As we previously reported, a considerable number of people experienced symptoms of gastrointestinal illness on the November 26 sailing: 338 of 3,832 passengers (approximately 9 percent) and 43 of 1,402 crewmembers (approximately 3 percent). There was significant improvement on the following cruise, which departed on December 3; 97 of 3,907 guests (approximately 2 percent) and 11 of 1,400 crewmembers (approximately 1 percent) experienced the same type of illness. However, according to a statement from the cruise line, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended delaying the departure of Freedom of the Seas until Tuesday afternoon to perform additional sanitizing of the entire ship.
Royal Caribbean is following this recommendation and will use the time to "conduct enhanced cleaning procedures onboard the ship, all of which are being done in close coordination with the CDC." The ship will now depart Miami on Tuesday for a five-night cruise with a sea day on Wednesday, a call at Montego Bay on Thursday, a call at Labadee on Friday, and one more day at sea before returning to Miami on Sunday.
Passengers were given the option to cancel for a full refund plus a 25 percent discount (calculated based on the cruise fare paid for the December 10 voyage) that can be used toward a future Royal Caribbean cruise. Guests who chose to sail the shortened itinerary will receive a 50 percent refund of their cruise fare plus a 50 percent discount (calculated based on the cruise fare paid for the December 10 voyage) that can be used toward a future Royal Caribbean sailing. All discounts will be valid for 12 months from the date of issue and will be issued in the next four to six weeks.
Royal Caribbean is also providing additional assistance to those who will set sail tomorrow and do not live in South Florida, including hotel accommodations and transfers to and from the ship. At each hotel, a hospitality desk will be set up from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. to assist cruisers with questions. Passengers will be issued an onboard credit of $250 for meals, taxis and transportation, incidentals, and other expenses they may incur before boarding for the five-night sailing on Tuesday; any unused portion of that onboard credit will be refunded to guests.
Cruise Critic member divaofdisney posts: "Got to the port around 10:30 a.m. [yesterday]; we waited outside when I heard a lady say that 'Our cruise was canceled' ... We waited for what seemed like an eternity when we were directed to another line and handed a letter stating that due to ongoing problems containing the Norovirus the ship would be quarantined by recommendations of the CDC. We are scheduled to depart on a shortened cruise on Tuesday. I have to say that despite the major and bitter disappointment, I cannot say enough just how truly wonderful and accommodating Royal Caribbean has been."
Airline rebooking fees up to $200 per person will be reimbursed by Royal Caribbean. Guests should send a copy of their receipt, along with a brief note explaining that they were booked on the December 10, 2006 sailing of Freedom of the Seas, to the following address for reimbursement:
Ms. Jayme Porkolab
Royal Caribbean International -- Customer Service
1050 Caribbean Way
Miami, FL 33132-2096
A special help desk has also been established to assist guests; that toll-free number is 888-281-9344.
What can you do to steer clear of Norovirus? First and foremost, wash your hands often. I always carry a trial size bottle of hand sanitizer (just make sure it is properly packed if you intend to carry it onboard a plane). For more information, see Norovirus: What You Need to Know.
--by Melissa Baldwin, Senior Editor