.
“We heard him a few times on the tannoy and he said the embarking passengers brought the virus on board, which put a lot of people's backs up.”
Another Southampton couple, Vanessa Herrington, 30, and Chris Meadows, 28, said they would be appealing for compensation after forking out £599 each for the cruise.
Vanessa revealed that she was charged £35 just for a doctor to come and visit her in her cabin.
And she revealed how another passenger, who passed out in a public toilet on board, had been left with a medical bill of £3,500 for his treatment.
Vanessa said: “Stewards would come in dressed in plastic aprons, gloves, masks, but they would only wipe over the fronts of wardrobes and clean the bathroom. It was so lax.
“They wouldn't clean things you touch with your fingers like light switches and telephones - that's not going to help the situation.”
- Oriana last night departed the city at 8pm for the three week cruise that will return in the first week of January.
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