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Royal Caribbean cruise cut short by gastrointestinal illness

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More than 3,000 passengers on the Explorer of the Seas had their cruise cut short when hundreds of passengers and crew members were stricken with a gastrointestinal illness. The Royal Caribbean’s 10-day trip in the Caribbean ended two days early on Sunday.

The ship is headed back to its U.S. port. Guests will be compensated for cruise disruptions caused by the illness, Royal Caribbean announced.

“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,” Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. said in a statement.

Officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention boarded the ship in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, to evaluate the severity of the outbreak. According to the CDC report today, 564 of the 3,050 passengers and 47 crew members aboard the Explorer of the Seas reported being sick. The ship had left Cape Liberty, New Jersey, last Tuesday.

The outbreak is suspected to be fast-spreading norovirus which causes vomiting and diarrhea. Some passengers began complaining of symptoms shortly after the cruise began.

Royal Caribbean officials said they are using special cleaning products and disinfectants to clean the ship before it returns to its American home port on Wednesday. Then the ship will undergo a major sanitization program.

“After returning to home port on Wednesday, Jan. 29, we will perform a thorough “barrier” sanitization program on the entire ship to make certain that any remaining traces of the illness are eliminated. It will be the third aggressive sanitizing procedure the ship has undertaken since we became aware of the issue, and will additionally provide a window of more than 24 hours where there are no persons aboard the ship, which is a significant help," Royal Caribbean said in a statement.

"Guests scheduled for the next cruise on Explorer of the Seas can be confident that all possible measures will have been taken to prevent further problems,” the cruise line said in a news release.

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