The death of a woman aboard the Pacific Jewel has sparked claims of an outbreak of gastroenteritis aboard the ship off the coast of Queensland.

The Sydney Morning Herald in a front-page report this morning claims the P&O ship left from Sydney on September 6 for a 10-night “Barrier Reef Discovery” cruise.

Margaret Carlson, 79, was found dead on Saturday afternoon, when the ship was docked at Yorkeys Knob in Cairns.

She had boarded with her daughter and teenage grandson. It was her seventh cruise in 10 years.

P&O issued a statement denying there had been a gastro outbreak on the ship.

The statement said: “An elderly female passenger sadly passed away on Saturday onboard Pacific Jewel and our thoughts are with the family at such a difficult time. Queensland police have indicated the death was due to natural causes.
“As is standard policy, due to passenger privacy, no further comment can be made on the cause of death.
“Reports by one media outlet that there had been a gastro outbreak on the ship are incorrect.”

And Mark Patane, a passenger, said on Facebook just a few hours ago: “Am on the Jewel at the moment, there is no gastro outbreak that I am aware of. Everything is normal on board. I don’t think many people know that the lady passed away. R.I.P”

Mrs Carlson’s family told the Herald medical staff had told her that she had probably brought the bug onto the ship with her. They maintained her daughter and grandson also fell ill after boarding the ship.

Police were called to inspect the scene and determined she had died of natural causes several hours earlier.

Mrs Carlson’s daughter Vanessa D’Souza told the newspaper:

“I keep getting these bunches of flowers at home and I just want to scream because I’m like, ‘Oh, these flowers are beautiful and mum would love them’, but she’s not here.”


Queensland Police confirmed a 79-year-old woman died on a cruise ship that was docked at Cairns on Saturday. Officers will prepare a report for the Coroner.