All aboard... but Boudicca passengers extra fearful of seasickness on vomit bug-hit cruise ship
Passengers boarding a cruise ship after it was struck by a contagious virus have told of their anxiety about contracting the bug.
Fred Olsen cruise ship The Boudicca left Northern Ireland on Monday, September 23, embarking on a 10-night Scandinavian Cities Cruise.
The 763 passengers on board were enjoying a tour calling at Oslo, Gothenburg and Copenhagen before 84 people contracted the gastroenteritis-type illness.
More than 300 of the bookings made were by people from Northern Ireland but it could not be determined how many of them had been affected by the illness, which is passed on by contact with surfaces and person-to-person.
Fred Olsen Cruise Lines described the situation as "extremely unfortunate" and said any guest showing symptoms was asked to remain in their cabin, with complimentary room service and in-cabin entertainment.
The cruise ended just a few hours earlier than planned this morning, as it arrived at Stormont Wharf at 6.30am to give time for an intense clean-up operation to be carried out before the next group embarks on a 12-night Madeira and Canaries cruise at 4.30pm.
While Fred Olsen has confirmed that passengers affected by the illness will be given a discount voucher for a future cruise as a "gesture of goodwill", those who are about to embark have expressed concern. They received a letter informing them of the situation, including a man whose wife suffers from gall-stones.
The man, who wanted to be known only as Richard, said being told "that you may be ill" was not an ideal start to a holiday.
"I'm not terribly happy," he said.
"There is no compensation if you don't want to go anymore, unless you have a doctor's letter.
"We've been on cruises before and we've never heard of anything like this.
"Some facilities will be closed, such as the sauna and Jacuzzi.
"I paid quite a lot of money and facilities that were offered will be slighted."
Fred Olsen responded by saying it will consider any guest's medical concerns regarding the forthcoming Madeira Canaries cruise on a "case-by-case basis".
Kyle Christie, manager of Cruise Connections in Holywood, has a number of clients on board but said, thankfully, only a small number had been affected.
Fred Olsen cruise lines said: "We will be working closely with the Public Health Agency and Belfast City Council port health officials upon the ship's arrival in port tomorrow to confirm that they are satisfied with the containment and preventative measures being undertaken."
Procedures have been put in place by the PHA for the safe disembarkment of passengers and enhanced infection control measures have been implemented as necessary.
Passengers have also been provided with public health advice.
Before boarding, Fred Olsen guests are asked to complete a medical questionnaire and are reminded frequently to wash their hands thoroughly to minimise infection. Symptoms of the gastroenteritis-type illness include sudden onset of vomiting and/or diarrhoea, temperature, headache and stomach cramps. It is common in any areas where people are in close proximity. More contagious than the common cold, it generally abates in one or two days.