If left unchecked, cruise ships can become perfect breeding grounds for germs and viruses—thousands of people are packed together in warm, humid conditions, often eating and drinking from communal serving trays and swimming in the same pools. Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas, one of the largest cruises in the world, is experiencing this first hand as a norovirus outbreak forces the excursion to end early.
The cruise, which departed from Port Canaveral on Sunday, January 6, was carrying 6,780 passengers. By Thursday the tenth, 277 passengers and crew members had been diagnosed with the virus. In response to the outbreak, Royal Caribbean decided to bring the ship back into port on Saturday, January 12, a day ahead of schedule.
Rob Zeiger, chief communications manager for Royal Caribbean, issued a statement saying:
"We think the right thing to do is to get everyone home early rather than have guests worry about their health. Returning on Saturday also gives us more time to completely clean and sanitize the ship before her next sailing."
On Tuesday, January 8, passengers were barred from disembarking in Jamaica due to the outbreak, causing many complaints on social media:
The CDC describes norovirus as "a contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea. People contract norovirus when they come into contact with contaminated food, surfaces, or other people who have it."
Royal Caribbean is giving a full refund to all passengers aboard to the cruise, but that hasn't stopped some of them from taking to social media to show what's happening onboard:
Twitter users were certainly glad they weren't aboard the sick cruise!
Now begins the cleaning process to ensure the Oasis will be germ-free in time for its next trip! Outbreaks of this size are relatively rare and most passengers can cruise comforted by that knowledge.