A SOUTHAMPTON-based cruise ship has been delayed leaving port today after passengers were struck down by a sickness and diarrhoea bug.

Celebrity Constellation, which arrived in the city this morning after a 12-night wine tasting cruise to France, Spain and Portugal, has been hit by norovirus.

Now the ship's departure from the port has been delayed for three hours while it is deep cleaned before it sails again.

Passengers have been informed, Celebrity Cruises said.

Passenger David Mattey, 73, from Eastleigh, told the Daily Echo he was among those who contracted the virus and was bed bound for seven days.

He said he had to go to the medical centre on board three times for an intravenous drip to rehydrate his body.

The retired painter and decorator, who paid £1,700 to take his wife abroad, said: “For elderly people to go down with something like this is horrendous. I have never suffered from anything like it before I still feel very weak and I am relieved I am home.”

Staff on board are currently conducting “extra cleaning and sanitising” to prevent any illness.

The ship was due to leave at 5pm and now it will leave at 8pm.

Norovirus is highly contagious and spreads from person to person through contaminated food or water, and by touching contaminated surfaces.

A spokesman for Celebrity Cruises, said: “During Celebrity Constellation's previous 12 night sailing, which began on 25 October 2012, a small number of guests experienced a gastrointestinal type illness. We are therefore conducting extra cleaning and sanitising onboard the ship and within the cruise terminal as preventative measures. As a result of the additional cleaning, boarding began at the revised time of 2pm today.

“All guests were contacted to advise of the time change and provided with further information on preventative steps and good hygiene, including hand washing and making use of hand sanitisers that are provided throughout the ship. Our hygiene procedures on-board are comprehensive and always strictly adhered to.

“We place great importance on the health and safety of every one of our guests and crew members. We want to ensure that every guest's cruise is a fun, relaxing and healthy experience.”