P&O Plays Down Norovirus Outbreak on Cruise Ship

December 17, 2012

(10.30 a.m. EST, December 17) Editor's note: The Southampton Port Health Authority (SPHA) has confirmed that a total of 417 passengers onboard Oriana were infected with norovirus. Staff from the Port boarded the ship upon its return at 07:00 GMT on 14th December to do a thorough inspection of the ship.

A statement from the SPHA read: "Lengthy and detailed observations were made with clear evidence of the systematic and thorough application of the ship and terminal turnaround outbreak plans.
All those public areas disinfected overnight were cordoned off to prevent use and the ship advises that some necessary restrictions of shipboard activity will continue for the present.
The number of reported new cases continues to decline with six new cases reported to us by the ship since 03:30 this morning; the total number reported for the voyage is 417."

(9 a.m. EST) -- P&O Cruises is playing down reports that up to 400 passengers have been struck down by norovirus onboard Oriana.

P&O is sticking to its statement that just six passengers -- or 0.3 percent of the total onboard -- are ill with the highly-infectious vomiting bug.

Oriana is currently on a 10-night Baltic cruise which departed from Southampton on December 4 with 1,843 passengers on board, and is due in to port tomorrow.

The story first broke yesterday in the Sun newspaper, which spoke of a “mutiny” onboard and described the cruise as a “holiday from hell”.

It was soon picked up by the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and Channel 4 News, where the figure steadily rose from about 150 passengers ill to 400.

A P&O spokeswoman confirmed that there had been “a gathering” of passengers to discuss the situation, but she would not describe it as a “mutiny”.

There have even been reports of passengers being MediVaced from the ship in its various ports of call -- which has been flatly denied by the press office.

The Captain meanwhile is regularly updating passengers on the situation and advising passengers with any symptoms to report to the medical centre.

Unwell passengers have been asked to confine themselves to their cabin until non-contagious and not to go on any shore excursions. P&O is providing room service to affected passengers.

As our Contributing Editor Sue Bryant writes today in <a href=http://www.cruisecritic.co.uk/blog/?p=6462#" class="plain">our blog:

“Britain is in the grip of the worst outbreak of norovirus, the winter vomiting bug, since records began.
You'd think for once that the media might begin to see norovirus for what it is – a common, highly infectious virus that occurs mostly in winter, just like a cold, and can affect any community. Not ‘cruise ship virus', as it's often dubbed.”

A P&O statement read:

"There has been an incidence of a mild gastrointestinal illness among the passengers on Oriana. This illness is suspected to be Norovirus, which is highly contagious and typically transmitted from person to person. Norovirus is common throughout the UK, Europe and North America and has affected a number of schools, hospitals, nursing homes and children's day care centres.

Oriana is currently on a 10-night Baltic cruise which departed from Southampton on December 4. There are 1,843 passengers on board, the number of passengers with active symptoms today is six (6) (0.3%).

Enhanced sanitation protocols have already been implemented to help minimize transmission to other passengers. These comprehensive disinfection protocols have been developed by P&O Cruises in conjunction with U.K. and U.S. public health authorities.

The safety and comfort of passengers and crew is always our number one priority. As is currently standard procedure across our fleet, all the ship's passengers were provided with a precautionary health notice advising of widespread Norovirus activity and the health measures to avoid contraction and spread, both on board and whilst ashore.”

--by Adam Coulter, U.K. Editor