The updated sick count aboard the Explorer of the
Seas, which cut short its Caribbean cruise and was expected to dock
in New Jersey on Wednesday, is more than double the 300 originally
thought to have been felled by gastrointestinal illness, according
to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Among those sick were some of the onboard entertainers, which caused
shows to be canceled, passengers said.
"I started with upset stomach and vomiting, and that lasted all
night and into the morning," passenger Joseph Angelillo told CNN in
a telephone interview.
Another ill passenger, Arnee Dodd of Connecticut, wrote on Twitter:
"I've been sick and quarantined... Everything I touch goes in a
Passenger Brittany Ann Schneider, who did not get sick, told Reuters
that for two to four days she saw few people.
"I was not aware that people were sick until they made an
announcement after they had canceled a walk they were supposed to
have," she said in an email.
Port calls and activities in Haiti and St. Maarten were canceled.
Sick passengers had to remain in their rooms until they were cleared
to come outside, said Schneider, who is from Effort, Pennsylvania.
Schneider said she felt officials should have returned home at the
height of the outbreak, rather than continuing.
"The refund they are giving us is a little unacceptable," she said.
"They are only refunding half of the trip and giving us a 50 percent
off for (a) future cruise."
Altogether, 595 passengers and 50 crew members fell ill aboard the
ship, CDC spokeswoman Bernadette Burden said. The ship was carrying
3,050 passengers and a crew of 1,165.
The ship departed Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, New Jersey,
on January 21 and will cut its planned 10-day cruise short by two
days, returning to its home port on Wednesday, the cruise company
"Disruptions caused by the early wave of illness means that we were
unable to deliver the vacation our guests were expecting," Royal
Caribbean said in a statement issued on Sunday.
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The CDC said Monday the cause of the sickness was unknown but
that an environmental safety officer and an epidemiologist boarded
the ship on Sunday in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands to
determine the cause of the outbreak and the proper response.
Stool samples were gathered and sent to a CDC lab to determine
what type of pathogen is to blame, Burden said.
"We likely will have a determination or identification of the
pathogen later this week," she said. "Our team will be remaining on
board the duration of the voyage."
The ship's crew increased cleaning and disinfection procedures
and collected specimens from those who reported feeling ill
following the outbreak, the CDC said.
"After consultation between our medical team and representatives of
the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we think the
right thing to do is to bring our guests home early, and use the
extra time to sanitize the ship even more thoroughly," Royal
Caribbean said in the statement.
The cruise line said it believes the illnesses are consistent with
norovirus, a highly contagious virus spread from an infected person,
contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces,
according to the CDC.
(Reporting by Karen Brooks in Austin,
Texas, and Noreen O'Donnell in New York; editing by Barbara
Goldberg, Dan Grebler and Eric Walsh)
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