A Royal Caribbean cruise ship headed back to its home port in the US after
hundreds of passengers and crew members fell ill with vomiting and diarrhoea
during what was supposed to be a 10-day getaway in the sun.
The Miami-based company announced that it was cutting short the Explorer of the
Seas' jaunt in the Caribbean a few hours after officials from the US Centres
for Disease Control and Prevention boarded the ship during its US Virgin
Islands port call to investigate the illness.
According to the CDC, 577 out of 3 050 passengers reported being ill during
the voyage that left Bayonne, New Jersey, last Tuesday. That's nearly 19% of
the vacationers. Forty-nine crew members also got sick.
Royal Caribbean's medical team said the symptoms were consistent with the
common and highly contagious norovirus.
It is rarely fatal, but the CDC says it can be serious, especially for
youngsters and older adults. The virus spreads quickly in closed quarters
food or liquids, contaminated surfaces, and direct contact with an infected
CDC spokeswoman Bernadette Burden said tests would have to confirm what
caused the illness outbreak on the 15-deck ship. Five samples were shipped to
the US health agency's lab Sunday.
"We won't know for a couple of days what the pathogen is. Cruise ships
are unique. It can be difficult to identify a specific source," she said
in a Monday email.
She said there had been no fatalities and no one was removed from the ship.
An Explorer of the Seas passenger named Arnee Dodd fell ill aboard the ship
last week and was quarantined like the other sick people. In a Sunday tweet to
The Associated Press, the Connecticut woman said: "We are all better,
quarantine is over and ship has been sanitized every day."
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. said Sunday evening that "new reports of
illness have decreased day-over-day, and many guests are again up and about.
Nevertheless, the disruptions caused by the early wave of illness means that we
were unable to deliver the vacation our guests were expecting."
Full sanitisation programme to be
It said a full sanitisation program would be carried out after the Explorer
of the Seas reached its home port tomorrow.
The CDC team of two epidemiologists and one environmental health officer are
aboard as the ship sails to New Jersey.
Aubrey Manzo of the online cruise reviews guide Cruise Critic said all the
passengers are travelling back to the US on the Explorer of the Seas.
"They do not have the option of getting off the ship prior to its
arrival" in Bayonne, she said in an email.
Royal Caribbean said it was "taking several steps" to compensate
passengers for the shortened trip and the inconvenience. It also sought to
assure customers scheduled for the ship's next voyage that "all possible
measures will have been taken to prevent further problems."
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(Picture: Luxury cruise ship from Shutterstock)