Nightmare at Sea: Norovirus Outbreak Sickens 277 Passengers and Crew on Royal Caribbean Cruise

Shortly after departing, passengers began to experience symptoms similar to food poisoning

Photo: RobertsGalleries/Getty

A dream vacation has turned into a travel nightmare for the guests on one Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

The ship has been struck by an outbreak of norovirus that has left 277 passengers and crew members gravely ill, Royal Caribbean confirms to PEOPLE. It’s now returning to port after, cutting its 7-day journey short.

“Oasis of the Seas will return to Port Canaveral a day early after an episode of gastrointestinal illness,” a representative for the company said.

The boat departed from Florida on January 6, with an itinerary that included several stops in the Caribbean and Mexico, but shortly after departing, people began to experience symptoms similar to food poisoning, including vomiting.

The Oasis made it’s first scheduled stop in Haiti for a buffet lunch, but when it arrived for its second, in Jamaica, crew members did not allow passengers to disembark.


One passenger, Abby Perrin, told ABC that she and her mother began experiencing symptoms after the lunch.

The boat started heading towards its next destination, Cozumel, Mexico, but a decision was made en route to turn back to Port Canaveral after more passengers began to fall ill. Royal Caribbean confirms that 3.3% of the ship’s passengers were affected.

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“It was pretty upsetting that we weren’t able to get into Jamaica at all,” Perrin said. “Then we were supposed to be in Mexico tomorrow, which we were really excited about, and it turns out we’re going back to Florida instead.”

We think the right thing to do is to get everyone home early rather than have guests worry about their health,” the Royal Caribbean representative said. “Returning on Saturday also gives us more time to completely clean and sanitize the ship before her next sailing. Our guests sail with us to have great vacations, and we are sorry this cruise fell short.”

All of the ship’s guests will receive full refunds.

Norovirus outbreaks are not all that uncommon on land and at sea. The virus causes vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain. It causes inflammation of the stomach or intestines or both, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Because the bug is extremely contagious, it can spread easily in places like schools, daycare centers, nursing homes and cruise ships.

You can become infected through contact with stool or vomit of infected people. This can happen through eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated, touching surfaces or objects containing with the virus, or having contact with someone who is infected.

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