Princess Cruises ship returns to Houston port after nearly 200 fall ill

Published January 31, 2014

| FoxNews.com

Federal health officials are investigating the outbreak of an illness on Princess Cruises' Caribbean Princess, just days after another cruise ship cut short its Caribbean trip after hundreds fell ill.

The Caribbean Princess owned by Carnival Corp., returned to port late Thursday in Houston with at least 162 of the 3,102 passengers and 11 of the 1,148 crew members reporting symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CDC spokesman Llelwyn Grant told the Houston Chronicle that once the outbreak was identified, ship employees implemented some of the agency's recommendations for preventing further infections and increased cleaning and disinfection procedures.

Grant told the newspaper that CDC investigators will spend several days on the ship "basically evaluating the outbreak and trying to look at some of the responsive activities that we recommended to the cruise line folks."

Princess Cruises said in a statement Thursday that the trip was cut short by one day because of fog. The statement also revealed that dozens of passengers had been treated at the ship's medical center for symptoms consistent with norovirus.

"Caribbean Princess has experienced an increase in the number of cases of gastroenteritis among passengers, which has been confirmed to be norovirus," the statement said. "Because of the increased sensitivity surrounding norovirus by both cruise lines and the (CDC) in this winter season, we notified the CDC ...to ensure all appropriate measures are followed for an extensive sanitation of the ship prior to the next cruise departing February 1."

Princess Cruises spokeswoman Julie Benson told the Houston Chronicle that the ship "will be undergoing a thorough sanitization" before it departs on its next cruise, which is scheduled for around 4 p.m. Saturday.

The Caribbean Princess outbreak is the third on a U.S.-based cruise ship this year, according to the CDC's vessel sanitation program. In 2013, there were nine reported incidents, seven of which were caused by norovirus, the Houston Chronicle reported. 

Nearly 700 passengers and crew members became sick with a gastrointestinal illness during a cruise on Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas earlier this week. The voyage was cut short and the ship returned to port Wednesday in New Jersey.

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