500 People on 2 Royal Caribbean Cruises Fall Sick

Two recent Royal Caribbean cruises saw more than 500 people become sick after outbreaks of stomach-related illnesses, causing five people to be hospitalized in one case.

After departing Dec. 11 from Port Everglades in Florida, 332 of the 5,547 guests aboard the Independence of the Seas became sick with gastrointestinal illness, a spokesperson told NBC News.

The outbreak came less than a month after 209 of the 5,796 people aboard Ovation of the Seas ship reported symptoms, said Cynthia Martinez, a Royal Caribbean International cruise line spokeswoman. The ship returned to Sydney on Dec. 7 at the end of a 14-night cruise that departed from Singapore on Nov. 23.

“Those affected by the short-lived illness were treated by our ship’s doctors with over-the-counter medication,” Martinez told The Associated Press in an email about the Ovation of the Seas outbreak.

A similar statement was given to NBC News regarding the incident on the Independence of the Seas.

She said sanitation experts were flown in to perform “enhanced sanitary procedures” to supplement routine cleaning protocols and “minimize the risk of a recurrence.”

Martinez said she had no details on the type of gastrointestinal illness and would not provide conditions of the hospitalized guests out of privacy concerns. A specific type of gastrointestinal illness was also not specified for the outbreak aboard the Independence of the Seas.

Australia’s Health Department in Tasmania confirmed five passengers required treatment at Royal Hobart Hospital, where Dr. Mark Veitch, director of public health, said in a statement that the ship was using established protocols to manage the illness and limit its spread. He added that these types of outbreaks and requests for medical assistance for passengers are “not uncommon” in big ships.

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SOURCE: NBC News, Kalhan Rosenblatt and Ali Gostanian; The Associated Press