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Princess Cruises ship docks in Texas with ill passengers aboard

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Dozens of passengers who fell ill on a Princess Cruises ship arrived in Houston a day early on Friday and were met by U.S. health officials investigating the second outbreak of a stomach illness on a cruise ship in a week.

The seven-day cruise was cut short by reports of fog in Houston at around the time of its planned arrival, the company said.

About 175 passengers and crew on the Caribbean Princess were affected, and the ship, with more than 4,000 on board, will be sanitized before its next scheduled departure on February 1, said the cruise line, owned by Carnival Corp.

Some passengers were skeptical, saying the ship docked early to head off a health crisis.

"I wanted to get out," passenger Robert Fisher told Houston broadcaster KTRK. "I was tired of being held as a prisoner in the room."

Carnival Cruises said "about three passengers have current active symptoms of norovirus, and over the course of the cruise 165 passengers reported ill to the medical center."

The ship had 3,104 passengers and 1,149 crew on board.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a statement that 11 crew members also became ill during the cruise.

CDC spokesman Llelwyn Grant said two of its vessel sanitation and health officers will board the ship in Houston to investigate the outbreak as well as the response from ship's management.

The ship's return comes after a Royal Caribbean ship cut short a Caribbean cruise when more than 600 people came down with a gastrointestinal illness.

The Royal Caribbean cruise line said it believes the illnesses are consistent with norovirus, a highly contagious virus spread from an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces, according to CDC.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin and Andrea Lorenz in Houston; editing by Gunna Dickson)

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