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Passengers disembark Carnival Magic in Norfolk after reports 'chemical fumes' made people sick

The U.S. Coast Guard said it would investigate after passengers reported nausea and vomiting from a chemical smell and fumes on the cruise ship.

NORFOLK, Va. — The Carnival Magic returned to port in Downtown Norfolk on Thursday, to end its five-day cruise. During the last days of the trip, some passengers aboard the cruise ship said that a chemical-like smell caused people to get sick.

The United States Coast Guard said it received reports that passengers were nauseous and vomiting from the fumes.

A Coast Guard public affairs officer said no one was in immediate distress Wednesday night; however, USCG members were set to board the ship Thursday morning for further investigation.

“I was on the second floor where there was a strong chemical smell," said passenger Vanessa Burgard.

Burgard, a passenger from Richmond, said an intense odor hit some floors of the ship.

“I saw a whole group of people that were sick," Burgard said. "And someone had a seizure and medical took 45 minutes to respond.” 

Courtney Gately said her husband, Michael, had the seizure. She said the two are Boston natives and chose the ship for their honeymoon. 

She said things went south when they heard people on their floor screaming for everyone to leave because of the smell. 

“I tried to get him up, pulling him. I tripped and fell over a stool in my room," Gately said. "I fell and bashed my face off the vanity. He gets finally out to fresh air and suffers two seizures.” 

Katrina Baker from Virginia Beach said she ran into several people experiencing the same smell at the customer service desk. 

“I finally met up with about 10 other groups of people that were going through the exact same thing, and we waited there for 11 hours just trying to get someone to acknowledge us," Baker said.

Thursday afternoon, Carnival Cruise Line returned requests for information with the following statement:

"Some guests aboard Carnival Magic were impacted by an odor from an exterior painting project yesterday. The ship’s crew quickly reacted and provided assistance to the guests. Carnival Magic returned to Norfolk, Va., this morning as scheduled and all guests have disembarked."

Burgard said she and a group of passengers asked staff members to alert others aboard about the smell. She said they asked some of those guests to sign a non-disclosure agreement.   

“We just refuse to close our mouths; it is not worth what they offered at the end of the day but wouldn’t put in writing," she said.

Carnival did not comment on passengers’ claims of being asked to sign NDAs.

Carnival Magic, which can carry nearly 4,000 passengers, is the largest cruise ship ever to sail out of Virginia.

When the cruise ship departed Norfolk on May 15, it was on its way to the Bahamas. Carnival Magic became the first cruise ship to sail from the city in two years, although some ships had made stops in Norfolk as a port of call to visit the Hampton Roads area.

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