Jan 11, 2019, 3:59 PM ET

475 cruise ship passengers sickened by norovirus on Royal Caribbean ship

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The Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas cruise ship is cutting its journey short after 475 passengers and crew members have been infected with a norovirus, Royal Caribbean Cruises announced Thursday.

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The cruise line initially reported on Thursday that more than 250 passengers had fallen ill.

“We think the right thing to do is to get everyone home early rather than have guests worry about their health” the cruise line said in a statement, adding that returning early “also gives us more time to completely clean and sanitize the ship before her next sailing.”

Guest and crew members began getting sick when the ship departed the Port Canaveral in Florida on Jan. 6. The ship, originally scheduled for a seven night cruise, made its first stop in Haiti Tuesday where the ship hosted a lunch buffet on land, said Abby Perrin, a passenger on the ship told ABC News. That night, Perrin said she and her mother began experiencing symptoms associated with food poisoning, like vomiting.

The next day, the ship arrived to Jamaica, but passengers said they weren’t allowed to leave the vessel.

Thursday morning, the ship headed for its next scheduled destination in Cozumel, Mexico, but officials canceled the cruise while it was still en route. Now it is on its way back to Florida.

“It was pretty upsetting that we weren’t able to get into Jamaica at all,” Perrin said. “Then we were supposed to be in Mexico tomorrow, which we were really excited about, and it turns out we’re going back to Florida instead.”

About three percent of people aboard the ship are affected by the norovirus, according to the cruise company.

Alan Thomas is currently aboard the ship with his spouse and two friends.

“People are still getting sick,” he told ABC News. “At a cafe next to Guest Services last night, there was a kid vomiting in the trash can.”

Thomas shared a video on Twitter of crew members cleaning the ship. He told ABC News that crew members are not allowing guests to serve themselves food or drinks.

Norovirus is a contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea. A person can become infected through having direct contact with another infected person, consuming contaminated food or water, or touching their nose and mouth after touching contaminated surfaces, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Norovirus is the leading cause of foodborne illness in the U.S., according to CDC.

It is not yet known what caused the outbreak, but most instances of norovirus occur in food service settings like restaurants, according to the CDC.

The Royal Caribbean advertises the Oasis of the Seas as one of the world’s largest ships.

In 2017, about 220 passengers aboard a five-night Royal Caribbean cruise suffered from a gastro-intestinal illness.

All of the current Oasis of the Seas passengers will receive a full refund, Royal Caribbean Cruises said in the statement.

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

The cruise company said the ship is scheduled to return to Florida on Saturday.

ABC News' Julia Jacobo, Rachel Katz and Brendan Rand contributed to this report.

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  • Vinny Dallas

    We’ve been on more than 40 cruises and never had a problem. We’ve been on ships with norovirus and avoided get by following the recommendations to was hands often use hand sanitizer towels to open doors. When people get it, they should follow the rules and stay in their cabins. When they ignore it that’s when it spreads. Millions of people cruise every year and never get ill. If you want to cruise do it.

  • cedarbend

    Haiti is one of the stops? A real tropical paradise...

  • RobertJohns

    The cruise marketing geniuses will soon start advertising these cruises as fun-time weight loss clinics.

  • Chris Gee

    For this reason (among others) I cannot imagine being trapped for days on one of these floating motel 6s with thousands of people I don't know or want to know.

  • Sabrina L

    you did the math wrong -- Oasis of the Sea has 5400 capacity so 475 is closer to 10 percent than 3 percent!

  • briteleaf

    Maybe Royal Caribbean will begin offering passengers their choice of: the "Shutdown ship cruise" complete with backed up toilets, the "Bacterial food Cleansing Cruise", or the "Norovirus cruise"...Doesn't it make you want to vacation on Royal Caribbean?

  • thenitenurse

    Fear of getting the norovirus keeps me from going on a cruise. They should equip cruise ships with those UV robots that blast UV rays each night to kill bacteria and viruses. Only problem is they aren't effective on outdoor areas.

  • drathvedar

    I've been on a lot of cruises and nobody got sick. It would suck though.

  • David

    You couldn't pay me to get on a cruise ship.

  • Rıchard Johnsøn

    These stories always come with ignorant "floating Petri dish" comments. The cruises that have problems represent a very, very tiny percentage of all cruises. The average cruise simply doesn't make the news. You're just as likely to catch something at a sporting event, restaurant, theme park, school, workplace or any other crowded place. The difference is that in those cases you take the virus home with you and don't know where it came from.

  • just saying

    how many times this year did this happen? or are they re-writng an old story.

  • CCS_FL

    People need to learn how to properly wash their hands, especially before eating, instead of relying on hand sanitizer. The CDC says that hand sanitizer isn't as effective against norovirus as handwashing. Poor hygiene habits of passengers is the cause of these outbreaks. I've been on over 20 cruises and I've never gotten sick because I wash my hands before eating, I don't shake hands with people I meet on the cruise, and I wash my hands whenever I return to the cabin. Wash, wash, wash!

  • Thomas

    I wonder why they could not transport the 3% with the illness off the ship and back home and allow the 97% to continue if they so desired?

  • Bill William

    This happens just about every winter - a stomach virus. It happens in college dorms, military barracks and in families; where people are in close contact. It is not the fault of the cruise ship. It is unfortunate that it happens when you are on vacation.

  • pbgd

    This is not going to help the image of the cruise line industry. I have crossed the Atlantic more than a dozen times on regular ships. Those waves can be mountainous. I doubt if these floating condos are really seaworthy.

  • bb1040

    This cruise like seems to be having problems in the last few years with people getting sick on their ships....

  • The_Splurge

    Cruise ships and vomit go hand in hand

  • Prophet With Honor

    I've got to wonder about this bug. I went to public schools in the 50s-60s, ate in the cafeterias...I lived in Marine barracks and ate in mess halls...ate in college cafeterias...and much more. I never saw or heard of such large scale outbreaks of GI problems. Is this something that got engineered? Is it a recent mutation? An import from foreign climes (although I ate on the economy in lots of 3rd world countries)?
    Why is it growing?

  • Technophile Returns

    Cruise tip: stay away from the buffet, go to specialty restaurants
    I’ve been on 4 cruises never caught the noro

  • Prophet With Honor

    A galley hand sneezed as he was pulling eating utensils out of the washer.

  • Dicazi

    I went to a con with friends. Went to dinner Saturday and I was the only one that got sick. I spent the next day vomiting every hour, but I washed my hands, kept my hands to myself, and no one else got sick. Even those I rode 60 miles home with or my roommates didn't get sick.

    Wash your hands!

  • Justice4All2

    I got norovirus on a Princess cruise in 1992. Missed the everything after day one. It's the only time I ever lost weight on a cruise.

  • JuPMod

    In recent years, more of these cruise ships have become floating infestations, especially as they become bigger and carry more passengers. It just takes one sick person to spread germs, and bingo, you have hundreds of people sick. Makes me wonder whether it was worth it for these cruise lines to make these super ships anyway.

  • Don'tBotherMe

    So they pretty much got a cruise to Haiti, got the norovirus and then back to Florida. That should be on their brochures.

  • Prophet With Honor

    Just one of several reasons I would never take one of those cruises.

  • Scott Gore

    "Love, exciting with puke. Come aboard, we're expecting you."