The first of two Princess Cruise Lines ships sailing with scores of passengers suffering from the fast-spreading norovirus returned to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Saturday.

More than 150 passengers and crew members on board the Crown Princess were infected with the gastrointestinal illness during its seven-day cruise to the southern Caribbean, WFOR-TV reported.

After the ship's arrival in Fort Lauderdale early Saturday, staff began the arduous task of cleaning the vessel from top to bottom in an attempt to rid it of the virus, which easily spreads through person-to-person contact.

Meanwhile, the Ruby Princess is due to arrive back in Fort Lauderdale on Sunday, with nearly 100 passengers and crew sick with the virus.

Ahead of the liners' next departures Saturday and Sunday, the cruise company sent out an "emergency notification" to passengers alerting them that their trips will be delayed due to the norovirus outbreak.

"It will be necessary for the ship to undergo a prolonged and additional disinfection in Port Everglades on Sunday," the company said in a message to passengers obtained by WFOR.

Aboard the Crown Princess, 140 passengers and 18 crew have been affected by the illness. A total of 81 passengers and nine crew have been sickened aboard the Ruby Princess, according to Karen Candy, manager of media relations for Princess.

"The ship continues to undergo the highest level of sanitation to stop the spread of illness, and a comprehensive disinfection of the ship's public areas and all passenger cabins will occur during turnaround this Sunday using additional cleaning cr