Royal Caribbean says cruise ship arrives with ill passengers

Royal Caribbean said one of its cruise ships arrived in port in Florida on Friday with 108 passengers and crew members thought to be ill with the norovirus.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. said Friday that its Vision of the Seas ship arrived in Port Everglades, Fla., after 108 people fell sick with a gastrointestinal illness believed to be caused by a norovirus.

The incident was the latest black eye for the cruise industry, which is trying to find its footing again after several high-profile mishaps.

Royal Caribbean said those sickened have responded to the over-the-counter medicine they were given. It said 105 of the 1,991 passengers and three of the 772 crew members aboard fell ill.

Norovirus outbreaks are fairly frequent on cruise ships. In 2012, 16 outbreaks on cruise ships were reported to the Centers for Disease Control, up from 14 in 2011. Vessels are required to notify the agency when 2 percent of those on board develop a gastrointestinal illness.

Last month, thousands of passengers spent nearly five days on a disabled cruise ship operated by Carnival Corp. in the Gulf of Mexico.

Carnival's Triumph was returning to Galveston, Texas, from Cozumel, Mexico, on the third day of a four-day cruise when an engine-room fire knocked out power and plumbing across most of the ship.

In January 2012, the Costa Concordia, also operated by Carnival, ran aground off the Italian coast and killed 32 passengers.

Norovirus causes an inflammation of the stomach or intestines called acute gastroenteritis, producing stomach pain, nausea and diarrhea. It is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis in the United States.

Each year, norovirus causes 21 million illnesses, of which 70,000 require hospitalization. It kills about 800 people a year, the CDC says.

The 915-foot-long Vision of the Seas can accommodate 2,416 guests and 742 crew members. The vessel was ending an 11-night Caribbean cruise that left Port Everglades on Feb. 25. Its previous port of call was Aruba on March 5.

The ship and the cruise terminal have been thoroughly sanitized and Vision of the Seas will depart later on Friday as scheduled, Royal Caribbean said.

Royal Caribbean shares were down 2.9 percent at $34.35 in afternoon trading, while Carnival shares slipped 1.5 percent to $35.69.

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