TODAY

TODAY   |  January 27, 2014

Cruise cut short after 600 passengers get sick

A Royal Caribbean cruise is returning to the U.S. because of a widespread illness that’s hit more than 600 passengers and crew. Experts believe it could be the common Norovirus. NBC’s Kerry Sanders reports.

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>>> with new developments on that nasty virus that swept through a royal caribbean cruiseship. it's now hit the passengers and crew aboard that ship. so the cruise is being cut short. kerry, good morning.

>> reporter: well, good morning, matt. the explorer of the seas cruiseship is heading north out of the caribbean. because so many people have gotten sick on the ship, the captain has set a straight course to the united states bypassing a stop in st. martin.

>> reporter: it was supposed to be a ten-day vacation through the caribbean. instead, a highly contagious virus struck 600 passengers and crew, causing vomiting and diarrhea.

>> it was a terrible experience.

>> reporter: a team of experts for the center of disease control boarded at st. tomas, doctors onboard suspect the common nuro virus. they aren't sure who to blame.

>> i don't blame the ship, i don't blame royal caribbean , i blame passengers who came on with it. frankly, i don't blame them either because if i was sick and paid for my cruise, i'd want to go on it, too.

>> reporter: the ship bypassed the first scheduled stop to haiti and headed directly to puerto rico where it was sanitized in an effort to kill the virus. something cruiseship medical teams have learned in the past is no easy feat.

>> well, the nurovirus can be transmitted readily from person to person. so it can among this confined population spread fast.

>> reporter: royal caribbean has apologized to the passengers because this cruise that began in cape liberty , new jersey, has been cut short by two days now. they say they will compensate the passengers onboard. savannah.

>> kerry sanders , thank you so