Passengers on the Anthem of the Seas are stating that as of Monday, as the cruise ship continued to head back to New Jersey for deep cleaning, the captain informed them that 109 passengers are sick with norovirus.
Other passengers also tell me that there are more than this sick, but they don't want to go to the medical facility.
According to the CDC, cruise lines are required to provide notification to the federal agency when the gastrointestinal illness (GI) count exceeds 2% of the total number of passengers or crew onboard. The CDC-required notification is for totals for the entire voyage.
There are between 4,180 passengers (double occupancy) and 4,905 passengers (maximum occupancy) on the cruise ship so 2% turns out to be between 83 and 98 passengers. So expect the CDC to officially announce that the Anthem to be the fourth U.S. based cruise ship with an norovirus outbreak this year.
The much ballyhooed "severe storm" that supposedly caused Royal Caribbean to cancel two days of the cruise is nowhere to be seen, as passengers report good weather and calm cruising.
Royal Caribbean, which didn't mention the topic of norovirus until passengers went to Twitter complaining of the virus outbreak, denied on Twitter that the outbreak was the reason behind returning to port in New Jersey early. But many news sources blended norovirus into the story after an executive with the Associated Press aboard the cruise ship said that the ship’s captain and its cruise director made announcements about norovirus sickening people on the ship.
The AP executive was also quoted saying that the cruise ship "workers are scurrying around like ants, scrubbing down handrails, tables and any other surfaces that can be washed" - an apt although somewhat derogatory description. This is hardly what the cruise line wants the passengers to think about on a cruise marketed as a relaxing pleasure cruise.
Whoever you believe, whether the Anthem of the Seas is returning to avoid the so-called storm or because of a virus outbreak, there is no doubt that the Anthem's reputation is being mauled in the court of public opinion. New York Magazine called her the "bad luck cruise ship." CNN calls her the seemingly perpetually "storm battered" cruise ship. Some people on Twitter are asking "Anthem of the Seas: Cursèd ship of doom, or just a run of bad luck?"
Of course, any mention of the Anthem today is accompanied by photos and video of the raucous cruise earlier this month which reminds everyone of the fact that the ill-fated ship sailed into the violent storm.
The "cursed" cruise ship theme was blasted in the headlines of the popular U.K. tabloid newspaper the Daily Mail which asked "Is the Anthem of the Seas Cursed?" The Inquisitr, Newsmax, and the Examiner, among others, all joined the Daily Mail in labeling the Anthem "cursed" in their news articles.
So the overworked crew members continue to spray and scrub everything in sight. Photos sent to me from the ship show the crew members wiping all rails and counters (photo top) and wrapping a rack of cookies-(photo bottom) with a Saran-Wrap like film, apparently to keep the surfaces and food clean. (I have never seen this before).
Regarding the crew members who had to deal with storm-frazzled passengers three weeks ago, and are now pressed into non-stop noro-eradication measures, I'm sure that they feel that the Anthem of the Seas may indeed be cursed.
March 1, 2016 Update 5:00 PM: The CDC disease data-base just listed the Anthem of the Seas. It lists "unknown" rather than norovirus so we may find out that there is some other source of infection like e-coli or something more exotic. 125 passengers and 16 crew members are infected at this point. The CDC recommends sending 10 more crew members and 10 contract cleaners to the ship as well as 4 Hotel and Housekeeping Operations Managers, 3 Public Health staff, one nurse from the cruise line corporate office.
A newspaper in New Jersey published a story that quotes a passenger on the cruise ship saying that the CDC came on the ship in Puerto Rick and tested for e-coli.