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Caribbean Princess cruise cut short amid reports of stomach bug

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Another cruise was cut short this week with reports of gastro intestinal illness on board when passengers left the Caribbean Princess early on Friday morning.

The Princess Cruise ship returned to Houston a day early after at least 175 people on board became ill during the cruise. Princess Cruise official said that fog was the primary reason for the early return.

“We were informed that dense fog is expected to close the port for much of the weekend, and we are mindful of our passengers' safety and comfort, as well as the disruption the port's closing will have on their onward travel plans,” said a Princess Cruise statement released on Friday.

However, the news release added that “Simultaneously, onboard the current sailing, Caribbean Princess has experienced an increase in the number of cases of gastroenteritis among passengers, which has been confirmed to be norovirus, a common but contagious illness which is widely circulating throughout North America. Because of the increased sensitivity surrounding norovirus by both cruise lines and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in this winter season, we notified the CDC who will be boarding on Friday to ensure all appropriate measures are followed for an extensive sanitation of the ship prior to the next cruise departing February 1.”

Five passengers were reported to have active symptoms of norovirus, and “over the course of the cruise 165 passengers reported ill to the medical center,” the news release said.

A total of 3, 104 passengers and 1, 149 crew members were on board the Caribbean cruise.

Passengers with scheduled air flights from Houston will be accommodated overnight at local hotels by Princess and will receive a future cruise credit of 20 percent of their fare, as well as one day per diem to help offset any ancillary expenses such as meals, Princess officials said.

The abrupt ending to the Caribbean Princess cruise follows an outbreak of illness on the Royal Caribbean ship Explorer of the Seas, which returned early to New Jersey on Wednesday after nearly 700 people were sickened.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, norovirus is a fast-moving stomach bug common to confined places such as cruise ships and nursing homes. Infected people or contaminated food and water commonly spread the virus. The virus spreads very easily by lingering on surfaces. Thorough environmental cleaning and sanitary practices such as hand washing with hot water and soap can help stop the spread.

The American Association of Port Authorities reports that about 20 million passengers take cruises in America each year for the $37.8 billion annual industry. In 2013, there were nine gastro intestinal outbreaks and 16 in 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

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