Watch CBSN Live

Voyage Of The Sick Docks In NYC

More than 300 people aboard a North Atlantic cruise ship became sick with a Norwalk-type virus, causing the vessel to cut its voyage short and head for New York.

At least 322 passengers fell ill during an outbreak aboard the Regal Princess, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said.

The ship was bound for New York from Copenhagen, Denmark on a 16-day trip. It docked in New York Harbor Tuesday morning, cutting its voyage short by two days.

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, he said.

The remainder of the 1,500 passengers and 679 crew members were being allowed off the ship and buses were brought to the dock to take them on to other destinations.

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 ship set out Aug. 18 and stopped in Britain and Ireland, then left for Iceland. As it prepared to go to the open sea, passengers and crew became more ill, prompting the decision to skip a stop in Newfoundland.

"There were incidents of gastrointestinal illness," said Julie Beson, a spokeswoman for Princess Cruises. "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.

"It's highly contagious," said Dr. Bert Peterson, WCBS-TV Medical Correspondent. "It's very recommended that if you are sick, you should stay away preparing foods, serving foods, or being around other people."

The illness caused a shortage of able-bodied crew members for the voyage.

The norovirus — which includes Norwalk and Norwalk-like viruses — caused thousands of cruise ship passengers to fall ill last year.

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

"The symptoms from Norwalk virus are usually short-lived," said Peterson. "They last about one to two days, and occur about a day or two after you've been infected by the virus, so it's really not that serious except for the very young or the elderly or someone who's already sick."

And for the enjoyment of the cruise.

View CBS News In