More than 600 passengers and crew members have fallen ill with gastrointestinal symptoms on a Royal Caribbean cruise, forcing an early end to the trip.
The ship, the Explorer of the Seas, cut short its Caribbean cruise and is expected to dock in New Jersey on Wednesday, Reuters reports. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) originally thought about 300 aboard the ship had been taken ill with vomiting and diarrhea, but the number continued to rise. Some onboard entertainers are among those taken ill, and shows have been canceled, passengers said.
Before the cruise was shortened and the ship headed back to New Jersey, port calls and activities in Haiti and St. Maarten were canceled, according to Reuters. Sick passengers were instructed to remain in their rooms until they were cleared to go outside. The ship was carrying 3,050 passengers and a crew of 1,165 when it departed Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, New Jersey, on January 21 for a 10-day cruise. The ship will return to port on January 29, two days earlier than scheduled. Brittany Ann Schneider, a passenger who did not get sick, told Reuters, she thought the ship should have turned around sooner, at the height of the outbreak, rather than continuing on.
The CDC said the cause of the illness is not yet known. An environmental safety officer and an epidemiologist boarded the ship on Sunday in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands to determine the cause of the illness and ensure proper response, Reuters reports. Stool samples were sent to a CDC lab for testing to determine the pathogen responsible. Findings are expected later this week, CDC spokesperson Bernadette Burden said. The ship’s crew has increased cleaning and disinfection since the start of the outbreak and the entire ship will be sanitized when it reaches home port and passengers have disembarked, Royal Caribbean said.