Illness Outbreak on Royal Caribbean Ship Impacts Port of Call

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A gastrointestinal illness outbreak is being reported aboard Royal Caribbean International’s Allure of the Seas, causing the ship to be initially delayed for debarkation at Perfect Day at CocoCay on Thursday, May 23, 2024 until local authorities cleared the vessel. That clearance did come later in the day, and the ship’s stay was slightly extended to help compensate for the loss of port time.

The most prevalent symptoms of the illness are reported to be vomiting and diarrhea. These are classic symptoms of norovirus, a very common gastrointestinal illness and one that is highly communicable.

No official confirmation of the number of reported cases was made available, but guests onboard have indicated more than 200 people ill. Cruise Hive has reached out to Royal Caribbean for a comment.

Allure of the Seas Balconies
Allure of the Seas Balconies (Photo Credit: Ritu Manoj Jethani)

Allure of the Seas is an Oasis-class vessel and is one of the world’s top 10 largest passenger cruise ships. She can welcome 5,484 guests at double occupancy, and up to 6,780 travelers when fully booked. Also onboard are over 2,000 crew members.

Onboard testing, however, confirmed that impacted guests were not afflicted with norovirus. The ship’s captain has also announced that norovirus had been ruled out as a cause on Thursday morning.

This confirmation did ease local authorities’ concern about potentially spreading a contaminant to Bahamian residents. The ship was cleared for guests to enjoy their day at the private island after a 3-4 hour delay. To make up for the lost time, Allure of the Seas remained at CocoCay until 6 p.m. instead of the planned departure of 5 p.m.

The exact culprit of the widespread illness has not been officially released, but speculation and testimony from those onboard points toward pork tacos served in the Main Dining Room on Tuesday evening.

It is possible the pork may have been improperly prepared or otherwise contaminated, or a contaminant could have been present in the sauce, toppings, or other ingredients for the recipe.

Similar food-borne illness outbreaks are common at restaurants on land, and are often traced to a single ingredient or an ill employee who failed to follow health and cleanliness protocols. Other cruise ships also suffer occasional outbreaks or food poisoning as well as norovirus, such as recent cases reported aboard P&O Cruises’ Ventura.

Strict sanitation measures have already been implemented onboard Allure of the Seas. This includes more frequent cleaning of high-touch surfaces, crew members serving dishes at the buffet instead of self-service options, greater enforcement of handwashing and hand sanitizer use outside dining venues, and other steps.

Allure of the Seas Cruise Ship
Allure of the Seas Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Mark Anthony Ray / Shutterstock)

Read Also: Cruise Ship Illness – How to Protect Yourself

For example, guests are no longer being asked to turn their Seapass cards over to staff to make bar purchases; instead, guests provide their room number for the charges to be processed. This helps eliminate one more opportunity for person-to-person contact and cross-contamination.

Several onboard events have also been cancelled over the past two days, including performances of the spectacular Broadway production show “Mamma Mia!” as well as wine tastings and similar activities that could lead to further transmission. The cancellation of the production show is believed to be due to cast members also being ill at this time.

Why Delays at a Cruise Line’s Private Island?

Some travelers have expressed confusion about why guests would not be permitted off the ship to enjoy Perfect Day at CocoCay, considering it is a private island destination exclusively for Royal Caribbean guests.

Allure of the Seas and Adventure of the Seas at CocoCay
Allure of the Seas and Adventure of the Seas at CocoCay (Photo Credit: Darryl Brooks)

It is important to note, however, that CocoCay – also known as Little Stirrup Cay – is still a Bahamian island, and therefore is under the jurisdiction of The Bahamas. Royal Caribbean Group has merely leased the island, but does not own it independently.

This means that the use of the island is still subject to Bahamian law, including customs and immigration. If there are health or safety risks – such as transmitting communicable diseases – a ship can still be denied access to the island.

Also in port at CocoCay on Thursday was Adventure of the Seas, which did not have any cases of illness reported onboard and had no delays with her enjoyment of the destination.

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