A squeaky clean Freedom of the Seas set sail at 5 p.m. today. The cruise ship, currently the largest in the world, was held in Miami since Sunday for two days of extensive disinfecting after a significant outbreak of gastrointestinal illness.
If the story sounds familiar, it should: Just last month, Carnival delayed its Carnival Liberty to accommodate a two-day scrub down following the year's largest outbreak of gastrointestinal illness; on a 16-night trans-Atlantic cruise, 18.5 percent of passengers and 12.09 percent of crewmembers reported symptoms.
In the case of Royal Caribbean's 154,407-ton, 3,634-passenger Freedom of the Seas, approximately 9 percent of guests and 3 percent of crewmembers reported Norovirus-like symptoms on the November 26 voyage; though the next cruise showed significant improvement (approximately 2 percent of guests and barely 1 percent of crew reported illness), the CDC recommended the line take the ship out of service for the extra sanitation.
Because of the procedure, the seven-night cruise that was supposed to depart on Sunday is now a five-nighter; Royal Caribbean offered guests the chance to cancel for a full refund and a future cruise discount, or sail and receive a future cruise discount and additional compensation (click here for more details).
Of the 3,983 passengers originally booked, 353 decided to cancel, according to media sources.