The hundreds of people sickened on a Royal Caribbean cruise are home Thursday. The ship returned to New Jersey Wednesday, two days early. That ship left last week for what was supposed to be a 10-day cruise through the Caribbean. Instead, the trip was cut short after nearly 700 passengers and crew members got sick.
Eight days after it set sail, the Explorer of the Seas returned to port.
Passenger Len Cavotto said that by day three he and his friend were among those who fell ill.
Confined to their cabin for almost two days, Cavotto said of the illness, "It was pretty bad, you know, intestinal stomach pain and vomiting and nausea. It was bad."
Passengers Chris Roman and Brittany Schneider saw signs of sickness throughout the ship and crews working to clean up.
"They were overwhelmed," Roman said. "The medical was backed up. Room service was backed up because people were quarantined to their rooms. The staff, which was wonderful - the staff was great the whole entire time - they were stretched thin."
They say by that third day the normally bustling ship, with more than 4,200 passengers and crew, had turned eerily quiet.
"Activities got canceled," Roman said. "All you could do was walk around and just talk to people, and it was a ghost ship, like, there was no one around."
The Centers for Disease Control is working with Royal Caribbean to determine what caused the outbreak, but they suspect the norovirus, which spreads easily from infected people through contaminated food and water or touching contaminated surfaces.
Although a company official called the event "rare," passengers on another Royal Caribbean ship were sickened just two weeks ago.
The company is now offering partial refunds. Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, executive vice president of operations for Royal Caribbean, said, "This was really unfortunate, so we gave our guests half of their money back for this cruise, and we also gave them 50 percent off toward a future cruise so that they will come back with us."
But some passengers say that's not good enough. Passenger Fran Kern said, "For people like ourselves who are not really cruisers - and we probably won't go on one again - to get 50 percent off when you've taken time off from work and went to a high expense, it doesn't really compensate you."
CDC officials are on board the ship continuing their investigation into the outbreak, CBS News' Elaine Quijano reported on "CBS This Morning." Officials are also evaluating the disinfection process. According to Royal Caribbean's website, the ship is scheduled to leave for another cruise Friday.