Dec. 17 (UPI) -- Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas cruise ship returned to its port in Florida on Saturday after more than 200 people reported having a stomach virus.
The ship left Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale on Monday and by Wednesday the cruise line said at least 220 passengers -- five percent of the 5,547 guests and crew on board -- had contracted a gastrointestinal illness exhibiting vomiting and diarrhea.
Royal Caribbean said it treated passengers with over-the-counter medication to combat the symptoms while at sea and attempted to sanitize the ship to keep the illness from spreading.
"We're taking steps like intensive sanitary procedures to minimize the risk of any further issues. We also encourage guests and crew to wash their hands often, which health experts recommend as the best defense against stomach viruses," spokesman Owen Torres said in a statement.
Some passengers believe more people fell ill than the 220 reported by Royal Caribbean, as some stayed in their rooms to recover due to long waits for medical attention.
"We went down to the medical facility and waited over an hour for help. They started running out of water and basic supplies," passenger Marsha Homuska told WPLG.
The passengers are believed to have contracted norovirus, a quick-spreading gastrointestinal illness.
Royal Caribbean employees wore gloves while passengers disembarked from the Independence of the Sea on Saturday.
The ship is still scheduled to leave Port Everglades next Thursday for another cruise. Royal Caribbean said it would deep-clean the ship after all the passengers have departed.