Explorer of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean cruise liner, is returning two days early to its New Jersey point of departure, due to the gastrointestinal illness of 600+ of the more than 4,000 people aboard. USA Today reports the story on Monday, Jan. 27. The ship’s managers made the decision to return to Cape Liberty, N.J. after health inspectors from the U.S. boarded the ship in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
As of publication, 577 of the 3,050 passengers and 49 of the ship’s 1000+ employees were reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be ill. Reports of the illness began early in the cruise, which left port on Jan. 21.
The illness is suspected to be a norovirus, a gastrointestinal illness known to spread easily among large groups of people, contained in closed quarters, such as dormitories, nursing homes and cruise ships. It spreads through water and/or food, and it may have been brought on board by a passenger. A new strain originating in Australia has recently been reported.
January is the peak month for the virus, which is usually seasonal, from November to March. Norovirus comes on suddenly, and it normally lasts one to three days. Victims usually recover without medical treatment, but some patients require intravenous fluids.
Such an outbreak on cruise ship can certainly ruin a vacation. Royal Caribbean is taking all the proper disinfection steps to make sure future passengers are protected from a similar disaster.