KINGSTON, Jamaica — A Royal Caribbean cruise ship headed back to
its home port in the U.S. on Monday after hundreds of passengers
and crew members fell ill with vomiting and diarrhea during what
was supposed to be a 10-day getaway in the sun.
The Miami-based company announced Sunday evening that it was
cutting short the Explorer of the Seas’ jaunt in the Caribbean a
few hours after officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention boarded the ship during its U.S. 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 percent 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 through contaminated food or liquids, contaminated
surfaces, and direct contact with an infected person.
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 U.S. 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.”
It said a full sanitization program would be carried out after
the Explorer of the Seas reached its home port Wednesday.
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 traveling back to the U.S. 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
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
Perhaps they shouldn't hire illegal Cubans, Hondurans and
Haitians to staff the boat.
It's a sanitary thing.