Caribbean Princess Returns to Houston Early With Sick Guests

Jan 31, 2014 4:12 pm ET

(Updates diagnosis in fifth paragraph, closes shares.)

Jan. 31 (Bloomberg) -- The Caribbean Princess cruise ship is returning to Houston early this morning after 165 passengers fell ill with norovirus, the same intestinal disorder that forced another ship to cut short a trip this week.

Passengers still experiencing symptoms of the virus, which include nausea and vomiting, have fallen to three, according to Julie Benson, a spokeswoman. The Caribbean Princess, run by Carnival Corp.’s Princess Cruises, is carrying 3,104 guests and a crew of 1,149, including 11 who were also affected, she said.

Officials of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention will board the ship today to ensure it’s properly sanitized before departing on its next trip tomorrow, the company said in a statement yesterday. Passengers are being offered a 20 percent discount on a future cruise and on-board credit to compensate them for the early return.

The outbreak follows a similar incident this week on the Explorer of the Seas operated by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. That ship returned early to Cape Liberty, New Jersey, after 595 passengers out of 3,050 became sick with a gastrointestinal illness.

The CDC today updated its report on that incident, saying norovirus was the cause, according to the agency’s website.

The outbreak on the Caribbean Princess was confirmed to be norovirus, according to Benson, who said the ship has the facilities on board to make such a diagnosis.

The Caribbean Princess was scheduled to return on Feb. 1, according to Benson. It will dock in Houston after midnight local time today, cutting short its seven-day itinerary by one day because of forecasts indicating the port would have to close because of fog, she said.

The ship skipped a scheduled stop in Belize after visiting Cozumel and Roatan, Honduras, Benson said.

Carnival, the world’s largest cruise operator, fell 2.1 percent to $39.19 at the close in New York. Shares of the Miami, Florida-based company rose 9.2 percent last year.

--Editors: Ben Livesey, Stephen West