SAN DIEGO - A cruise ship on which more than 100 people have been stricken with stomach flu-like symptoms has steamed out of San Diego Bay, with 11 passengers getting off the ship early.
The Crown Princess departed Los Angeles on Saturday for a tour of the California coastline. Since then, 104 passengers and 25 crew members have fallen ill with what's believed to be the Norovirus, Princess Cruises company spokeswoman Karen Candy said in a statement.
Nororvirus is highly contagious and presents symptoms similar to a stomach flu or food poisoning. The afflicted have been isolated in their cabins, Candy said.
By Thursday afternoon, constant cleaning and other measures led to an improvement for many of those stricken. Fifteen were still reported to be suffering symptoms and most of those confined to their cabins were given the all-clear.
San Diego was a pre-scheduled stop on the cruise's schedule, which also included a stop in Santa Barbara on Wednesday. It is scheduled to return to Los Angeles on Saturday.
10News spoke with several passengers about their ordeal.
Michael Zagorin of Olympia, Wash., said, "The crew handled it really great. They kept wiping stuff down all the time. They also said to wash your hands very frequently, which is the best thing to do."
Jean Jenkins of Simi Valley added, "The reality is when you have a confined audience, it's easily spread but with the steps the guest were taking and the cruise ship is taking; this has been well-managed."
David Sester of Palm Springs was one of 11 people who chose to abandon ship in San Diego. He told of a long wait for dinner and that it wasn't as well prepared as earlier meals.
"We had two more days, two more days to be on the ship; it wasn't worth it so we just felt we'd better get off now," said Sester.
Anyone leaving early was charged $300. Maritime law says a passenger can't board and disembark from different U.S. ports unless there is a stop in another country in between.
10News learned that fine will be paid by Princess Cruises.
Statement from Princess Cruises
Onboard the current sailing of Crown Princess, there has been an increase in the number of cases of gastrointestinal illness among passengers. We believe the cause to be the common virus called Norovirus which is extremely contagious and easily transmitted from person-to-person. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports widespread Norovirus activity throughout North America that has affected people in schools, hospitals, nursing homes, childcare centers, as well as cruise ships this season.
All individuals who are ill (currently 94 passengers and 23 crew members), have been isolated in their cabins until they are not contagious.
We have implemented enhanced sanitation procedures onboard Crown Princess to interrupt the person-to-person spread of this illness. Our sanitation program has been developed in coordination with the CDC and includes such measures as thorough disinfection of high-touch surfaces like railings, door handles and elevator buttons; encouraging passengers to use correct hand washing procedures and enhancing this with the use of hand sanitizing gels placed throughout the ship; isolating ill passengers in cabins until non-contagious; encouraging passengers to use their own cabin’s bathroom facilities; and providing regular verbal and written communication to passengers about steps they can take to stay well while onboard.
Crown Princess is currently sailing on a seven-day California Coast cruise roundtrip from Los Angeles that departed April 5.
Historic incidence rates of gastrointestinal illness aboard cruise ships are very low. According to the (CDC) the vast majority of outbreaks occur in land-based settings. Additional information can be found at CDC’s Facts About Noroviruses on Cruise Ships.
In 2013, there were 7 norovirus outbreaks industry wide reported to the CDC, involving a total of 1,238 passengers. To put that into perspective, approximately 21.3 million passengers sailed on Cruise Line International Association member cruise ships in 2013 so this figure represents approximately six one thousandths of one percent (.006%) of global passengers. Additionally, the CDC reports there are about 20 million norovirus cases in any typical year on land in the United States.