Explorer of the Seas will return home from its 10-day cruise two days early, after an outbreak of gastrointestinal illness that spiked over the weekend. New reports of illness have decreased day-over-day, and many guests are again up and about. Nevertheless, the disruptions caused by the early wave of illness means that we were unable to deliver the vacation our guests were expecting. After consultation between our medical team and representatives of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we think the right thing to do is to bring our guests home early, and use the extra time to sanitize the ship even more thoroughly. We are sorry for disappointing our guests, and we are taking several steps to compensate them for their inconvenience.We understand that all passengers on Explorer of The Seas will receive compensation in the form of a 50% refund of their fare and a 50% future cruise credit. Royal Caribbean is also giving passengers that were quarantined in their cabins due to Norovirus symptoms an additional credit of one future cruise day for each day they were kept isolated. Additionally, Royal Caribbean is reimbursing passengers for change fees imposed by the airlines for their early return home.
After returning to home port on Wednesday, Jan. 29, we will perform a thorough “barrier” sanitization program on the entire ship to make certain that any remaining traces of the illness are eliminated. It will be the third aggressive sanitizing procedure the ship has undertaken since we became aware of the issue, and will additionally provide a window of more than 24 hours where there are no persons aboard the ship, which is a significant help. Guests scheduled for the next cruise on Explorer of the Seas can be confident that all possible measures will have been taken to prevent further problems.
At this point, it appears that reported illnesses among guests and crew peaked during the first few days of the cruise – though, as is common with many illnesses, some additional cases are to be expected over the course of the week. Our doctors tell us symptoms are consistent with that of norovirus, but that they are awaiting the results of tests to confirm that diagnosis. Our response included flying additional medical personnel and equipment to meet the ship, and conducting additional sanitizing procedures at two of the ship’s stops.
In the end, however, the number of cases was still higher than any of us want to see. We will be cooperating with authorities and conducting our own internal assessments to make sure we are doing all we can to promote the health and safety of our guests and crew.
Just an FYI, the US Centers For Disease Control (CDC) notes that from 2009-2010 63.7% of all Norovirus outbreaks were in healthcare facilities (most often group and extended care facilities), 19.6% in the food industry, 9.8% in schools/daycare, and 2.1% in private residences. Cruise ships did not even get a mention.
For additional context, during this time there were 31 outbreaks of Norovirus reported in private residences and a grand total of 9 in cruise ships.
During that time period Cruise Diva contracted Norovirus and the only place she'd been was the grocery store. So, to be entirely safe, maybe people should move out of their private homes since there is almost four times the risk of catching Norovirus there. The incidence rate overall appears to be around 650 cases per 10,000 population.