Royal Caribbean International cruise line announced they were calling a halt to the Explorer of the Seas scheduled 10-day cruise two-days early, arriving in New Jersey on Wednesday, in order to allow for more cleaning of the ship. The cruise line has been besieged with problems that never seem to end and now faces the problem of sick passengers being quarantined.
Officials at Royal Caribbean had canceled a scheduled stop on Friday in Labadee, Haiti, in order to head straight into San Juan, Puerto Rico. While docked, the ship was given a complete cleaning.
On Sunday, U.S. health officials including, an epidemiologist, an environmental health officer and CDC representatives boarded the Royal Caribbean cruise ship struck down by what is expected to be norovirus. The ship was forced to dock in the U.S. Virgin Islands of Kingston, Jamaica. Officials have been sent to investigate the outbreak of nausea, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms.
The U.S. CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) has reported nearly 10 percent, or 281 people, of the 3,050 passengers on board the Royal Caribbean International’s Explorer of the Seas reported feeling ill during the Caribbean cruise, which departed from Cape Liberty, N.J. last Tuesday. Twenty-two of the crewmembers also reported gastrointestinal symptoms.
Royan Caribbean Cruises Ltd. spokeswoman, Janet Diaz reported CDC officers boarded the massive, 15-deck Explorer of the Seas when it docked in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.
Although two officials from the Center for Disease Control were expected to do a thorough investigation as to the cause of the outbreak of what is suspected to be norovirus, the U.S. health agency has failed to respond to emails asking for a comment about the conditions of ship or the work being done on-board.
While docked in Puerto Rico, the Explorer of the Seas previous port, the ship was treated to a thorough and extensive sanitizing to minimize the chance of any more people falling ill, according to a company spokesperson. While the cruise line has gone above and beyond for the sick and quarantined passengers, the problems never seem to end.
In reference to the schedule change to bypass Haiti and go right into Puerto Rico, Diaz stated, while the decision to alter the schedule was a difficult one to make, the company felt it was for the best to modify the itinerary to help avoid any more passengers from falling ill.
The crewmembers and passengers who were ill have been given over the counter medications that were administered on the ship and have responded well, according to Diaz.
Norovirus is a fast-spreading sickness affecting thousands of people every year. It is often the culprit in suspected food poisoning cases and stomach flu complaints. Norovirus can spread like wildfire, especially in the close confines of a ship filled with thousands of passengers. While norovirus is suspected, the final determination will have to wait until samples are taken and tested in a lab.
According to Diaz, the ship is being cleaned with specialized chemicals proven to kill norovirus.
Beverly Nicholson-Doty, the U.S. Virgin Islands’ Tourism Commissioner, reported on Sunday, the Virgin Islands was grateful for the quick response by the CDC and St. Thomas was prepared to welcome the disembarking passengers.
On Friday, Arnee Dodd, passenger on the Explorer of the Sea, tweeted that she was ill on the ship and had been quarantined with other sick passengers. The woman stated that crewmembers put a lock down on the food and were cleaning everything constantly. It is unclear if passengers are still being quarantined on Sunday. Royal Caribbean, known for its luxury cruises is facing never ending problems.
By Deborah Baran