Can you imagine the relaxing feeling of being on a cruise right now? Laying out by the deck enjoying the sun and zero cell service in the area. Ah, yes that’s a dream. And despite cruises being somewhat affordable, one thing you don’t want- hundreds of people puking their guts out all around you. That sounds like something that would sincerely ruin your cocktail.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened on two separate incidents on board two Royal Caribbean cruises. And it ended with more than 500 passengers falling sick, with five of them having to be hospitalized in one of the cases.
The incidents took place in the Royal Caribbean International-owned luxury cruises Ovation of the Seas and Independence of the Seas, in November and December. The outbreak of illness in the cruises happened when 332 of the 5,547 guests aboard the Independence of the Seas complained of stomach illness after the cruise departed from Port Everglades in Florida on Dec. 11.
A similar case was reported on the Ovation of the Seas last month after it departed from Singapore on Nov. 23, with 5,796 passengers. Two hundred and nine of them reportedly showed symptoms of stomach-related sickness.
Tracy Flores—who traveled on the ship’s five-night journey to Labadee and Jamaica—said her 15-year-old son began to feel ill on Wednesday.
“It was just terrifying — just the amount of people that were coming in at the same time with vomiting and diarrhea and just looked ghastly,” Flores told WPLG Local 10 News.
Dr. Mark Veitch, director of public health at Royal Hobart Hospital, where five passengers aboard the Ovation of the Seas received treatment, said in a statement it was uncommon to see these types of outbreaks and requests for medical assistance for passengers in big cruises.
But such outbreaks are not entirely unheard of. According to Centers for Disease Control database, a case of norovirus was recorded on the Anthem of the Seas — another Royal Caribbean cruise — in February 2016.
Passenger Victoria Nolan recounted that some victims were throwing up in the ship’s elevators. Nolan added that she gave up trying to get to the medical area after she was told the wait would be more than four hours.
Victoria Nolan—who was traveling with 15 relatives, out of which six became ill—made it to the medical area, but decided to not seek treatment after being told she’d have to wait in line for more than four hours.
“It’s not their fault that it happened, but the way they handled it after people started getting sick made it 10 times worse,” Nolan told WPLG.
Dr Veitch said the cruises followed established protocols to manage the outbreaks and limit their spread. It was not immediately clear whether any of the passengers aboard the Independence of the Seas was hospitalized.
“Those affected by the short-lived illness were treated by our ship’s doctors with over-the-counter medication,” Cynthia Martinez, a Royal Caribbean International cruise line spokeswoman, said about the Ovation of the Seas outbreak, NBC reported.
The husband of one of the passengers admitted to the intensive care unit at the Hobart hospital said his wife consumed “uncooked chicken” on the cruise, which caused her health to deteriorate.
“Her condition continued to worsen and I thought she was going to die in front of me,” he added, while speaking to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity, due to privacy concerns.
Outbreaks on cruise ships aren’t rare. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has an extensive operation in place, called Vessel Sanitation Program, to help control the spread of gastrointestinal (GI) illnesses on cruise ships.
In 2017 alone, there has been at least 10 other cruise ship—five of which have happened on Holland America cruise line— outbreaks, according to CDC data.