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Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas, known for being one of the largest cruise ships in the world, will be returning to Port Canaveral a day early after an outbreak of Norovirus affected more than 200 guests and crew members aboard. 

The gastrointestinal illness was first reported on Sunday, Jan. 5. The seven-night cruise has since docked at Falmouth port on the northern side of Jamaica, where it had a planned excursion. Unfortunately, guests aboard the cruise were not permitted to leave the ship for hours after docking due to the intensity of the outbreak.

Norovirus is a gastrointestinal illness that can cause stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. It’s notorious for occurring on cruise ships, however, this is a misconception due to the illness’ highly contagious nature.

The outbreak on Oasis of the Seas was the first widespread Norovirus outbreak on a cruise ship of 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Last year, 11 widespread Norovirus outbreaks were recorded on cruise ships by CDC.

Whether there was a quarantine aboard the cruise ship is currently unclear. However, Owen Torres, a spokesperson for Royal Caribbean, told USA Today, “Those affected by the short-lived illness are being treated by our ship’s medical team with over-the-counter medication. Meanwhile, we are bringing additional medical staff on board and we’re engaging in intensive sanitary procedures to minimize the risk of any further issues.”

Since reports on Wednesday, the number of infected passengers and crew has increased from 167 to 277 — affecting about 3.3% of the people aboard the ship. In an email to TPG, Torres confirmed that all of the passengers aboard the Oasis will receive full refunds of their cruise fare. As for returning to Port Canaveral early, Royal Caribbean believes that it the best thing to do for the guests.

“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,” said Torres. “Our guests sail with us to have great vacations, and we are sorry this cruise fell short.”

Featured image courtesy of Royal Caribbean.

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