400-Plus Passengers Get Sick on Cruise

Vomiting and diarrhea hit celebrity mercury; learn to stay healthy on a cruise.

ByABC News
February 23, 2010, 11:12 AM

Feb. 23, 2010— -- It's a traveler's worst nightmare: you escape on a Caribbean cruise and suddenly everybody around you starts throwing up and has a bad case of diarrhea. For more than 400 people on a Celebrity Cruise out of South Carolina, this week that nightmare is a reality.

Nearly one out of every four passengers aboard the Celebrity Mercury has been struck with a "gastrointestinal illness," according to Cynthia Martinez, a spokeswoman for Celebrity and its parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

Over the course of the sailing, so far 419 of the ship's 1,838 guests and 27 of the 849 crew members experienced the illness, Martinez said.

The ship's crew is "conducting some enhanced cleaning" and giving passengers anti-nausea and diarrhea medication such as Pepto-Bismol and Imodium, depending on symptoms, Martinez added.

Passengers were instructed to stay in their cabins until the virus passes.

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The 12-day Caribbeancruise left Charleston, S.C., on Feb. 15 and is expected to return Friday after stopping at various islands in the Caribbean including Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, St. Kitts and the British Virgin Islands.

Celebrity brought on an additional doctor and two nurses Monday to assist the ship's existing medical team. Martinez said the cruise line has sent some samples to a lab to determine exactly what is causing the illness.

Sick passengers will be given a certificate to be used toward a future cruise," Martinez said. The value of the voucher will be "based on the number of days a guest is isolated divided by the total of cruise fare paid."