Cruises are notorious for the quick spread of illness and passengers on board the Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas are the latest casualties of winter vomiting bug norovirus. Cruisers first started feeling sick when the cruise ship departed from Port Canaveral in Florida, USA last Sunday. It was due to sail for a week through the Caribbean but, as a result of the norovirus outbreak, it docked early back at Port Canaveral on Saturday. The cruise company initially said 277 passengers on the ship were afflicted with norovirus but this figure has now swelled to nearly 500.
All the passengers will be offered a refund as a result of the outbreak, Royal Caribbean has said.
This is an unusual move on the part of Royal Caribbean. Costs for the seven-night Western Caribbean voyage on the Oasis of the Seas start at $ 626 (£487) per person before taxes and fees for an interior stateroom.
Cruise companies are not under obligation to provide a refund in such situations as this.
“Cruise lines look at this sort of thing on a case by case basis and how disruptive this was to passengers,” Colleen McDaniel, executive editor at Cruise Critic, told Market Watch.
According to a letter allegedly delivered to Oasis of the Seas passengers and posted to Cruise Critic, Royal Caribbean will also provide up to $ 200 (£156) per person for re-booked domestic flights, up to $ 400 (£311) per person for international flight change fees or up to $ 200 per stateroom for one night’s stay at a hotel.
Royal Caribbean said it will be refunding internet and beverage packages and prepaid gratuities on a prorated basis for the day the cruise won’t be sailing, reported Market Watch.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Norovirus is a very contagious virus. You can get norovirus from an infected person, from contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces.
“The virus causes your stomach or intestines or both to get inflamed (acute gastroenteritis). This leads you to have stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhoea and to throw up.”
A spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “Oasis of the Seas returned to Port Canaveral a day early after an episode of gastrointestinal illness.
“All of the ship’s guests will receive full refunds of their cruise fare paid.
“We thought the right thing to do was to get everyone home early rather than have guests worry about their health.
“Returning on Saturday also gave us more time to completely clean and sanitise the ship before her next sailing.”
“Our guests sail with us to have great holidays, and we are sorry this cruise fell short.”
Owen Torres, a spokesman for Royal Caribbean, told FLORIDA TODAY of the outbreak which happened on Wednesday and said: “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 minimise the risk of any further issues.”
Express.co.uk has contacted Royal Caribbean for an updated comment on the norovirus outbreak.
Incidents such as this highlight the importance of travel insurance. Britons need to remember a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) card is not enough.
“Even in Europe, the EHIC card is not enough; and while the UK has reciprocal health agreements with some countries, this again tends to cover the basics and cannot be relied on to cover, say, repatriation expenses,” Mark Colonnese, Director at travel tech specialist Aquarium Software, told Express.co.uk.