A Disney cruise liner marred by a second outbreak of a flu-like virus returned to port Saturday, and workers once again began disinfecting the ship after 218 people became ill during its latest voyage.
In the past few months, about 1,000 passengers and crew on two voyages of the Magic and four voyages of Holland America’s Amsterdam have contracted a Norwalk-like virus, one of a number of common illnesses that can cause diarrhea, stomach pain and vomiting.
Wanda Russ, 60, of Tuskasegee, N.C., became so sick during the Magic’s latest cruise she had to be taken to the ship’s infirmary.
“It hit me really quick,” she said after walking off the Magic early Saturday. “I have had the stomach flu, (but) this is the worst stomach flu I’ve ever had.”
The Magic, carrying 3,400 guests and crew members, returned just after sunrise to its home of Port Canaveral, about 50 miles east of Orlando, following a seven-day Caribbean cruise.
After the passengers disembarked, about 1,000 workers began cleaning and disinfecting the Magic for the second time in less than a month.
The ship’s next voyage, which had been scheduled to begin Saturday, was canceled. It was the third time this year that a U.S.-based cruise ship had been pulled from service.
A total of 195 Magic passengers and 23 crew members reported symptoms consistent with the virus, said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesman Owen Grant. Disney Cruise Line spokeswoman Marilyn Waters said the company would offer a free cruise to the passengers who became sick and to travelers who stayed in the same room as sick people.
One of those who became ill, John Ohlmann, said he was pleased with the crew’s efforts to help the sick passengers.
“This did not deter me at all” from taking another cruise, said Ohlmann, 68, of Melbourne.
The cleaning of the ship’s high-traffic areas will last a week. The Magic also was disinfected Nov. 23 after about 275 people developed the illness on the liner’s last seven-day trip.
The Norwalk virus, named for an outbreak 30 years ago in Norwalk, Ohio, and a group of Norwalk-like viruses are among many common micro-organisms that can cause intestinal diseases, according to the CDC.
The viruses are spread through food and water or contact with infected people. Cruise ships, where hundreds of passengers and crew mingle in close quarters, can provide ideal conditions for a virus to spread, health officials say.
Outbreaks also occur overseas. In May, Norwalk-like viruses infected more than 100 people at a London hospital and sickened 38 British marines in Afghanistan.
The Holland America Line spent the past week cleaning the Amsterdam, where a Norwalk-like virus was suspected of sickening more than 500 passengers and crew on four separate cruises. The company canceled a 10-day Amsterdam cruise out of Port Everglades to allow time for the decontamination.
The Amsterdam will be cleaned in time for its next scheduled 10-day cruise, which leaves Sunday, said David Forney, chief of the CDC’s vessel sanitation program. The CDC said last week that it had found no problems with food handling and potable water systems on the ship.
About a dozen passengers aboard the Amsterdam’s sister vessel, the Statendam, also complained of flu-like symptoms before the ship arrived in San Diego on Monday. A few weeks earlier, 42 passengers on the same ship became sick. And in July, 176 people aboard the Holland America ship Ryndam became ill during a voyage in the Gulf of Alaska.