At least 340 passengers aboard MSC Cruises' MSC Sinfonia have been stricken with a "mystery ailment" during a cruise off the coast of Brazil, according to reports from the Associated Press.
Symptoms of the illness, which has infected roughly 17 percent of the mostly Brazilian, 2,000 passengers onboard, include vicious diarrhea and vomiting. The 58,625-ton ship was booked nearly to capacity; though it carries 1,566 passengers at double occupancy, it can accommodate a maximum of 2,087 when third and fourth berths are full.
Though the symptoms resemble those of Norovirus, a contagious and common viral illness, a statement from Brazil's National Agency for Sanitary Vigilance noted that inspectors found issues with the amount of chlorine in the onboard drinking water and problems with certain perishable food items, including mayonnaise. An investigation into the source of the illness is ongoing.
Despite the severe gastrointestinal issues, passengers, most of which fell ill on Monday and Tuesday, were said to be recovering today. The agency further reported that the outbreak is under control, and has given Sinfonia approval to return to Rio de Janeiro, where the cruise is scheduled to end. At this point, the next cruise -- departing tomorrow -- is expected to sail as planned.
MSC Sinfonia is currently based in South America, offering three- to eight-night cruises out of Rio de Janeiro. Sinfonia's South American itineraries are not marketed to North American cruisers. Its summer Mediterranean season is primarily geared to Europeans, but is also marketed to U.S. passengers.
--by Dan Askin, Assistant Editor
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Over 300 MSC Cruises Passengers Fall Ill
January 8, 2009