AN Inverclyde holidaymaker today branded his illness-hit Canaries cruise 'the trip from hell'.

The local passenger had booked an eagerly-awaited break on the luxury liner Boudicca, pictured, as a special 80th birthday treat for his mother.

But after setting sail from Greenock on 7 May, a highly contagious viral infection swept through the Fred Olsen vessel before it reached its first port, Lanzarote, and the dream holiday quickly turned into a nightmare.

The pensioner fell ill and wasn't able to get off the boat for any of the destinations except the first one.

Her 47-year-old son, who doesn't want to be named, said: "It was the trip from hell - never again.

"It ruined our holiday, it was meant to be a special trip but my mum missed all the ports apart from the first one.

"She was violently sick and spent four to five days in isolation."

Cruise bosses say around 170 tourists out on 828 on board were affected by the vomiting bug, with as many as 35 passengers being held in isolation at any one time.

Facilities on board were closed down as part of hygiene procedures, including self-service restaurants, jacuzzis and the steam room.

The local passenger was travelling with his mum and two other family members who forked out more than �5,000.

Although he praised crew members, the passenger criticised the way the illness outbreak had been handled by the ship's operators.

The man said: "The company have been playing it down but it was a lot of money to spend on this cruise.

"We paid �1,300 each and got nothing out of it.

"Almost 200 passengers had the virus which out of 800 passengers is quite a high proportion.

"There were new cases almost every day.

"I certainly wouldn't travel with Fred Olsen ever again.

"The food was fantastic and the crew couldn't be faulted, but there was very little information coming through to us from the company itself.

"We're looking into claiming compensation."

When the ship arrived in Greenock on Sunday at the end of the 13-night trip, the vessel was fumigated before setting sail for the Adriatic later that day.

A spokesperson for the operators said: "Fred Olsen Cruise Lines can confirm that a number of people on board Boudicca suffered from a viral infection with mild gastroenteritis symptoms during her last cruise.

"During this cruise, the highest number of guests needing to be kept in isolation at any one time was 35, out of a total number of people on board of 1,176, comprising 828 guests and 348 crew.

"The total number of cases reported during the 13-night cruise was 170.

"Boudicca returned to Greenock on Sunday and departed on a 21-night Adriatic cruise that night.

"She departed at 1800 hours, instead of the original scheduled time of 1630 hours, in order for a complete and intensive fumigation process to take place.

"The cleaning procedure went ahead, and also included the cruise terminal.

"The port health team spent 30 minutes examining the ship and she was given the necessary clearance to sail from the port.

"Fred Olsen Cruise Lines ships meet, at all times, the highest safety, hygiene and health standards, and comply fully with the strict requirements and inspections of their flag state and relevant authorities."

OAP passenger dies and another airlifted

POLICE today confirmed that a 71-year-old man from Bishopbriggs had died from a heart attack on board the cruise ship.

They said the sudden death happened between Saturday night and Sunday morning.

The death is not being treated as suspicious and officers say it was not related to the virus outbreak.

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines also confirmed that another passenger had been airlifted to hospital earlier in the cruise.

Their spokesperson said: "During the Canary Islands cruise, one guest was airlifted to hospital in Tenerife to receive treatment.

"Sadly, another guest died of a heart attack during this cruise, en route back to the UK.

"We are unable to give any personal details of these incidents, out of respect for their families, but neither incident was in any way related to the gastro outbreak."