Norovirus Continues to Plague Voyager of the Seas Cruise Ship in Australia

The Voyager of the Seas has returned to Australia today after a 18 night cruise.  Like the previous cruise, this cruise aboard the Voyager ended with the cruise ship arriving in port with what appears to be hundreds of cruise passengers infected with norovirus.

We are beginning to receive emails from passengers who were sickened during the cruise (see comments below) and observed "many incidences we saw of poor food handling and personal hygiene practices of both crew members and passengers."

A newspaper in Australia has an article about the problem facing passengers: "Gastro Outbreak Hits Norovirus - Voyager of the SeasVoyager of the Seas Passengers in Sydney Harbour." The article states that the boarding of the "mega liner Voyager of the Seas was thrown into chaos today following an outbreak of a gastrointestinal illness thought to be noro virus." The article mentions that, according to Royal Caribbean, around 135 passengers already aboard the ship were struck by the illness but disembarked in Sydney.

One passenger who contacted us said that around 150 cabins were quarantined which would suggest that Royal Caribbean may have underestimated the number of sick guests.  

According to the newspaper, the lines of passengers at the cruise terminal stretched hundred of meters as frustrated cruisers were left waiting for hours under the sun - many unaware of the cause of the delay. The passengers were required to complete detailed medical forms before they board, but quite frankly it should be the cruise line completing forms detailing the sickness of the cruise ship.  

A cruise line spokeswoman denied any connection between the long lines and the norovirus and blamed "thousands of passengers disregarding allocated staggered boarding times."

Royal Caribbean Norovirus - Voyager of the SeasMany passengers were upset that the cruise line kept them in the dark. Some others were handed at the port an "information sheet" in which Royal Caribbean said those ill had been limited to ''a small percentage of guests.''

What is missing from the newspaper article is the fact that there was a massive outbreak of norovirus on this cruise ship during the prior cruise. No newspapers in Australia reported on the disease outbreak and the cruise line kept mum too. You can read about the prior cruise and the problem with norovirus in our article: "Norovirus Outbreak on Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas?"

One passenger, Steve, wrote to us displeased that Royal Caribbean had not disclosed that there was norovirus on the cruise ship when he boarded on February 5th: 

"In hindsight if we had been made fully aware through official channels that there was an outbreak on the ship, we would have probably gone home as the last thing I needed was to catch a bout of Norovirus. There needs to be a lot more honesty and openness in this industry, as too many people are vulnerable and gullible when it comes to trusting these big cruise companies who profess to have our best interests at heart. Never again RCCL!" 

If you were on the cruise, please leave us a comment about how the cruise line handled the situation, or leave us a comment on our facebook page.

Any New Zealanders on the cruise? There is a news reporter from New Zealand who would like to speak with you. Please email me at jim@cruiselaw.com and I will place you in contact with the reporter.

Anyone with photos, either of the "enhanced cleaning" or crew members wearing protective clothing, etc.? Send us your photos to jim@cruiselaw.com 

November 24, 2012 Update: New Zealand newspaper picks up the story: "Sickness Stalks Luxury Superliner"  As usual, no one in the media raises the issue of the cause of the outbreak. Contaminated food or water? Sick crew members? Or infected passengers coming aboard?  

 

Photo credit: 

Bill Hearne - top photos of Voyager of the Seas

Australia's Daily Telegraph - bottom photo of Royal Caribbean letter 

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Comments (11) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Steve - November 23, 2012 8:15 AM

My wife and I have just returned from 18 nights on Voyager of the Seas departing from Fremantle Nov 5th as both a 60th birthday celebration and to recuperate after recent surgery. We met passengers coming off the ship who said that they and many passengers had been sick with Norovirus. We were allowed to board about an hour after scheduled timing, but not able to go to our cabins for another three hours. The cabin stewards later admitted that they were sanitising the cabins but there was no offical comment at that stage. During the cruise staff sprayed door handles and hand rails regularly. For the first four or five days they served the meals in the buffet and then for the last two days as they were obviously losing the battle with the virus invasion. Despite the constant reminders to wash our hands lots of people got sick. Reportedly 150 cabins were quarantined but there was never any official declaration that there was a real issue. At one stage my wife and I had to help an elderly gentleman who was obviously suffering from the virus find his way back to the sick bay - having been sent back to his cabin the day before and who at the time was disoriented and lost, at the wrong end of the ship to where the only lift which accessed the medical centre was. My wife suffered from eye irritation for the whole trip, which flared after each spraying session and we believe it was linked to whatever it was they were using. We survived the trip despite this and the many incidences we saw of poor food handling and personal hygiene practices of both crew members and passengers. In hindsight if we had been made fully aware through official channels that there was an outbreak on the ship, we would have probably gone home as the last thing I needed was to catch a bout of Norovirus. There needs to be a lot more honesty and openness in this industry, as too many people are vulnerable and gullible when it comes to trusting these big cruise companies who profess to have our best interests at heart. Never again RCCL!

Zsolt - November 24, 2012 8:44 PM

I used to work on ships before. it was RCCL,so I know how things go on a ship. For us,one of the most important thing is to be safe(from the virus) If the guests would take our advise about washing hands,ssanitising it,would help a lot. In my six years of living on ships,I got Norovirus ONCE!!! Why?? Because I DO wash my hands...not because of others,because of MY SELF! Lot of other people should do the same. How many times I got this stupid excuse of mostly elderly people: "I WASHED MY HANDS WHEN I GOT ONBOARD...well,it was hours after bording. Dear future guests,USE those sanetizing machines. They're not there for fun!!!!!!
sorry if my grammer is not correct.

take care people

John hole - November 25, 2012 10:44 AM

I worked over 16 years in Royal Caribbean and at all time we followed a very strict sanitaizing sistem ,cleaning the ships at all time and giving all the facilities to all passengers to help themselves to avoid any kind of contagion or outbreaks but there is a huge amount of people they don´t follow those directions,I saw so many disgusting behavior coming from many persons from almost all over the world the most common going to toilette and NOT WASHING HANDS,many people refusing the use of hand sanitizers at the entrance of every food venue,people claning handnails with the fork at the table,many people looks like in the morning they go straight to dining room for breakfast without taking any shower smelling,stinking,being rude,some mothers (MANY)throw the baby food right on the tablecloth or high chair table without using plates and this is just the tip of the iceberg without mentioning that many people don´t go onboard to enjoy the ports of call they just go to eat,carring food all over the ship at all time and of course not following higienic pratices however any one wit a little common sense could tell that taking a cruise is very dangerous if you don´t keep an eye in all those points,a cruise ship is a confined space carring people from many differents places and very diverse ways of life so don´t put all the blame in the cruise ship ,me as a crew member I never been sick but I saw many passengers sick with G.I. and most of the passengers are also very abusive to the employees and I am sure they don´t talk to people on land either be taxi drivres,bank cashiers,supermarkets ar any other like they talk to employees onboard,so my best advice is stay safe at home .

turco24 - November 26, 2012 1:49 AM

i am working in RCCL .i will say just one thing.royal caribbean is so strict about cleaning.we cant finish our job and go to our cabins and rest.why there must be sanitizing aswell...if there is virus or no.so please nobody can tell me royal caribbean doesnt care about people.royal caribbean is the company that can fire all command of chain (captain,staff captain,f&b manager,hotel director) because of their cleaning policy. (it happened before that's why i know.so please..be respectful litte bit.my message goes to the people who goes to cruise eat like piggies and doesnt even wash hands.
regards..

Barb slater - November 27, 2012 8:15 PM

I have just come back from cruise(rhapsody of seas) 3 nov. There was a outbreak on board. Some stupid man came on board sick, 800 peopleended up sick. I have to say the crew NEVER stopped leaning and sanitizing. They were marvelous.
As the other people have said it's personal hygiene. Washing of hands ect. Eedidnt get suck but were careful with what we tougher,and washed hands regularly.

Su - December 4, 2012 7:18 AM

I recently did the Voyager of the Seas 18 night cruise on 5th Nov from Fremantle to New Zealand arriving back in Sydney on 23rd Nov.
It was horrendous and I will never travel on such a large ship again. On boarding it was 9pm before we got towels or toilet paper in our cabin due to the whole ship being sanatised.The staff worked until all hours trying to rid the ship of the virus. There were no coffee facilities in the cabins due to the kettles being taken away due to the sanatisation and they then appeared in our cabins after 11 days at sea. i am not surprised that the Norovirus kept re-occurring. I personally witnessed in the dining room plates with food remnants taken to the service area and scrapped into a bin by a waiter who had no gloves on who then went on to serve at a table and he didn't wash his hands which is unacceptable. Waiters should wear gloves when clearing plates and wash hands before serving again. We also did see people avoiding the hand sanatising machines. Also people did fill up their water bottles in the Cafe Promenade when staff wern't looking giving rise to cross contamination. There are several areas that need looking at to keep this virus at bay..another example is that there were no hand santisers at the lifts which surely is a must as everyone uses the lifts. I also saw a waiter sneeze several times into the cloth he used for his tray. Apparently some people were emailed the night before the cruise to give them a chance to cancel because of the Norovirus..we didn't receive an email and for those that did the night before was a disgrace given RCCL knew the virus was on board at least a week beforehand. I would never had taken the cruise if I had known about the virus. I won't be travelling with RCCL again.

Jordan Murphy - December 7, 2012 12:34 AM

I worked for RCL for five years. you wash your hands and take responsiibility for your personal hygiene you dont get sick.

you dont wash your hands and blame others.. you can get sick

J Ryder - December 10, 2012 5:46 PM

I returned from cruise on Voyager of the Seas 9th Dec 2012 into Sydney. I was impressed with the continual cleaning of hand rails, dining tables, chair backs, seats and arm rests. Also cleaning of all machines in the casino immediately after each gambler vacated them.
The cabin stewards did not vacuum cabins each day for fear of passing the viruse from one cabin to another.I can honestly say that the Captain and crew of the Voyager of the Seas on the cruise around New Zealand 24th nov to 8th Dec 2012 did everything possible to keep the ship free from virus.
J.R. Manchester

C. Wheelock - December 19, 2012 1:31 AM

My husband and I boarded the Voyager of the Seas on the 5th November in Fremantle. We were unaware of the virus being on board an where not informed on boarding - and yes the first day/night was a little chaotic to say the least. We were made aware from other passengers the next day of the situation. We both agree that the crew went well beyond their duties to keep all the passengers safe and well and we followed their instructions to the letter washing our hands numurous times each day, using the sanitizers at all times and being aware at all times. I wish I could say the same for some of our fellow passengers having stand-up arguements why they should use the sanitizer
on entering the resturants and leaving the rest rooms without washing there hands. We both stayed well and had a wonderful time. Congratulations Voyager of the
Seas for giving us a great time under such trying circumstances.

Tony and Sue - December 19, 2012 7:52 PM

We returned to the UK following an 18 day cruise on the Voyager in November. Can't blame the crew for the virus.THey worked tirelessly to prevent it. The outbreak is down to certain passengers who choose not to wash their hands or look after their personal hygene whilst on board. We were reminded everyday by the captain and Cruise Director to ' wash our hands' which we certainly did and avoided any ill health.

Although its disappointing (unlike Princess Cruises )that RCL did not provide a daily update on the severity of the outbreak through Cruise Compass. This may have added weight to the Passengers understanding the position ( rather than rumour / gossip ) and provided a greater emphasis on passengers taking the necessary precautions on board.

Having said that , we had a wonderful time in OZ and NZ !

ashton grave - December 27, 2012 12:40 AM

I returned to sydney 22nd Dec 2012from Voyager of the seas NZ cruise. I have total praise for the crew of the ship. sanitisation & continual cleaning of all touch areas was prolific. We had no official knowledge of the numbers sick but were aware of the virus through hearsay. Announcements about handwashing were continous. The attention to hygene increased as the cruise went on. Many passengers seemed to selfishly try to circumvent the stategies of the crew serving the food with gloves rather than self serving. People are so spoilt and expect so much. Your health is as much your own responsibiliy as any one else. I feel for the crew who are vulnerable to any infections brought onboard by passengers. They are stuck there slaving away for their families back home and dont get home for many months to their loved ones yet they continue to serve us in a friendly way while we are slack with our sanitising and hand washing etc. I will cruise with them again.

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