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'Hundreds of people started to vomit': Sick passengers disembark cruise ship

Over 400 sickened in norovirus outbreak on Oasis of the Seas

PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. – Some passengers who disembarked Royal Carribean's Oasis of the Seas cruise ship Saturday morning remembered their cruise as less than ideal.

"My daughter got sick. My son got sick," said Ariana VanHaaster, who booked the the cruise as a vacation for her family of seven.

Her son, Ian, was one of the first to get sick in a norovirus outbreak that Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Kiki Perera said affected over 400 passengers and crew members.

"Every single night, there was a report from the captain about the sickness precautions," Ian VanHasster said. "You kept hearing these scary things, like, 'Oh, when can I just get out?'" 

The cruise was supposed to last seven days, but the crew made the choice to return one day early in order to get passengers home safely and have more time to sanitize the ship. Cleaning crews, clad in full hazmat suits, could be seen spraying railings and furniture shortly after all passengers got off of the boat.

The VanHaasters flew from California to take the trip through the Carribean. The cruise, which departed from Port Canaveral on Sunday, quickly took a turn for the family.

"(My son) got sick Monday night and we took him to the hospital Tuesday morning when we arrived in Haiti," Ariana VanHaaster said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the extremely contagious gastrointestinal illness can cause vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain and nausea. Garret Westover, from Nebraska, also caught the illness, which he said felt like a stomach flu.

"(I threw up) like three times in eight hours," he said.

The VanHaasters tried to get Ian seen by the ship's doctor shortly after reboarding from Haiti and found that he was no longer the only one affected.

"Shortly when we got back on, hundreds of people started to vomit," Ariana VanHaaster said. "By then the medical facility was filled with people vomiting all over the floor, projectile vomiting. It was not a place to be."

There were 6,823 passengers on the ship. The family said they even saw acrobats from the ship's onboard shows at the medical center.

Passengers leaving the Oasis of the Seas

Both the VanHaasters and Westover praised the crew's quick response in the midst of the outbreak. 

"They were walking down hallways sanitizing rails, sanitizing everything as people were using it. As they were touching, they were sanitizing," Ian VanHaaster said.

Royal Carribean is refunding every passenger's cruise fare, whether they were sick or not. Though the VanHaasters are grateful for the compensation, they're even more grateful to be off the boat.

"I need a vacation from my vacation," Ariana VanHaaster said.