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Portland's First Cruise Ship Docks Sunday; Health Officials Monitoring for Norovirus

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The Balmoral, home ported in North Shields, UK is the first ship to visit Portland this season. Officials have been actively working to eliminate an outbreak of norovirus onboard.

PORTLAND, Maine _ Portland's first cruise ship of the 2016 summer season is scheduled to dock on Sunday, but with a recent outbreak of gastric illness, some of the passengers may not get to see Maine's largest city.

Health officials in the US and Canada are closely monitoring the 715 foot Balmoral.

According to the latest Centers for Disease Control report, 252 out of 919 passengers aboard the Balmoral, have experienced gastrointestinal illness over the course of the voyage which began on April 16th in Southampton, England.

Health officers from the CDC boarded the ship in Baltimore a week ago to assess the situation, where rapid testing revealed an outbreak of norovirus. Norovirus, marked by vomiting and diarrhea, is not an uncommon occurrence on cruise ships, but its highly contagious nature can lead to swift transmission. Victims can remain contagious well after symptoms subside.

Canada's Public Health Agency describes the outbreak as "elevated". Officials on the UK-ported ship say they've put strict sanitation and containment measures in place, including requirements for ill passengers to remain in their quarters for at least 48 hours. 

The ship is scheduled to dock at Portland Ocean Terminal at 7:00 AM Sunday, depart at 4:00 PM, and head to Saint John, New Brunswick.

Maine typically welcomes more than 350 cruise ships to port each season, contributing some $50 million to the state's economy. The Balmoral is the first of 77 ships that will call at Portland. More than 120 ships are expected to visit Bar Harbor this season.