Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Cursed Ship Struck By Sickness

A British cruise ship dubbed as "cursed" by some media after a bottle failed to smash at its launch has been hit by an outbreak of a vomit-inducing infection, reports said yesterday. The MS Queen Victoria was launched less than a month ago by Prince Charles's wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, but a bottle of champagne failed to crack open against its bows, fueling superstitious warnings. "The Duchess will no doubt be hoping that the 300-million-pound (BD229m) vessel can shake off the curse of the unbroken bottle," the Times wrote at the time. Now on a cruise around the Spanish Canary Islands off the African coast, nearly 80 passengers were struck down with the norovirus, more commonly known as "winter sickness bug", which causes severe vomiting and diarrhea. Those who have been infected have been confined to their rooms. "To prevent a spread of the infection and we have ordered regular cleaning of handrails all over the ship," company spokesman said.He confirmed that 78 passengers out of 3,000 people on board the boat, owned by the Cunard shipping line, had contracted the illness, although only 25 are still sick and were in their cabins on the ship in Lanzarote on Sunday. Passengers who paid as much as, $66,000 (BD25,247) for a 16-night cruise on the new liner included former British Formula One champion Sir Jackie Stewart. The ship's owners have not offered compensation for those affected, because the bug is so common - but one passenger accused Cunard of failing to enforce strict hygiene standards. "I was eating in the Britannia restaurant when a woman at a table beside me collapsed," Jean Trainor, 49, a passenger from Blackburn, said. He told how paramedics wearing masks rushed to the scene, the woman was taken away in a wheelchair, and the table covered up while the area was sealed off - like a police crime scene. "No hygiene rules were implemented until people fell ill. If they had been, maybe this could have been avoided," he said. There have also been problems with the lavatories not flushing. "I resent having paid to be on this cruise," he added. The cruise ship's unhappy start echoes that of the MV Aurora, which broke down 18 hours into its maiden voyage in April 2000, just after a champagne bottle ceremonially released by Princess Anne failed to smash against its side.

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