Elizabeth Marshall was two weeks into the four-month world voyage when she was struck down with severe abdominal cramps and diarrhoea on luxury cruise liner, Aurora.
The 65-year-old said scores of passengers were laid up sick while staff, wearing protective clothing and masks, carried out a deep clean of the vessel.
“It was excruciating and unlike anything I’ve experienced before. It felt like my guts were on fire, that’s the only way I can describe it,” she said.
“There were hundreds of us that were sick, the entire corridor I was on was ill. We were just handed antibiotics and isolated in our cabins where we were fed our meals on trays for a few days. “I felt worryingly weak and dehydrated and lost a lot of weight. I developed a constant feeling of nausea, tiredness and severe abdominal pains which still effect me even now. It was horrible.
“It took half a lifetime’s savings for me to pay for this holiday and I was really looking forward to it. But it turned into a living nightmare. For a lot of us it was meant to be the holiday of a lifetime but it was anything but.”
Elizabeth, of Western Harbour Midway, Leith, signed up to the £12,000 trip, which stopped in luxury destinations including Mauritius, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, to see her nephew Andrew who had emigrated to New Zealand.
But the holiday, in January 2009, was ruined by the mystery illness. They were off the coast of Africa when it happened, with the incident making headlines worldwide.
Today – four years on – she is still plagued by symptoms, baffling doctors and forcing her to give up her job as an energy consultant.
Passengers reported seeing so-called “grey water” – waste water – and claim staff told them it was the result of sewerage in the air conditioning.
Elizabeth has given more than 50 blood samples and been tested for tropical diseases with little success. She is still on medication and being treated by gastroenterologists at Western General Hospital.
She said: “I’ve been tested countless times but they still can’t say exactly what’s wrong, just that my body is showing classic signs of poisoning.
“There’s no compensation that can replace years of being left ill. No money can replace time and the days of your life this has taken over. I’m so angry, I feel they have effectively poisoned us.”
Aurora’s owners Carnival UK paid out the money on condition they did not accept liability. No one at the firm was available for comment.
Calamities at sea
• Aurora’s sister ship Oriana was hit by an outbreak of norovirus on a cruise around the Baltic in December 2012. It was reported more than 400 people fell ill with sickness and diarrhoea.
• The biggest disaster in modern times was occurred last January when the Costa Concordia cruise ship ran aground and 32 people lost their lives. There were more than 4000 passengers and crew on board when the accident occurred shortly after it left the Italian port of Civitavecchia.
• In July 2009, a 74-year-old passenger died and more than 150 people were taken ill on the Marco Polo cruise liner berthed in Invergordon, Easter Ross.
• The infamous Titanic sunk in April 1912, killing more than 1500 people.