Bug-Stricken Cruise Ship Returns Home

The Royal Caribbean cruise was cut short when passengers reported diarrhea and vomiting

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Thomas Layer / AP

The Royal Caribbean International's Explorer of the Seas is docked at Charlotte Amalie Harbor in St. Thomas, U. S. Virgin Islands, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014

A cruise ship carrying hundreds of passengers and crew members who fell ill during their trip returned to port in Cape Liberty, N.J. on Wednesday. Medical officials recommended that those still showing symptoms seek medical attention before going home.

Health inspectors suspect that the “norovirus” was the culprit for the flu-like symptoms that swept the Royal Caribbean ship, but lab results are not expected until later this week. The latest update from the CDC estimates that 630 passengers and 54 crew members on board fell ill on the Explorers of the Sea cruise.

The ship’s 10-day voyage had to be cut short after the outbreak of sickness. If the norovirus is to blame, this would be one of the largest outbreaks of the stomach bug in the last 20 years. A 2006 outbreak on a Carnival Cruise Lines ship also sickened close to 700 people.

CDC investigators boarded the ship in the U.S. Virgin Islands after hundreds of passengers reported bouts of vomiting and diarrhea but could find no single food or water source or other origin for the sickness. The cruise line said most guests who fell ill were well enough to be out of bed by the time they reached port.