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Shirley man recalls cruise ship illness outbreak

The Explorer of the Seas cruise ship is

The Explorer of the Seas cruise ship is docked at a berth after arriving, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, in Bayonne, N.J. Credit: AP

On the fifth day, passengers were calling the ship "Disease of the Seas."

That's what Josh Slaughter, of Shirley, said Wednesday, after he disembarked from the Royal Caribbean cruise ship on which nearly 700 passengers and crew fell ill.

The Explorer of the Seas returned two days earlier than scheduled to Bayonne, N.J., Wednesday. Officials with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention boarded for an inspection.

The ship left port bound for the U.S. Virgin Islands last Tuesday with 3,050 passengers, including Slaughter and his wife, Jackie, and her parents, brother, sister and their spouses. Slaughter's in-laws all live in Hampton Bays.

The next day, he said he began to feel queasy.

"On Thursday, it really took over the entire ship," he said.

Slaughter, 30, an aide to Suffolk County Legis. Kate M. Browning (WF-Shirley), was cabin-bound with flu-like symptoms for a day. The three other men in his group also fell ill. The women did not get sick.

Cruise managers closed off many common areas, including the arcade and soda machines, on Thursday. The buffet line was shut down, as was the self-serve ice cream machine. With so many areas taped off, "it looked like a crime scene," he said.

But Slaughter said the ship's staff responded well to the outbreak. "They were cleaning the ship nonstop," he said.

By Saturday, most members of Slaughter's group were able to enjoy themselves on a Caribbean beach, and many of the passengers were disappointed to learn the ship would be returning two days early, Slaughter said.

Particularly when the cruise line's original offer was a $400 credit. That was later upped to 50 percent of the trip's cost, plus half-off the next trip. Passengers were credited a day for each day they were quarantined.

Slaughter said he'd consider taking the cruise again.

Royal Caribbean International, in a statement, said it ended the trip early after consulting with the CDC. The company said the ship will go through a thorough sanitizing regimen, as routinely required after an illness outbreak.

The CDC took samples from ill passengers for testing, with results expected later this week. The symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea, which are consistent with a norovirus. With AP

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