Princess Cruises ship returns to Port Everglades after norovirus outbreak

PORT EVERGLADES, FLA. (WSVN) - A cruise ship was forced to return to Port Everglades after several hundred passengers became sick.

7SkyForce HD flew above the port after Princess Cruises’ Caribbean Princess ship docked Thursday morning.

7News cameras later captured one of the passengers giving a thumbs up shortly after disembarking the vessel.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, at least 299 passengers and 22 crew members were infected with the norovirus.

“It just felt terrible. It lasted for a day or two, and it was gone,” said passenger Frank Parker.

Emergency crews could be seen on standby as the ship docked.

Passengers told 7News those who complained about having norovirus symptoms, including stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhea, were immediately quarantined to their cabins.

“They said on the news that there were 300 people, but I believe there were a few more than that,” said passenger Jeanne Parker.

“They were washing everything. You couldn’t even go into a restaurant without washing your hands and using sanitizer,” said passenger Cathy Shellhouse. “They were being so careful.”

The Caribbean Princess left Port Everglades on Feb. 2 for a 14-day cruise.

“On the second day, they said that they had the virus on board,” said passenger Bill Carroll. “Then it kept getting worse.”

The victims received medical assistance on board the ship.

Norovirus is a highly contagious stomach bug that affects around 19 million to 21 million Americans each year, according to the CDC.

The cruise had a full itinerary. However, once the islands learned of the sick ship, they denied entry.

“The first one was St. Kitts. St. Kitts refused us entry,” said passenger Richard Hayter, “so no disembarkation, so they kept going. The next one was going to be Barbados.”

Barbados said no as well. The vessel was also turned away from docking at Trinidad and Tobago.

In a press release, Trinidad and Tobago’s Ministry of Health said, due to the significant outbreak of gastroenteritis on the ship, it was denying it entry.

The Caribbean Princess returned to Port Everglades four days ahead of schedule.

“You know, it was disappointing that I didn’t get to go to all the islands we were going to go to,” said Jeanne Parker.

“I think it was prudent, actually,” said Hayter. “I don’t know how these islands are equipped with medical facilities, and you don’t want that in their population. Their tourism is their life blood, and you can’t do anything to disturb that.”

The ship’s 14-day itinerary was cut short due to the outbreak. It was scheduled to dock at Port Everglades on Sunday.

Crews are currently working to sanitize the ship. 7News cameras also captured crews disinfecting the buses passengers boarded.

Passenger Mary Anderson, however, chose to focus on the positive aspects of her sea voyage.

“It was a really a good trip. It was like being on a transatlantic with all the sea days,” she said. “The music was playing, people were sitting around the pool, they were bringing us things to drink and eat. Life was good. We didn’t get sick.”

Passengers who were on board the Caribbean Princess will receive a 50% refund from their booked trip and a 50% credit toward a future cruise.

The cruise ship is expected to be cleaned and ready for its next voyage on Sunday.

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