Dozens of passengers aboard a brand new cruise liner launched in a botched ceremony by Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, have come down with an intestinal bug.
The $600 million ship was named Queen Victoria three weeks ago in a Southampton, U.K. naming ceremony, during which Camilla failed to smash a bottle of champagne against the bow — a traditional omen of bad luck.
The 90,000-ton liner set sail for a 16-day Christmas cruise around the Canary Islands, but just days into the ship's maiden voyage 78 passengers got sick with the vicious norovirus bug, which causes vomiting and diarrhea.
A spokesman for the ship's operator, Cunard, said the sick passengers have been isolated and that the crew was disinfecting all public areas.
The bug is highly contagious and needs "meticulous" personal hygiene regimes if it is to be contained, he explained. He added it was possible a passenger brought the bug on board. Similar outbreaks on past cruises have been linked to poor hygiene by food handlers.
Ship passenger and Formula 1 motor-racing champion Sir Jackie Stewart dubbed the trip the "cruise from hell," according to the UK's Daily Mail. Other passengers complained about "appalling" service and stopped-up toilets, the paper reported, while others described terrifying scenes of a woman collapsing in the ship's dining room and of a man dying on board from a heart attack. The death was not related to the norovirus outbreak.
Passengers of the five-star liner paid between $2,200 and $48,000 each for the cruise. Some told the Mail they would be seeking compensation over the outbreak.
Jean Trainor, 49, from Blackburn, Lancashire, said: "No hygiene rules were implemented until people fell ill. If they had been, maybe this could have been avoided."
Noroviruses are a group of viruses that cause the stomach flu, or gastroenteritis. They also are sometimes called Norwalk-like viruses.
Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramping. Some people also suffer a low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and fatique. The illness often begins suddenly, but in most people symptoms last only one or two days.
In recent years, cruise ships have become notorious norovirus carriers, with several large outbreaks grabbing headlines.