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Cruise Ship Pulled Out of Service After Trace of Bacteria Found

July 20, 1994

NEW YORK (AP) _ A luxury ocean cruise was halted Wednesday in Bermuda, leaving more than 1,000 passengers awaiting flights home, after tests confirmed traces of the Legionnaires’ disease bacteria in the ship’s water system.

Owners of the cruise ship Horizon began making arrangements to fly all of the passengers home at company expense.

Investigators from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they had found the DNA of the bacterium Legionella in water samples from several places on the ship.

But the CDC said it had not yet established whether the bacteria - which can be present without causing disease - were alive or dead or how extensive the infestation was.

Celebrity Cruises spokesman Jim Grossman said the ship would return to New York empty and be retested. Next Saturday’s cruise was canceled.

CDC spokesman Bob Howard said the CDC ″supports the handling of this matter by Celebrity Cruises. They have ... taken every possible step to protect their passengers and crew.″

Four passengers from previous Horizon cruises have confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ - a rare respiratory disease that has symptoms similar to severe flu and can be fatal.

Health officials in New York and New Jersey were investigating an additional 18 suspected cases involving former Horizon passengers.

One of the suspected cases involved 61-year-old New Yorker Mary Montes, who was hospitalized and on a respirator with double pneumonia. She and her husband, Louis, were on the Horizon’s July 2 cruise to Bermuda to celebrate his retirement.

″They thought that trip was just the ultimate,″ said her son, Bobby Montes. ″It was supposed to be the start of the best time of their lives.″

″They still can’t believe that she went on that boat fine and now look at her. ... I’ve never seen my mother this sick.″

Tests confirming Legionnaires’ were not complete but doctors said she had all the symptoms, Montes said.

A class-action lawsuit was filed Wednesday in federal court in New York on behalf of Horizon passengers.

Grossman said he could not comment because he had not seen the suit.

It alleged that the defendants defrauded their customers by not telling them the ship might have been infected.

The latest cruise left New York for Bermuda on Saturday. On Tuesday, all passengers were taken off the ship in Bermuda so its water system could be chlorinated.

The ship carried 1,243 passengers when it left New York. About 70 returned after Tuesday’s evacuation.

All passengers will receive a full refund, the cruise line said Tuesday. Passengers paid anywhere from $1,300 to $3,000 per person for the seven-day cruise.

Legionnaires’ disease is normally treated with antibiotics but can be fatal in 5 to 15 percent of all cases. Health officials say people with respiratory or immune system problems are more susceptible.

It is an airborne disease that can be transmitted by air conditioning systems, water supplies, or water sprays such as showers.

It was first identified in 1976 after 221 people at an American Legion convention in Philadelphia contracted pneumonia and 34 died.

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