SPEWIN: Bay couple's romantic cruise 'ruined by norovirus'
WHAT was meant to be a romantic sail between the Australian coast and New Zealand, turned into "the holiday from hell" for one Hervey Bay couple.
Jackie and John Wodhams from Urraween say they contracted the violent gastro-related norovirus while onboard the Sun Princess cruise liner between February 2 and 16.
The couple had booked the trip as a celebration of their 55th wedding anniversary, and had hoped to visit parts of New Zealand they had never seen before.
Mrs Wodhams said the voyage was slightly delayed as crew members worked to sanitise the ship from a similar outbreak the week before, but the first few days of the trip were fine.
Then she started to notice crew members wearing masks, and people Mrs and Mr Wodhams met on board getting sick.
"We were very social, we really mixed, which you do on a cruise ship," Mrs Wodhams said.
"We saw a couple one day, and the next it would just be the wife out and we would ask 'where's your husband?' and she would say 'he's sick' and a few days later she was sick."
Four days into the journey, Mr Wodhams became "violently" ill.
Mrs Wodhams said although her husband was told to stay in their cabin, she was allowed out, but she decided to stay.
"I said I had already been exposed, so I stayed with him, and then I got sick the next night."
For the next three days the couple suffered the symptoms of what they believe was norovirus.
Even after coming home on February 16, Mrs Wodhams said she still had not completely recovered from the ordeal.
Because they were sick, the couple were unable to visit many parts of New Zealand they had wanted, but said Princess Cruises did not offer any compensation.
"I tell you what, we won't be going on another cruise," Mrs Wodhams said.
"The cabin crew were lovely, and you could see they were doing everything they could to stop it [the norovirus] from spreading, but the customer service staff were unsympathetic."
Princess Cruises corporate communication manager David Jones said proactive measures were put in place to prevent the spread of the illness, and announcements were made about the situation as part of the company's transparent approach to the issue.
Mr Jones said most guests on the cruise were unaffected by illness.
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"On any given day during the cruise 12 to 15 of the 2000 guests were in self isolation while symptoms ran their course before they returned to their usual cruise activities," Mr Jones said.
"Deep cleansing was carried out on the ship prior to embarkation for the cruise and again during the cruise itself in Port Chalmers and in Auckland to prevent the spread of any illness."
Mr Jones said while the company was disappointed that the Hervey Bay couple's holiday was "disrupted", the company did not believe specific compensation could be expected "in relation to an illness that is common in the general community and for which compensation would not be likely in an equivalent land based holiday setting".
The company spokesman said the risk of having Norovirus is 750 times greater on land than at sea.