Brian Dooks

AN EAST Yorkshire family whose Sea Princess cruise was cut short after passengers were struck down by the winter vomiting bug are among 100 holidaymakers who have begun legal action.

Mike and Frances Woodcock and their twin sons, Joshua and Samuel, then aged 10, from Fangfoss, near York, were on a seven-day Western European cruise at the end of May when the ship was forced to return to Southampton a day early ñ cancelling a stop in Lisbon.

On the same cruise a £5,000 dream wedding planned by Michelle and David Cordon, of Wakefield, was ruined when her father, Michael Wormald, 52, was so ill he only just made it to give the bride away and had to return to his cabin immediately.

On day three of the cruise at the end of May passengers received a message from the ship’s captain. Mr Woodcock said: “He announced over the public broadcast system that there had been a significant increase in the number of instances of gastrointestinal illness.”

The following day, Joshua began vomiting and the Woodcocks contacted the ship’s doctor. Mr Woodcock, who is head of finance with a leading insurance company, said: “He couldn’t keep anything down, not even a sip of water. We were so worried.”

Joshua was confined to his cabin for 48 hours, during which time Mrs Woodcock was also struck down by the bug. Samuel fell ill just after disembarking from the ship in Southampton.

All three suffered severe diarrhoea and vomiting, which lasted at least 12 hours, followed by three to four days of stomach cramps.

The family became aware that there had been an outbreak of norovirus ñ the winter vomiting bug ñ on the previous cruise when they checked into their cabin and found a letter from the ship’s medical office.

Although the Sea Princess’ management said that the ship had been sanitised between voyages, Mr Woodcock remains sceptical.

He said: “We were extremely disappointed when the apparently specially trained staff who were sent to sanitise our room failed to wipe all the surfaces and just sprayed disinfectant quickly and then left.

“We were also very much aware that there was only a four-hour turn around period between the previous cruise and ours, which in my opinion is indicative the ship could not have been cleaned thoroughly.”

A claim for compensation, involving 100 people, is being made against Princess Cruises by the law firm Irwin Mitchell, whose travel litigation specialist Suki Chhokar is calling for stricter hygiene measures following a spate of outbreaks on cruise ships.

Princess Cruises yesterday failed to respond to the Yorkshire Post’s calls.