Royal Caribbean cuts cruise short due to outbreak of gastrointestinal illness

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 January, 2014, 8:48am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 January, 2014, 11:48pm

The Royal Caribbean cruise line has ended a ship's 10-day trip in the Caribbean early after hundreds of passengers and crew members suffered a gastrointestinal illness.

The Miami company made the announcement after officials from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) boarded the Explorer of the Seas during its US Virgin Islands port call to investigate the illness and the response to it.

"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," Royal Caribbean Cruises said.

The decision to end the trip came after consultation between CDC officials and members of the company's medical team, the company said.

The CDC had said earlier that 281, or nearly 10 per cent of the 3,050 passengers aboard the 15-deck ship, reported falling ill during the cruise, which left Cape Liberty, in the US state of New Jersey, on Tuesday. Twenty-two crew members also reported feeling ill, according to a statement from the health agency.

On Sunday evening, the cruise line said that the outbreak of the gastrointestinal illness with vomiting and diarrhoea "spiked over the weekend", but it did not disclose the number of people who fell ill.

Tests would have to confirm what caused the outbreak, but fast-spreading norovirus is often to blame for similar symptoms sweeping closed quarters like those on cruise ships.

Royal Caribbean said special cleaning products and disinfectants proven to kill norovirus were being used to clean the ship before it returned to the US. It said a full sanitisation programme would be carried out after the Explorer of the Seas reached its home port tomorrow.

Janet Diaz, a company spokeswoman, said CDC representatives boarded the liner during the afternoon when it docked in St Thomas, the main island of the US Virgin Islands. During the previous port call in Puerto Rico, the ship underwent "extensive and thorough sanitising" to help prevent more people falling ill, she said.

Passengers and crew who fell ill had "responded well to over-the-counter medication being administered on board the ship", Diaz said.