Royal Caribbean Ship Returning Home Early After Illness Outbreak

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Above: the Explorer of the Seas

By the Caribbean Journal staff

Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas will return home two days early from its 10-day Caribbean cruise, the company said on Sunday.

The ship, which was carrying several hundred passengers with an unknown illness, called on St Thomas on Saturday.

It was evaluated by officials from the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the CDC, 281 passengers and 22 crew members aboard the Explorer of the Seas ship have reported symptoms that resemble norovirus, although those totals were believed to be higher.

The vessel was carrying 3,050 passengers and 1,165 crew members.

A statement from the office of Governor John de Jongh said CDC officials were to evaluate the outbreak and “devise response activities.”

In a statement on Saturday night, US Virgin Islands Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty said the USVI was “grateful for CDC’s quick response and look forward to welcoming those passengers that will disembark on St. Thomas Sunday.”

The company said reports of illness had “decreased day-over-day,” and that many guests were “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,” the company said. “After consultation between our medical team and representatives of the US 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.”

The ship will return to port on Jan. 29; it will then undergo a series of “barrier” sanitization programmes on the ship to “make certain that any remaining traces of the illness are eliminated,” the third procedure the company said it had undertaken since it became aware of the issue.

Royal Caribbean said its doctors said the symptoms were consistent with that of norovirus, but that they were “awaiting the results of tests to confirm that diagnosis.”

“In the end, however, the number of cases was still higher than any of us want to see,” the company said. “We will be cooperating with authorities and conducting our own internal assessments to make sure we are doing all we can to promote the health and safety of our guests and crew.
The ship will be returning to New Jersey.