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Disney Cruise Ship Returns to Sea After 200 Fall Ill

November 24, 2002|From Associated Press

PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. — Disney workers spent several hours disinfecting a Disney cruise ship Saturday after more than 200 passengers fell ill with a stomach ailment on a seven-day cruise last week.

A crew of more than 1,100 sanitized the 964-foot Disney Magic hoping to eradicate the stomach bug before the ship left port about an hour after its scheduled 5 p.m. departure for another Caribbean voyage.

"We would not sail if we didn't think it was safe for our guests and our crew," Disney Cruise Line President Matt Ouimet said.

Investigators with the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention examined the ship, but said they were unable to determine the source of the illness.

The passengers' symptoms point to the same common gastrointestinal virus suspected of sickening more than 500 passengers and crew members aboard the Holland America Line cruise ship Amsterdam in the last few weeks, said Dr. Heidar Heshmati, director of the Brevard County Health Department.

Last week, Holland America canceled a 10-day cruise out of Port Everglades to allow time for a more thorough decontamination of the 1,380-passenger Amsterdam.

Some Disney passengers arriving for the trip Saturday said they were confident in the cleaning efforts, but some were taking precautions.

"We stocked up on every kind of belly aid you can think of," Michele Fagan, 37, told the Orlando Sentinel.

Prior to departure, guests were given the option of rescheduling, getting full refunds or taking Walt Disney World vacation packages instead.

Many of the guests on the Nov. 17 cruise who disembarked early Saturday said the illness, which caused vomiting and diarrhea, was an inconvenience but did not ruin their trip.

"You just got sick," Steve Leanard of Old Tappan, N.J., told the Florida Today of Melbourne. "It was like getting the flu.... It was about 12 hours for me."

At least 29 people were treated by two on-board physicians, Disney said.

Ouimet said passengers who fell ill would be compensated, including refunds or vouchers for future cruises.

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