January 31, 2014
Originally due to dock tomorrow, February 1, Caribbean Princess headed back one day early from its 7-night Western Caribbean itinerary, which departed Houston on January 25.
A statement from the cruise line said: "We are mindful of our passengers' safety and comfort, as well as the disruption the port's closing will have on their onward travel plans. This has, unfortunately, necessitated the cancellation of the scheduled call to Belize. We truly regret having to make this change to our passengers' vacations, and we hope they understand that we did not have any choice but to return to Houston early before the unusually heavy fog closes the port."
Passengers with scheduled air flights from Houston will be accommodated overnight at local hotels by Princess. They will also receive a future cruise credit of 20% of their fare as well as reimbursement for expenses such as meals.
An outbreak of gastrointestinal illness has also been reported onboard Caribbean Princess. Confirmed as Norovirus by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), it is the same virus believed to have hit more than 600 passengers and crew on Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas this week, forcing the ship to also cut short a cruise and return to New Jersey two days early.
On Caribbean Princess a total of 178 (5.7 percent) passengers and 11 (0.96 percent) members of the crew have reported being ill with symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea. There are 3,104 passengers and 1,149 crewmembers currently onboard. Following the first reports of sickness the ship increased disinfection procedures and made announcements to notify passengers of the outbreak.
Two environmental health officers from the CDC's Vessel Sanitation Program will board the ship when it arrives in Houston.
The Princess statement added: "Because of the increased sensitivity surrounding Norovirus by both cruise lines and the CDC in this winter season, we notified the CDC who will be boarding on Friday to ensure all appropriate measures are followed for an extensive sanitation of the ship prior to the next cruise."
Caribbean Princess is scheduled to depart Houston on another round-trip Western Caribbean itinerary tomorrow, February 1.
Norovirus spreads quickly when many people are confined to a small area, such as a cruise ship, hotels, schools and hospitals. The best way to avoid catching the illness is to wash your hands thoroughly before and after eating and when you use the bathroom.
--by Jeannine Williamson, Cruise Critic Contributor