Cruise ship with 700 sick passengers returns two days early

Jan. 30, 2014 at 7:53 AM

BAYONNE, N.J., Jan. 30 (UPI) -- A Royal Caribbean cruise, beleaguered by suspected norovirus that sickened nearly 700 people, ended two days early, docking in Bayonne, N.J., officials said.

The Explorer of the Seas left Cape Liberty, N.J., Jan. 21 and after making its way to the Caribbean, had been scheduled to return Friday.

It returned to the New Jersey dock Wednesday, two days earlier than planned after 630 passengers and 54 crew members came down with vomiting and diarrhea.

"This is my first and last cruise," passenger Dave Panebianco told NBC after disembarking. "You can't pay me and I'm not going again."

Other passengers praised the cruise line for how it handled the illness, NBC News reported Wednesday.

"The ship said we have an issue here, we are going to deal with it, we are going to compensate people and we are going to send them on," passenger Sal Panto said. "That is the best they can do given the situation. I think if you look at any crisis management course you might take, they did exactly what they should have done."

Royal Caribbean said it was refunding 50 percent of the passengers' fees for the trip and is offering a 50 percent discount on a future cruise.

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