PORT EVERGLADES, FL (WPLG/CNN) - A cruise ship is back home after hundreds of its passengers got sick on the high seas. Royal Caribbean now says that 332 people came down with a stomach illness on its Independence of the Seas ship.
Passenger Tracy Flores said when her son Andrew started to feel sick she thought it was his Type 1 diabetes, so they went to see the doctor on board.
“As we were sitting there, more wheelchairs were coming in, everybody was puking everywhere, they were leaving to go use the bathroom with diarrhea, and it was just frightening,” she said.
Flores quickly learned that her 15-year-old son was one of hundreds who came down with the stomach illness.
A letter was passed out to passengers saying that during the sailing, a small percentage of guests on board experienced gastrointestinal virus, thought to be norovirus. Royal Caribbean said there were 5,547 people on board, and 220 cases of illness were reported.
One of the passengers noted that the ship’s crew was “very proactive” after the emergency, sanitizing objects and wiping down doors, handles and walls.
The ship pulled back into Port Everglades early Saturday morning. Employees who were handling passengers’ needs and baggage were wearing gloves. The ship will be deep-cleaned once everyone is off.
Passenger Marsha Homuska said the return to land was an enormous relief.
“We went down to the medical facility and waited over an hour for help,” Homuska said. “They started running out of water and basic supplies.”
Norovirus is highly contagious and it can spread quickly in confined spaces. Royal Caribbean said that lab tests will determine the exact cause of the illness. The company also said it doesn’t know yet how or where the illness started.
Copyright 2017 WPLG via CNN. All rights reserved.