The Royal Caribbean's cruise ship Explorer of the Seas
arrives back at Bayonne, New Jersey. REUTERS/Carlo Allergri
Passengers staggered off a Royal Caribbean ship reeking
of vomit and diarrhoea at its home port after their cruise was
cut short by an apparent stomach bug that felled nearly 700
vacationers and crew.
Cheers erupted from the Explorer of the Seas as the vessel
pulled into Bayonne, New Jersey, in New York Harbor.
Passengers disembarking soon afterward recalled the nightmare
of falling ill during the Caribbean cruise, being quarantined
in their rooms, and putting everything they touched into
"I had three days of sickness and quarantine," recalled Susan
Rogutski of Catawissa, Pennsylvania, who came down with
gastrointestinal symptoms so severe the first day of the trip
that she had to be physically dragged to the sick bay.
Carl Kern of Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, said the ship's
hallways smelled of diarrhoea and vomit.
"Another passenger we became friends with said he went into
the men's room and someone had gotten sick right in the floor
and he stepped in it. It was bad," Kern said.
Altogether, 630 passengers and 54 crew fell ill aboard the
ship that departed Bayonne on January 21, Llelwyn Grant,
spokesman for the US Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, said on Wednesday. Illness struck about 20
percent of the 3,071 passengers and roughly 5 percent of the
1,166 crew aboard the ship, he said.
Its planned 10-day cruise was cut short by two days when it
returned to its home port on Wednesday.
Kern's wife, Fran Kern, was among the unhappy passengers who
said the compensation being offered by Royal Caribbean,
including 50 percent off a next trip, was inadequate.
"We were really disappointed. We've never been to many of
these ports, so to pay all this money and not get to the
ports is very disappointing," she said.
"We aren't cruisers like some people. We should have gotten a
full refund," she said.
Other passengers, including Rogutski and her husband, Leonard
Rogutski, felt Royal Caribbean responded well to the crisis
and said they would take a cruise again someday.
"Though it was a bad situation all around, and it was very
bad, Royal Caribbean bent over backwards to provide
everything we needed," Leonard Rogutski said. "The problem
was it happened so quickly, there were so many cases, they
weren't ready for what happened."
The CDC said Wednesday that the cause of the sickness was
still under investigation and that stool samples collected
from sick passengers were being taken off the ship and rushed
to CDC labs for study.
"We're basically citing this as a gastro infection until we
have the test results," Grant said.
An environmental safety officer and an epidemiologist boarded
the ship in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands on Sunday
to help determine the proper response to the outbreak.
While at sea, the ship's crew stepped up cleaning and
disinfection procedures, the CDC said.
The cruise line said it believes the illnesses are consistent
with norovirus, a highly contagious virus spread from an
infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching
contaminated surfaces, according to the CDC.
Royal Caribbean said it was cooperating with all
investigations and was disinfecting the Explorer of the Seas
from top to bottom.