Norovirus sickens over 200 aboard Royal Caribbean cruise ship

A Royal Caribbean cruise from Baltimore to Jamaica was cut short after more than 200 people became ill with the norovirus.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirms that 198 passengers and 9 crewmembers aboard the Grandeur of the Seas developed symptoms relating to the norovirus during a 9-day cruise to Jamaica. Onboard were 1,948 passengers and 786 crew, the CDC said.

In response to the outbreak, the ship returned to the Port of Baltimore on Monday, one day ahead of schedule. The ship was expected to undergo comprehensive sanitation procedures on Tuesday in consultation with the CDC.

According to the CDC, the outbreak marks the first of norovirus outbreak aboard a cruise ship in 2015. In 2014, the Grandeur of the Seas was hit with the norovirus on two back-to-back cruises in late March and into April.

The Grandeur of the Seas participates in the CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP), requiring that cruise ships report the total number of gastrointestinal illness cases – including zero – evaluated by the medical staff before the ship arrives at a U.S. port, when sailing from a foreign port.

Meanwhile Royal Caribbean has announced that the first steel has been cut for the fourth Oasis-class ship, marking the official start of construction for the next installment of the world’s largest cruise ships.

The steel cutting took place at the STX France shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, France, where the third and fourth Oasis-class ships are being built.

The first Oasis ship, Oasis of the Seas, was introduced in 2009, followed closely by the Allure of the Seas in 2010. At 225,282 gross tons, the vessels are the largest cruise ships in the world, spanning 16 decks with 2,700 staterooms.

The Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas currently sail alternating seven-night Western and Eastern Caribbean itineraries every Saturday and Sunday from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The third and fourth Oasis ships will be delivered in 2016 and 2018, respectively, and details of the ships will be revealed in the coming months, Royal Caribbean said.

Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas were both built at STX Europe in Turku, Finland, which is now owned by German shipbuilder Meyer Werft and the Finnish government.

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