The ship pulled in Thursday night around 9pm, but all passengers spent the night on it and disembarked Friday morning. Crews with the Centers for Disease Control boarded to oversee the sanitation process. They are trying to turn the ship back around in time for another cruise scheduled to begin Saturday.
We talked to some of the passengers once they got off the ship Friday.
"We were confined to the room for three days," said passenger Steve Juneau. "We didn't get to enjoy any of the meals, any of the shows. They threatened people, telling them if they didn't stay in the rooms, they'd have them put on a Navy Coast Guard ship and brought back to land. It was terrible."
"I wanted to get out. I was tired of being held as a prisoner in the room," added passenger Robert Fisher.
What passengers got in exchange was a 20 percent credit on a future cruise, plus a one-day per diem. They weren't compensated, however, for the medicine that those who were sick had to buy onboard.
We're told 173 people on the boat got sick. Five of those had symptoms of the norovirus, according to the cruise line.
The cruise ship with more than 4,200 people missed the Belize leg of the seven-day cruise. The explanation given for the early return was due to foggy conditions, but many thought otherwise.
"I think it's sickness," cruise ship passenger Murray Sharkey said. "It's not norovirus. It's the way it was handled by Princess, not being frank about this."
Norovirus is highly contagious. The tight quarters of a cruise ship make for a perfect breeding ground but it is very common elsewhere.
Below is their entire statement:
"Caribbean Princess is being forced to return to Houston one day early because we were informed that dense fog is expected to close the port for much of the weekend, and 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. The seven-day cruise, which departed January 25, is sailing on a Western Caribbean itinerary, also calling at Cozumel and Roatan.
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 will now disembark and proceed through the standard Customs and Immigration clearance that occurs at U.S. turnaround ports on Friday, January 31. Passengers with scheduled air flights from Houston will be accommodated overnight at local hotels by Princess, and they will receive a future cruise credit of 20% of their fare, as well as one day per diem to help offset any ancillary expenses such as meals.
Simultaneously, onboard the current sailing, Caribbean Princess has experienced an increase in the number of cases of gastroenteritis among passengers, which has been confirmed to be norovirus, a common but contagious illness which is widely circulating throughout North America. Because of the increased sensitivity surrounding norovirus by both cruise lines and the Centers for Disease Control (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 departing February 1. Approximately five passengers have current active symptoms of norovirus, and over the course of the cruise 165 passengers reported ill to the medical center.
A total of 3,104 passengers and 1,149 crew members are on board."
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