Explorer of the Seas left January 21 from Cape Liberty, New Jersey, for a 10-day trip to the Caribbean. When hundreds of passengers began to fall ill the cruise line thought it best to return to the states early as to discourage spreading of the clearly contagious illness.
Passengers have expressed symptoms consistent with Norovirus, which is known to spread quickly and produce vomiting and diarrhea. Norovirus is the common cause of gastroenteritis.
"New reports of illness have decreased day-over-day, and many guests are 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 cruise line said in a statement.
"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," the company said.
According to Bernadette Burden, a spokeswoman with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 577 of the 3,050 passengers and 49 of 1,165 crew members reported being ill.
The number of passengers infected is still growing as reports of symptoms are reported.