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Cruise ship barred from docking in Mauritius amid outbreak of stomach illness

A Norwegian Cruise Line ship had been set to dock Sunday, but officials in Mauritius mandated more testing first. Passengers were stuck on board.
Norwegian Dawn cruise ship arriving in the French Mediterranean port of Marseille.
The Norwegian Dawn cruise ship arriving in the French Mediterranean port of Marseille in July 2021. Gerard Bottino / Sipa USA via AP file

Officials in the island nation of Mauritius blocked a Norwegian Cruise Line ship from docking there Sunday after more than a dozen passengers were stricken with a stomach illness.

Around 15 passengers aboard the Norwegian Dawn remain in isolation because of an undisclosed "health risk" and are undergoing testing, according to the Mauritius Ports Authority.

"The decision not to allow the cruise ship access to the quay was taken in order to avoid any health risks," the authority said in a statement.

The sick guests “experienced mild symptoms of a stomach-related illness,” Norwegian Cruise Line said in a statement Sunday. The cause of the outbreak has not been released.

“Due to additional testing being required by local authorities before being allowed entry, the government of Mauritius has delayed disembarkation for the current cruise and embarkation for the next cruise by two days,” the Norwegian statement said.

It’s expected that the ship will be allowed to dock Tuesday, the cruise line said, after results of tests conducted Sunday become available.

The Norwegian Dawn has more than 2,100 passengers and 1,000 crew on board. About 2,000 of those travelers were set to complete their journey on Sunday by disembarking in Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean just east of Madagascar, the Ports Authority said. Then more than 2,200 new passengers were scheduled to board.

The authority said that the passengers who were due to start their cruise Sunday would not be able to do so that day and that they would have to be relocated to available hotels.

Norwegian Cruise Line said the ship's "management team met with local authorities to confirm precautions and actions were being taken to ensure the wellbeing of all on board."

Gastrointestinal illnesses are often identified on cruise ships for a few reasons, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: The ships' close living quarters make it easier for viruses to spread, and the regular addition of new passengers creates opportunities to introduce illness. However, because public health officials track illness cases on cruise ships, such outbreaks may also be reported more often than ones on land.

Last month, an outbreak of norovirus — a common stomach bug that causes vomiting and diarrhea — sickened 92 passengers and eight crew members on a Celebrity Cruises ship.