As Princess Cruises grapples with concerns of coronavirus onboard a ship in Japan, another one of its ships, the Caribbean Princess, was forced to turn around due to a norovirus outbreak.
At least 299 passengers and 22 crew members onboard the ship operated by California-based Princess Cruise Lines Ltd. have become sick, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Health Ministry of Trinidad & Tobago said in a statement it denied the ship entry as a precautionary measure given the outbreak.
Norovirus is a stomach bug that hits about 19 million to 21 million Americans each year, according to the CDC. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramping.
The Caribbean Princess ship, which was on a 14-day Caribbean voyage that departed on Feb. 2, is heading back to Port Everglades, Florida, according to a statement provided to USA TODAY by Princess Cruise spokesperson Negin Kamali. It is scheduled to arrive Thursday morning.
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The cruise has been curtailed out of what the line called "an abundance of caution." Passengers who have reported feeling ill are being treated by the ship's medical team. No cases of coronavirus have been identified onboard.
"This is a highly unusual development, and we share the disappointment of our guests," Princess Cruises said in the statement. "However, the health and safety of our guests and crew is our top priority, and in working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it was decided out of an abundance of caution, in this specific instance, to discontinue the cruise."
The ship is carrying 4,196 passengers and crew members. All guests will receive a 50% refund and a future cruise credit valued at 50% of their cruise due to the change in schedule.
On Feb. 16, the ship will resume its schedule after a "super sanitation cleaning" in port, the CDC said. It will then depart from Port Everglades for a round-trip Circle Caribbean cruise.
Princess Cruises and the crew on board are also collecting stool specimens from passengers and/or crew members complaining of the symptoms to be sent in for testing, according to the CDC.
Norovirus and cruise ships: What to know
Norovirus isn't uncommon on cruise ships.
Hundreds of passengers fell ill from the virus on Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas in January 2019.
The CDC reported 561 passengers and 31 crew members were treated for the ultra-contagious gastrointestinal illness on a cruise out of Port Canaveral, Florida. That’s more than the total number of passengers who fell ill from the norovirus on every cruise that set sail in 2018, the CDC said.
Still, the number of outbreaks of norovirus and other gastrointestinal illnesses on cruise ships has been declining in recent years. The CDC reported 10 outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness on cruise ships in 2018 – the second lowest level since 2001.
Getting passengers to wash their hands frequently while on ships, increasing use of hand-sanitizing gel and better cleaning regimes have helped.
Contributing: Bruce Horovitz, Kaiser Health News; Jennifer Sangalang, Florida Today and The Associated Press
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Cruise ship norovrius outbreak sickens 300; coronavirus plagues others