After a miserable eight days at sea, the Explorer of the Seas, a large cruise ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet that was filled with sick passengers, has finally returned to port in Bayonne, New Jersey. Thanks to what is believed to be an outbreak of norovirus, which can spread extremely quickly, the Explorer of the Seas cut short its 10-day cruise by two days to return home today. Both healthy and sick passengers alike are no doubt relieved to finally be off the ship, which over the last several days was essentially a floating hospital ward straight out of Albert Camus’ The Plague.
How bad was the outbreak of illness on board the Royal Caribbean ship? Really bad. The Explorer of the Seas, in fact, set a record for the most sick passengers on board a cruise ship in last 20 years, according to the Center of Disease Control. There were 3,071 passengers and 1,165 crew members on board the ship, and at least 629 passengers and 54 workers fell ill. In other words, over 20 percent of the passengers on board the ship (and about 16 percent of all people on the vessel) caught the virus that causes diarrhea and vomiting. This most recent voyage of the Explorer of the Seas will be a cruise to remember for all the wrong reasons.
Not surprisingly, the scene on board the ship wasn’t pretty. One passenger told CNN that she witnessed a fellow passenger vomit into her napkin during dinner, and that several passengers were walking around in pajamas stained with vomit and feces. This same passenger voiced concerns that people getting off the ship today, many of whom will be staying in hotels as they wait for flights home, were liable to spread the virus to others in New Jersey and New York. This region of the country is obviously highly populated all the time, but this is especially true now, as the Super Bowl will be held this Sunday in the Metlife Stadium in New Jersey, which will bring an influx of visitors to the city. Densely populated cities are particularly susceptible to a quick-moving virus, but authorities have as of yet not voiced concerns about the virus spreading in New Jersey and New York.
Given that passengers endured a less-than-pleasant cruise that was cut short by two days, everyone was given a 50-percent refund for the cruise, and a 50-percent credit toward a future cruise.. Many passengers were quarantined in their rooms for some of the voyage, and these people will also receive a free day of cruising for every day they had to remain in their rooms. This raises the obvious question of which passengers on board the Explorer of the Seas will want to take another cruise with Royal Caribbean. While it is not yet clear who will take Royal Caribbean up on their offer, it is safe to say that some people will. For these people, they can perhaps take some comfort in the fact that the Explorer of the Seas has been sanitized twice and is now being cleaned again since no more passengers are on board. After the ship is sanitized for a third time, no one will be on the ship for over 24 hours. So, although it doesn’t help those returning from their cruise “vacation,” the Explorer of the Seas will at least be extremely clean for the next batch of passengers.