The 3,104 passenger vessel reported over 180 individuals had fallen ill with a gastrointestinal illness that the cruise line suspected was norovirus, a highly contagious infection that causes severe vomiting and diarrhea. Imagine being stuck in the middle of the ocean on a boat with a stomach virus. The motion, the close living quarters surrounded by strangers — not a good look.
Princess Cruises’ Houston-based Caribbean Princess arrived back in the city late Thursday, more than 24 hours ahead of its scheduled time. The Princess Cruise officials said in a statement Thursday that the trip was cut short by one day because of fog. The statement also revealed that dozens of passengers had been treated at the ship’s medical center for symptoms consistent with norovirus.
“Caribbean Princess has experienced an increase in the number of cases of gastroenteritis among passengers, which has been confirmed to be norovirus,” the statement said. “Because of the increased sensitivity surrounding norovirus by both cruise lines and the (CDC) in this winter season, we notified the CDC …to ensure all appropriate measures are followed for an extensive sanitation of the ship prior to the next cruise departing February 1.”
The incident comes just a few days after a massive outbreak of a norovirus-like illness forced an early end to a sailing of Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas. The ship returned to its home port of Bayonne, N.J. on Wednesday, two days ahead of schedule, after more than 600 of 3,071 passengers and staff fell ill while out to sea.
Another Royal Caribbean cruise ship, Majesty of the Seas, returned to its Miami dock with 66 passengers and two crew members after they fell ill with what is believed to be a food-borne stomach virus that caused many to experience vomiting and diarrhea on January 19.
Norovirus is a very contagious virus,” according the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website. “You can get norovirus from an infected person, contaminated food or water or by touching contaminated surfaces.” It is a very uncomfortable gastrointestinal illness with symptoms including nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration.
In 2013, there were nine reported incidents, seven of which were caused by norovirus, the Houston Chronicle reported. The Caribbean Princess outbreak is the third on a U.S.-based cruise ship this year, according to the CDC’s vessel sanitation program.