Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines’ Explorer of the Seas
By Caribbean News Now contributor
ST THOMAS, USVI -- Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Explorer of the Seas, made a scheduled port call in St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands on Saturday and, while in port, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) health officials will evaluate reported symptoms resembling norovirus affecting 281 passengers and 22 crew members.
The vessel, midway through a January 21 - 31, 2014 Caribbean itinerary, is carrying 3,050 passengers and 1,165 crew members.
“During its sailing, Explorer of the Seas has experienced an elevated number of persons with a gastrointestinal illness,” cruise line officials said in a statement. “Those affected by the short-lived illness have responded well to over-the-counter medication being administered on board the ship.”
There’s no known cause of the outbreak and cruise officials stopped the ship in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for an “extensive and thorough sanitizing” regimen known to "kill norovirus," officials said.
“We sincerely apologize for this disruption to our guests’ cruise vacation,” Royal Caribbean officials said.
Response actions will include determining which passengers are free of infection and cleared to disembark, ensuring there is no risk to residents of the US Virgin Islands.
Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty said on Saturday night that “we are grateful for CDC’s quick response and look forward to welcoming those passengers that will disembark on St Thomas Sunday.”
Nicholson-Doty added that officials of the CDC advised the Department of Health of the illness reported on board the vessel and that the ship was being allowed to make its port call on St Thomas on Saturday as scheduled.
“As of now, there is no response required by the Virgin Islands Government; however, as a precaution we have briefed officials in departments and agencies including: VITEMA, Fire Services and the Schneider Regional Medical Center of the situation.”
Norovirus is a fast-moving intestinal bug typically spread by infected people or contaminated food or water. Norovirus is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis in the US, resulting in about 21 million illnesses, between 56,000 and 71,000 hospitalizations and as many as 800 deaths, according to the CDC.