Passengers on a third cruise ship have been stricken with a nasty outbreak of the suspected norovirus stomach bug, federal health officials said.
The Crown Princess is returning to port early after more than 100 passengers and dozens of crew members reported coming down with the gastrointestinal illness, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
Princess Cruises said the outbreak means the ship will return to port in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday, two days early, for an extensive two-day cleaning.
"We sincerely regret having to cut short our passengers' cruise vacations because of this highly unusual situation,” Princess Cruises said in a statement. “We will, of course, be refunding their cruise fare, arranging flights home, including covering change fees if air was not booked through Princess, providing hotel accommodation if necessary, and offering a 25 percent future cruise credit."
The CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program is investigating, according to the agency’s website. Last week, CDC officials boarded the same cruise ship to investigate a similar outbreak that sickened 364 of the vessel’s 3,103 passengers and more than 30 crew members, according to information posted on the CDC website. The ship was cleared to sail after an extensive cleanup and disinfection effort.
Norovirus is spread from person to person through contaminated food or water or by touching tainted surfaces. It causes diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pain. Careful handwashing with soap and water is key to prevention. Contaminated surfaces must be cleaned and disinfected to prevent continued spread of the disease.
A second Princess cruise ship, the Ruby Princess, also experienced a recent outbreak of norovirus. More than 100 cases of illness were reported during a sailing that returned to port over the weekend.
Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Sea left New Orleans a couple of hours late Saturday because of the same illness.
CDC officials get involved in outbreaks when 3 percent or more of passengers or crew on a cruise ship report symptoms of the disease to the ship's medical staff during the trip.