P&O Cruises stomach flu problem not new, passengers say – BBC News

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, Guests with symptoms are being told to ‘isolate’ in their cabins, P&O said

  • Author, Charlotte Andries
  • Role, BBC news

There have been problems with the spread of stomach flu on a cruise ship for weeks, passengers have told the BBC.

P&O Cruises’ Ventura left Southampton on May 11 for a two-week cruise around the Canary Islands.

However, people who traveled on Ventura in recent weeks said the disease was also present on their cruises. A company spokesperson said: “We are so sorry that these guests have been affected by this.”

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, Ventura has a capacity of more than 3,000 passengers and 1,200 crew members

Elaine Bland said she was informed by P&O Cruises of “gastrointestinal” problems on Ventura shortly before boarding with six friends for a week-long trip to the Mediterranean on May 4.

The 69-year-old, from the Isle of Wight, said their boarding was delayed by 90 minutes so the ship could be thoroughly cleaned.

“But you can’t just solve this problem in a few hours,” Ms. Bland said.

On board, she said there were hand sanitiser stations everywhere, adding that staff were handing them out “like sweets”.

But Ms Bland said she and her friends all became ill and developed diarrhea on the third day of the trip.

“P&O knew it was on board, but they didn’t handle it properly,” she said. “They downplayed it.”

Ms Bland said she felt the ship should be taken out of commission for a few days while it was properly cleaned.

“I felt sorry for the people who came after us,” she added.

‘Profit before health’

Helen Bradburn, 49, from Essex, had booked a last-minute cruise from Ventura to Amsterdam with her daughter.

On April 29, the day before the ship was due to depart, she said P&O Cruises had informed her of “gastrointestinal issues” on board and that extra cleaning measures had been put in place.

To reduce the risk of contracting something, Ms Bradburn took antibacterial wipes with her and decided to only use the toilet in their cabin.

But a day later, she said her 19-year-old daughter had symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea and was asked to isolate in her cabin.

Ms Bradburn described the management on board as ‘patronising’ and said: ‘They make you feel like you’re just a dirty passenger, like you don’t wash your hands… but that’s not what it is.’

Ms Bradburn praised the work of the ship’s medical team, but said P&O had made no apologies and “put profits before the health of their passengers”.

Image caption, The ship left Southampton for the Canary Islands on 11 May

On April 20, Marie, from Nottinghamshire, boarded Ventura with her husband for a 10-day cruise through Spain, Portugal and France.

“For the first few days the buffet was not self-service and the staff served you all your food,” the 70-year-old said.

She said a crew member told her there had been an outbreak of stomach flu on a previous cruise.

The restrictions were lifted after three days, she told the BBC.

But after a day in Santander, Spain, Marie said she started feeling sick, had diarrhea and fainted.

She said the ship’s medical center told her she was too sick to stay on board and she was taken to a hospital in Lisbon, where she was told she had “acute gastroenteritis.”

Her condition worsened and she developed sepsis and kidney failure, she said, adding: “I almost didn’t make it. They told my husband I was very sick.”

Marie spent six days in the hospital on antibiotics before flying home on May 3.

She said she believed she “absolutely” picked up the insect on the ship, but that P&O would not acknowledge it.

‘Approved protocols’

A spokesperson for P&O Cruises said: “We are extremely sorry that these guests have been affected by this.

“It is clear that this is not what we would want for everyone on board, as one of our highest priorities is always the well-being of everyone.”

The company said it had “approved disinfection protocols” and “adopted an enhanced and proven approach across the hotel, housekeeping and medical teams”.

This included “constant and improved sanitation” by specialist teams and “isolating those affected”.

The company would not confirm how many people on the ship became unwell.

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