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More than 600 become ill on Royal Caribbean cruise

Jan. 27, 2014 at 12:19 PM

CAPE LIBERTY, N.J., Jan. 27 (UPI) -- A 10-day Royal Caribbean cruise turned back to port two days early after more than 600 people suffered illness, officials said.

The Explorer of the Seas left Cape Liberty, N.J., Jan. 21 and made its way to the Caribbean, CNN reported.

However, 577 of the 3,050 passengers and 49 of 1,165 crew members reported vomiting and diarrhea, said Bernadette Burden, a spokeswoman with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"New reports of illness have decreased day-over-day, and many guests are again up and about. Nevertheless, the disruptions caused by the early wave of illness means that we were unable to deliver the vacation our guests were expecting," the cruise line said in a statement.

"After consultation between our medical team and representatives of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we think the right thing to do is to bring our guests home early, and use the extra time to sanitize the ship even more thoroughly," the company said.

The ship will arrive back in New Jersey Wednesday, two days earlier than scheduled. The cruise line said it would perform a "thorough 'barrier' sanitization program on the entire ship to make certain any remaining traces of the illness are eliminated."

The cause of the illness has not yet been determined, but the cruise line said the symptoms were consistent with norovirus, a gastrointestinal illness that can easily spread.

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