Swine flu sends cruise ship home early

Associated Press / June 19, 2009
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CARACAS - A cruise ship that was turned away from two Caribbean ports because of a swine flu outbreak headed back to its home base of Aruba yesterday after dropping off some of its passengers in Venezuela.

Three of some 400 crew members on the Ocean Dream have tested positive for swine flu and 11 others have flu symptoms, according to its Spanish operator, Pullmantur.

Early word of the illnesses led port authorities in Grenada and Barbados to block the ship’s scheduled stops Wednesday and prompted Pullmantur to cut short a nine-day cruise that was supposed to end this weekend.

Authorities said 381 passengers, mostly Venezuelans but including 55 foreigners, got off the ship Wednesday night at Venezuela’s Isla Margarita. The ship company said that was the final destination of the Venezuelans.

One Venezuelan and one Argentine among those disembarking showed possible swine flu symptoms and were separated from the others, Deputy Health Minister Nancy Perez told government television.

Other passengers were checked and allowed to stay at local hotels, regional health chief Jorge Alchaer said. Those people would be reexamined before being permitted to return home, he said.

Passengers will receive a partial refund. The ship set out June 12 with 759 passengers.