Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas cruise ship, which holds onboard more than 8,000 people, left Port Canaveral on Jan. 6 for a weeklong cruise and arrived in Falmouth, Jamaica on Wednesday but was ordered to return to Florida early.
Some 277 passengers and crew were sickened by a norovirus outbreak. “We think the right thing to do is get everyone home early rather than have guests worry about their health,” Cruise line spokesman Owen Torres told to media. The company will also give passengers a full refund.
Unveiled in 2009, Oasis of the Seas, 18-deck-high, 1,186-foot-long and 225,282 tons, is one of the largest cruise ships in the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, norovirus “is a very contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea.” It has a short incubation period. The best ways to prevent the spread of the virus is washing hands often, rinsing fruits and vegetables, cooking shellfish thoroughly, and avoiding the preparation of food when sick. The number of outbreaks of norovirus and other gastrointestinal illnesses on cruise ships has been declining in recent years. Lines also have adopted rigorous cleaning regimes. Norovirus hits about 19 to 21 million Americans each year, according to the CDC.