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"Sick" Ship Cleaned And Sent Back Out To Sea

FT. LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – The second of two Princess Cruise Line  ships which reported an outbreak of norovirus has once again departed Port Everglades on a regularly scheduled cruise.

The Ruby Princes arrived at the port early Sunday morning with 92 passengers and 13 crew members infected with the virus which is a highly contagious gastrointestinal illness.

Jack Chen, a visitor from Los Angeles who got sick, said it was awful.

"I think this is a very bad experience for me. This is the first time enjoying the Princess cruise but it was a terrible experience," said Chen.

Chen said he and other passengers started getting sick the second day in the cruise.

"And then we hear the announcement about some kind of virus, but we're not sure how we got the virus," said Chen.  "Maybe some kind of food poisoning, I'm not sure."

Chen said when he went to the medical center for help he and his wife ran into a problem.

"Unfortunately they were only open two hours a day, from 4:30 to 6:30, and they wanted us to go back to the stateroom and wait for their call.  We told them we were waiting in the stateroom for seven, eight hours and nobody called us, nobody saw us," said Chen.

When Chen went back to the medical center, he said the doctor told he was treating 60 to 70 a day.

By mid-Sunday afternoon the crew had finished their disinfecting of the ship and it left on its next regularly scheduled cruise early Sunday evening.

On Saturday, the Crown Princess docked at the port following a seven day cruise. A total of 364 passengers and 30 crew members reported getting sick.

The cruise line sent warnings to passengers leaving Saturday and Sunday that the outbreak will briefly delay their trips so the ships can get a stem-to-stern cleaning and disinfection.

"It will be necessary for the ship to undergo a prolonged and additional disinfection in Port Everglades on Sunday," the line said in its message to passengers of the Ruby Princess, a copy of which was supplied to

As passengers scheduled to depart Saturday and Sunday arrived they were taken to the Broward Convention Center to await boarding. While there they were given letters explaining the illness aboard, what was being done to clean the ship and telling them their departure would be delayed.

They were also asked to complete documents asking if they had any symptoms of a cold of gastrointestinal illness. Standard practice is for passengers who admit to symptoms to be given a medical exam, and possibly be denied boarding, in an effort to control another possible outbreak.

Cruise ships have struggled with containing the threat of the norovirus, which is common in the general population but which spreads more easily among large groups in concentrated areas, like found in a cruise ship.

The disease is passed by contact with infected people, items they touch, such as food in buffets, and human waste. Most cruise lines have hand sanitizer stations aboard, and regularly urge passengers to use them.

However, it's easy for the disease to spread even in clean environments.

Princess Cruise is owned by Doral-based Carnival Cruise Lines.

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