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Hundreds sickened on cruise ship; vessel docks at New York one day earlier than planned

NEW YORK — An ocean liner docked today after cutting short a cruise across the North Atlantic because more than 300 people had become sick with a Norwalk-type virus.

Only two passengers remained ill when the Regal Princess docked, said Steve Nielsen, vice president of Caribbean and Atlantic operations for Princess Cruises. They remained aboard the ship for treatment and will be released Wednesday, he said.

The remainder of the 1,528 passengers and 679 crew members were allowed to leave the ship and buses were brought to the dock to take them on to other destinations.

The illness, which causes nausea and vomiting, is highly contagious but lasts only 24 to 48 hours.

The ship left Copenhagen on Aug. 18, and stopped at the English ports of Dover and Plymouth, where passengers began getting sick on the second day of the cruise, said Julie Benson, a spokeswoman for Princess Cruises at corporate headquarters in Santa Clarita, Calif.

The ship also docked at Dublin, Ireland; Glasgow, Scotland; Belfast, Northern Ireland; and Reykjavik, Iceland, but skipped Qaqortoq, Greenland, and St. John's, Newfoundland. It arrived in New York today, a day ahead of schedule.

A total of 301 passengers and 45 crew members came down with the virus.

"There were incidents of gastrointestinal illness," said Benson. "We immediately put measures into place that we developed with the CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) to stop the virus."

Those measures included disinfecting the ship in mid-voyage, "everything from elevator buttons to handrails," she said.

"We suspect that because of the pattern of the illness that one or two passengers probably unknowingly or unwittingly brought this on board," added Beson.

Nielsen said passengers would be reimbursed for one day, plus a $300 shipboard credit, and passengers returning home by plane would be refunded for any changes to their air fare.

The Regal Princess was scheduled to leave for Montreal on Thursday.

The norovirus — which includes Norwalk and Norwalk-like viruses — sickened thousands of cruise ship passengers last year.

The viruses are spread through food and water and close contact with infected people or things they have touched.


On the Net:

www.princesscruises.com

www.cdc.gov