FT. LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – The first of 2 Princess Cruise Line ships with a large group of passengers suffering from Norovirus arrived Saturday morning at Port Everglades following a week-long cruise to the Caribbean. A second infected ship is due Sunday.
The common gastro-intestinal illness struck two Princess Cruise Lines ships: the Ruby Princess and the Crown Princess, both currently home-ported at Port Everglades, and the cruise line sent warnings to passengers leaving Saturday and Sunday that the outbreak will briefly delay their trips so the ships can get a stem-to-stern cleaning and disinfection.
The Crown Princess returned early Saturday morning from a 7-day cruise to the Southern Caribbean docked at Port Everglades. As passengers scheduled to depart Saturday arrived, they were given letters explaaing the illness aboard, what was being done to clean the ship, and telling them the departure would be delayed.
Passengers were taken to the Broward Convention Center to await boarding. They were asked to complete documents asking if they had any symptoms of a cold of gastrointestinal illness. Standard practice is for passengers who admit to symptoms to be given a medical exam, and possibly be denied boarding, in an effort to control
The Ruby Princess is returning from a 7-day cruise to the Eastern Caribbean, and is scheduled to dock Sunday morning.
The cruise line sent an “emergency notification” to those passengers who are set to embark on those ships this weekend. saying their departure would be delayed by a Norovirus attack.
“It will be necessary for the ship to undergo a prolonged and additional disinfection in Port Everglades on Sunday,” the line said in it’s message to passengers of the Ruby Princess, a copy of which was supplied to cbsmiami.com.
Aboard Crown Princess, a total of 140 passengers (4.51% of 3,103) and 18 crew (1.54% of 1,168) were affected by the illness.
A total of 81 passengers (2.59% of 3,133) and nine crew (0.76% of 1,186) have been affected by the illness aboard Ruby Princess, according to Karen Candy, Manager of Media Relations for Princess, in an e-mailed statement Friday afternoon. However, even though standard practice is to quarantine passengers believed to have the disease, it spreads rapidly, and it’s possible those numbers could change by the time the Ruby Princess arrives Sunday.
“The ship continues to undergo the highest level of sanitation to stop the spread of illness, and a comprehensive disinfection of the ship’s public areas and all passenger cabins will occur during turnaround this Sunday using additional cleaning crew who will be brought aboard. As a result, passenger embarkation will be delayed until 2 p.m.”
Passengers of the Crown Princess said they saw crewmembers paying extra attention to cleaning while they were aboard.
Cruise ships have struggled with containing the threat of the norovirus, which is common in the general population but which spreads more easily among large groups in concentrated areas, like found in a cruise ship.
The disease is passed by contact with infected people, items they touch, such as food in buffets, and human waste. Most cruise lines have hand sanitizer stations aboard, and regularly urge passengers to use them.
However, it’s easy for the disease to spread even in clean environments.
The line, which is owned by Doral-based Carnival Cruise Lines, said it would delay boarding passengers, and move the embarkation process from the port to the nearby Broward Convention Center.