One of the largest cruise ships ever built has cut a sailing short after suffering a massive outbreak of the norovirus stomach bug.

Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas is returning to a Florida port a day early and giving passengers full refunds of their fare, after 277 guests and crew members were hit with an outbreak of norovirus as it sailed to Jamaica.

Cruise line spokesman Owen Torres told The Associated Press: "We think the right thing to do is get everyone home early rather than have guests worry about their health."

He says the ship will return to Port Canaveral on Saturday. It sailed from there Sunday on a seven-day Caribbean cruise.


Passengers took to social media on Wednesday, tweeting they were forced to stay onboard after docking in Falmouth, Jamaica, for what was supposed to be a day of excursions.

Torres says returning a day early gives the cruise line "more time to completely clean and sanitise the ship" before it sails again.

Although this outbreak may seem sensationally large, it is actually proportionate for a gastrointestinal infection on a cruise ship. The contagious illness affected roughly 5 percent of the massive 5400 passenger liner.

Recent data from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention show that gastro has been on the decline over the past eight years. Not that this is any comfort to the passengers affected on Oasis.

Cruise ships visiting US Ports must declare to the CDC any outbreak of gastro affecting over 3 per cent of their passengers.

Since 2001, half of all outbreaks were caused by a new strain of the highly contagious norovirus.