(2:17 p.m. EST) -- Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas is back at the port of Bayonne today after an outbreak of a gastrointestinal illness affecting more than 20 percent of passengers forced the line to shorten the current sailing by two days. New Jersey health officials are on hand to oversee the sanitization process, ensure sick passengers are treated promptly and protect Bayonne citizens from the illness.
Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith has ordered the city's health officer to be on hand during the disembarkation, the mayor's office told Cruise Critic.
"The mayor wants every precaution taken to protect Bayonne citizens, as well as cruise passengers and crew," according to the mayor's office.
Accordingly, arrangements have been made by the cruise line for passengers with active cases of the illness to be assisted with transportation and medical care upon arrival.
Officials from the Centers for Disease Control, including two epidemiologists and one environmental health official are already onboard the ship, having embarked in St. Thomas.
The ship will undergo a thorough "barrier" sanitization program once all passengers have been disembarked, Royal Caribbean said. The process is designed to eliminate any remaining traces of the illness on the ship.
"It will be the third aggressive sanitizing procedure the ship has undertaken since we became aware of the issue, and will additionally provide a window of more than 24 hours where there are no persons aboard the ship, which is a significant help," Royal Caribbean said.
Each Explorer of the Seas passenger will receive a 50 percent refund of the cruise fare as well as an additional 50 percent future cruise credit. Passengers who were confined to their cabins by the illness also will receive credits of one future cruise day for each day of confinement.
Royal Caribbean also will reimburse airline change fees and accommodations for passengers whose travel home was affected by the ship's early return to port.
--By Dori Saltzman, News Editor