Hundreds sick with norovirus, say cruise passengers

Ventura at sea
Some people on board the ship have had sickness and diarrhoea [Getty Images]

The number of people taken ill on a cruise ship following an outbreak of norovirus was in the hundreds, passengers have told the BBC.

Port health officials were due to meet P&O Cruises vessel Ventura for an inspection after it docked in Southampton earlier.

P&O said new passengers would face delays in boarding on Saturday while the ship was deep-cleaned.

The cruise company has not confirmed the total number of cases but apologised to those affected.

Hollie Taylor
Passenger Hollie Taylor said her children became unwell days into their trip [BBC]

Ventura docked in Southampton at about 05:00 BST, where just under 3,000 passengers disembarked after a two-week voyage around the Canary Islands.

Leaving the ship with her family, Hollie Taylor, from New Milton in Hampshire, described the £8,500 holiday as "absolutely horrendous".

"There were constantly areas blocked off because people had been vomiting all over the hallways," she told the BBC.

Ms Taylor said her sons had become ill a couple of days into the trip and were "violently sick" for about 24 hours.

She and her husband James said they believed up to 600 people on board had fallen ill.

"We didn't report it [their sons' sickness] because what's the point?" Ms Taylor added.

On Wednesday, P&O said 0.64% of people on board Ventura had symptoms of norovirus after sanitation measures had been put in place.

A spokeswoman for the company said at the time it showed "the efficacy of our extensive protocols" but would not provide a total number of cases reported since the start of the outbreak.

Passengers standing on top deck of Ventura
The 14-night cruise included stops in Madeira, La Palma, Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Cadiz and Lisbon [Getty Images]

Enhanced sanitation protocols had been put in place on board following the outbreak, P&O has said.

Unwell passengers had also been asked to isolate for longer, according to Southampton Port Health Authority (SPHA).

Ventura is scheduled to leave Southampton again at 21:00 BST for a seven-night cruise to Spain and Portugal.

New passengers were being contacted in advance to make sure those with symptoms did not get on the ship, the SPHA said.

In addition, boarding has been delayed by four hours to allow for a deep clean of guest cabins, public areas and crew areas.

Commercial cleaners would sanitise the ship before new passengers were allowed on, P&O's spokeswoman said.

The company previously confirmed it would be using fogging, which involves spraying special disinfectant into a sealed room as a mist-type vapour.

Ventura would then be checked by a port health officer.

"Carnival UK [P&O Cruises' parent company] are cooperating fully with the investigation," SPHA added.

Ventura at sea
P&O says it has "doubled" the length of time the ship will be without guests while in Southampton so it can be cleaned [Getty Images]

Alex Woolfenden, who was due to board the vessel on Saturday afternoon with his three-year-old son, wife and her elderly parents, said the situation had left him "stressed".

He said more than £8,000 had been spent on their trip, which was a belated honeymoon for the couple from North Wales.

Mr Woolfenden told the BBC he was having second thoughts about boarding and felt like he was "caught between a rock and a hard place".

"P&O are putting their profits before safety of guests, especially as we have two vulnerable groups," he said.

"Could you imagine having to isolate with a three-year-old in a cabin for the whole time?"

P&O previously said the health and wellbeing of its guests and crew was its "absolute priority".

Ventura would remain at a "heightened level of response" for its next voyage to manage the "elevated" number of cases, SPHA confirmed.

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