Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s Oasis of the Seas cruise ship was forced to return to homeport after Norovirus outbreak sickened almost 300 cruise passengers on board. Prior to forced U-turn, even after the Oasis of the Seas was essentially declared a quarantine vessel – the government of Jamaica forbade passengers from disembarking at Falmouth, where they had a day of excursions planned – Royal Caribbean had initially planned on continuing the cruise as usual, a letter from the cruise company reveals.
The cruise line is planning to clean up the ship in time to send out a new load of victims – er, holiday-makers – the next day.
“We have no reason to believe that any illness will have any impact on the remainder of our sailing,” they wrote to passengers, a day before canceling the remainder of the seven-day cruise and announcing they would sail back to Cape Canaveral, Florida on Saturday morning. All 8,000 passengers will receive refunds.
Sick passengers and crew were treated with over-the-counter medication, and staff took what precautions they could to prevent the spread of disease, serving all drinks and food themselves lest passengers unwittingly share virus-laden tableware, but there is only so much one can do to alleviate people’s discomfort on board a floating epidemic.
“We think the right thing to do is to get everyone home early rather than have guests worry about their health,” said Royal Caribbean spokesman Omar Torres.
The rush to return to port wasn’t necessarily out of concern for the sick passengers and crew, however – Royal Caribbean was in a hurry to hose down the ship in preparation for another herd of passengers due to depart on Sunday.
“Returning on Saturday also gives us more time to completely clean and sanitize the ship before her next sailing,” Torres told NBC, omitting that the “next sailing” of the 8,000-passenger ship would take place within 24 hours.