Holidaymaker struck down with gastro virus on cruise ship tells how she spent 60 hours in isolation

Helen Perry was one of many holidaymakers to be struck down during a gastro outbreak while enjoying a Tasman Sea cruise aboard the Sea Princess.

The Brisbane woman said it was only a few days into the two-week trip from Brisbane to New Zealand when cases began to be reported. The captain began providing daily updates to the passengers of the reported cases.

About a week into the journey, Mrs Perry fell ill.

"I got sick the night we were leaving Wellington. It was pretty rough so at first I thought I was sea sick but then it got worse," Mrs Perry told Yahoo7.

Joining the growing list of sick passengers, Mrs Perry then spent 60 hours in isolation.

Mrs Perry had been on the ship for about a week before she became ill. Source: Supplied
Mrs Perry had been on the ship for about a week before she became ill. Source: Supplied

"I was very sick overnight for probably about 12 hours, then still had a few symptoms the following day."

She was told to remain in her cabin for another 24 hours after her symptoms had disappeared.

Mrs Perry spent 60 hours in isolation. This was her view. Source: Supplied
Mrs Perry spent 60 hours in isolation. This was her view. Source: Supplied

Feeling "very tired and sleepy", Mrs Perry could do very little, "so I just read and meditated and looked at the view".

She saw the lighter side of the sickness, reflecting it was "just one of those things that happens in life".

Her husband, a doctor, stayed with her during the isolation but took necessary precautions by wearing gloves and washing his hands often.

Image taken by Mrs Perry while she was ill, showing the view from her cabin at sea. Source: Supplied
Image taken by Mrs Perry while she was ill, showing the view from her cabin at sea. Source: Supplied

Mrs Perry believes she was exposed to the virus on December 27 while sitting near a "woman who looked very ill. She looked green around the gills and pale. She was coughing and spluttering."

"I remember thinking oh my gosh I think she's sick - then it was probably 24 hours after that that I got sick."

Source: Supplied
Source: Supplied

Despite her holiday misfortune, Mrs Perry said her holiday was "fantastic" and staff were "wonderful".

"Even when I was sick they were friendly and just so professional," she said.

Extra precautions were taken on the vessel to prevent the spread of illness, she said, like preventing holidaymakers from serving themselves at the buffet.

Still, by the time the voyage reached Brisbane about 200 passengers had contracted the gastro virus.

The outbreak caused delays for new passengers boarding the Sea Princess on Thursday morning after the ship was scoured clean in "precautionary sanitation", a Queensland Health spokesperson said.

The health department confirmed tests found the norovirus - a common vomiting bug - was the infectious stowaway.

"Around 200 people were believed to have been infected with the virus," the spokesperson said.

"Appropriate sanitation procedures and outbreak control measures have been implemented and the vessel is expected to undergo further comprehensive cleaning while in Brisbane."

The vessel is undergoing further sanitation while in Brisbane. Source: Simon Love/ 7News
The vessel is undergoing further sanitation while in Brisbane. Source: Simon Love/ 7News

It comes less than six months after a similar outbreak aboard the Sea Princess' sister ship, the Sun Princess, which docked in Brisbane in August after at least 91 people contracted norovirus.

Despite the recent cases, Princess Cruises defended health and safety practices aboard its vessels.

"There is a 750 times greater chance of experiencing norovirus on shore than while travelling on a cruise ship," a Princess Cruises spokesman said.

The spokesman added proactive steps taken during the cruise reduced the number of new cases. Guests were also thanked for sticking to health guidelines.

Testing on board the ship found norovirus to be the cause of the illness. Source: Simon Love/ 7News
Testing on board the ship found norovirus to be the cause of the illness. Source: Simon Love/ 7News

Symptoms of norovirus can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach cramping as well as low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and a general sense of tiredness.

The cruise was 14 days in total.

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