A Royal Mess: Sick Count Increases to Over 600, Cruise Ends Early

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that over 600 people have been sickened by the gastrointestinal illness outbreak on the Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas, CNN reports.

The Royal Caribbean cruise ship left Cape Liberty, New Jersey on January 21, 2014 for a 10 day cruise through the Caribbean. The ship missed a stop at its private stop in Labadee Haiti after the outbreak. It sailed to San Juan to be cleaned. 

The CDC initially stated that over 300 people (281 passengers and 22 crew members) were ill. (Its official report is here with the new statistics). However, over the weekend we began to hear reports from passengers that the number Royal Caribbean Cruise Explorer of the Seas Norovirusof people suffering from nausea and diarrhea had increased to to over 450 and, now, to over 600. 

CNN quotes a spokeswoman with the CDC that more than 600 people on the ship have become ill, reporting vomiting and diarrhea. The CDC spokeswoman said 564 passengers and 47 crew members reported being ill.

Royal Caribbean is ending the cruise two days early. The cruise line will "use the extra time to sanitize the ship even more thoroughly." 

We have been contacted by guests on this ill fated cruise as well passengers from the prior cruise who became ill. 

Passengers who contacted Royal Caribbean say that the cruise line is not considering refunds of any type.

We previously reported on the incident in our article: Puke Fest Aboard Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas.

There has been no official word from the CDC whether this is in fact norovirus, although the symptoms are consistent with the virus. The cruise lines invariably blame the passengers, but the CDC has never in my experience ever pin-pointed the exact source of an outbreak like this.

NBC News raises the issue whether the outbreak on the Explorer is linked to a nasty new type of norovirus known as the GII 4 Sydney strain which caused an outbreak on the Queen Mary 2.

Join our discussion on Facebook about why norovirus outbreaks occur on cruise ships

 

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Comments (12) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
John Goldsmith - January 27, 2014 10:32 AM

Maybe now, after a thorough cleaning, the ship will be better.
As for refunds, the optics of full refunds will go a long way to help RCCL save a bit of face.
Hope some of the cruisers had insurance.

Jim Walker - January 27, 2014 11:29 AM

Peter: The cruise line supposedly is “taking several steps” to compensate passengers for the shortened trip? Sure sounds like no refunds to me. Jim Walker

River - January 27, 2014 12:11 PM

Am I correct in my understanding it was a 10 day cruise and it went straight to St. Thomas and now straight back to Bayonne? Missing every place in between? I would be very upset if I paid for a 10 day cruise and the only stop was St. Thomas, and it was cut short, plus outbreak, shows/entertainment cut or eliminated, the whole experience ruined. I would want my money refunded.

Jim Walker - January 27, 2014 12:15 PM

I understand that the Explorer by-passed Royal Caribbean's private resort in Labadee and sailed to San Juan for extra cleaning and to take on additional medical personnel, then to St. Thomas USVI, and missed St. Maarten

Sonya - January 27, 2014 12:42 PM

I am very interested in what RCCL is going to do for cleaning & sanitizing the ship & what they are going to do for "compensating " the passengers. I also hope the CDC releases what the illness is/was. We are supposed to cruise on Jan 31/14 on Liberty & I just want to know what it is so that we can take extra precautions & we don't get sick from it either. I agree with River, I would want my money refunded ! Jim, does the CDC have to release what the virus or bacteria is/was?

Sonya - January 27, 2014 12:50 PM

Sorry, I meant that we are cruising on the Explorer, I think I said the Liberty. oops

Andy Gord - January 28, 2014 10:11 AM

What puzzles me about these incidents is that the reported percentage of ill passengers vs. crew is so different, in this case about 20% vs 4%. Why wouldn't the crew illnesses be similar to the passengers?

Ian Watterson - January 28, 2014 12:35 PM

It is my experience that the illness is generally brought onboard the vessel by passengers who are unwilling to lose their cruise due to a little bit of a bad tummy, therefore not notifying anybody at the various stages of the check-in process. The reality is that there are probably 100 with genuine severe illness and many of the remainder will be looking for refunds or compensation. The reality with crew is in all probability very similar. Whilst I'm sure some will be genuinely ill others will take the opportunity for a rest during a 6,8 or 10 month contract.
To answer the question put by Andy Gord. Crew are acutely aware of the risks involved with any kind of GI outbreak and are constantly told that more than 3 poo's and they must report it with constant handwashing and sterilising, even when moving around crew areas.Passengers on the other hand are blissfully unaware of the consequences of entering a relatively confined environment with any GI symptons.
Just my opinion.......

Alina Cristina Rusu - January 28, 2014 1:18 PM

Andy Gord - the crew washes their hands more often!!!

labadee - January 28, 2014 3:23 PM

Probably because most of the crew wears gloves Andy. Just a guess though. Then again, the crew could have this virus and cannot afford to miss a few days of work if quarantined. That could very well be the problem also.

Robyn - January 28, 2014 11:24 PM

As a former crew member on this class of ship for RCCL, I can let you in on a few candid thoughts.

The crew are sooooo fearful of this type of outbreak, we sanitize like our job depends on it...because it does. If one of us gets sick, we can't do our job (it's hard to hide GI). Many work on commission so I'm being literal with making no money if we are sick. Also, if it gets to a certain point (and believe me, a "code red" is not very many people) crew are pulled from their jobs to do cleaning and serving duties. You'll see dancers serving you at the buffet, spa girls carrying around buckets of cleaner wiping down every surface possible, and high-ranking officers standing at the hand sanitizer like a nazi as if they have nothing better to do.

Sanitizing is done literally every 15 minutes if there is a bad outbreak. Not being able to stop at a port doesn't just effect guests, it may be our one day off in two weeks and we planned on going to the local cafe to skype with our family. No one gets a day off when it's like this, we are all covering for those who are ill and it is NOT good to fake it. To put more work on your fellow crew members is shameful and we are quarantined to our cabins (and so is your now-resentful roommate in case they have been contaminated) and brought broth and crackers (if you can keep it down), it's no picnic, believe me.

Why so few crew? Well, there are many more guests that crew for one, but also...I'm sorry, some people are just really gross. On some ships you cannot even serve yourself at the buffet for the first 48 hours so they can have a greater chance of knowing a GI outbreak was not form there. Incubation time is fairly quick so an outbreak within 48 hours they can guess it may have come from outside the ship. Then at the ports, think about where you are, you think that street vendor washed his hands before making you that all-fruit smoothie? Don't get me wrong, explore, experience, don't fear everything...but just know you may be getting a cleanse along with the authentic tacos. Many speculate buffets are the worst place because of people going to the bathroom and then using the tongs and then the next person using the tongs and then...well you get it. It's gross. The crew get it, we are a bit more aware of the ramifications.

I'd like to mention just how often the WHOLE ENTIRE ship is sanitized from top to bottom. It is cleaned CONSTANTLY and then of course at the end of each week, we close the areas one by one and strip it all down and wipe down literally every surface possible with a very strong cleaning and sanitizing product (it changed since I left so I don't have the name of it but we all wear gloved if are going to use it). When people come on the next day, it's cleaner than any restaurant you've probably ever eaten at, any hotel you've ever stayed at, any spa you've ever been touched at.

Unfortunately, no matter how hard we work or how much we clean, it only takes one Typhoid Mary to think they don't need to wash their hands in the bathroom....and then you have this happen.

Adina Carolina - January 29, 2014 6:52 AM

It can't be from the crew because the brain wash of the crew is :wash hands,wash hands wich automatic aplys like a robot!

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