Royal Caribbean Chairman Places Blame for Norovirus: "They're Having a Lot of Cold Up in the North"

Richard Fain Royal Caribbean NorovirusWith the norovirus controversy swirling around the Explorer of the Seas, Royal Caribbean cruise line executive Richard Fain appeared on a CNBC financial program today with host Simon Hobbs. Chairman Fain was discussing the fourth quarter 2013 profits when the issue came up of the over 600 sick passengers and crew.

Mr. Fain seemed to become quite defensive. He placed blame for what the ship doctors believe is the dreadful norovirus, saying: "They're having a lot of cold up in the north."   

Of course norovirus is not a cold, and its not caused by the cold. Far from it.

Norovirus is transmitted by fecally contaminated food or water; by person-to-person contact; and via aerosolization of the virus and subsequent contamination of surfaces. It can linger around for a week or two on surfaces and fabrics and even months and years in contaminated water.

How and why norovirus appears on cruise ships is a hotly debated topic.

Unless and until the CDC epidemiologist locates how the norovirus came on the cruise ship, it will be anyone's guess where the nasty bug came from. Blaming the people from New Jersey for bring a cold aboard the Explorer of the Seas is preposterous, but that's part of the blame game that cruise lines play.

The game plan for cruise lines is to always blame the passengers for the virus and to take the focus off of the possibility that an ill galley worker spread the virus or there were contamination problems with the food or water in the first place.

Mr. Fain told CNBC "'we screen our passengers best we can." Again, blame the passengers who slipped through the screening process, rather than saying that they screen their crew, food and water. 

Mr. Fain said his ships are "amazingly safe and secure" but he "wished he didn't have to prove it so many times."

Well if you have over 600 passengers and crew sick with norovirus puking all over the place, you have some proving to do again.  Accusing the people from Hoboken of having a cold is not going to work.

 

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Comments (5) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
John Goldsmith - January 27, 2014 8:49 PM

News from Edmonton a few moments ago.....
The CDC cannot confirm the source of the illness. Some interviewed blamed the passengers. Another blamed the close confines of a closed environment. All conjecture at this point. If a law requiring a 24 hour layover for cleaning and sterilizing at every North American Port between sailings,Will that be sufficient to defeat the existing problem? What would the per passenger cost increase be per cruise? Could the PR and Marketing departments sell that concept? " Cleaner? and Healthier?" Next item---? RCCL has stated on the news that there will be compensation...If I was short changed on any vacation.. nothing short of a refund or a complete rebooking will be accepted.
This year I plan to go on a cattle drive... I know there that the B.S. I run in to on the drive will be a natural product and not manufactured by a corporate stooge.

Anand Singh - January 27, 2014 9:11 PM

Blaming crew and ship is most fashionable thing, if you have ever been on cruise ship you will notice how few passengers are unhygienic to tje core and eat 24 hours. To my experience crew does it's best to sanitize themselves and the ship, I will blame it to the passengers ( some).

Jon Schnoor - January 28, 2014 1:04 PM

While the blame part is never helpful and the reality is both guests and the ship need to be part of the solution to the outbreaks. It is true an article pointed out there has been elevated cases of gastrointestinal illness (GI) in Westchester county for the past several weeks and I would imagine some of the guests on this specific cruise came from the areas affected. This is often how the virus gets introduced onto the ship, but containing the spread becomes a challenge on the ships. That is why they have implemented enhanced cleaning and disinfection of surfaces, especially that people touch and also suspending all self-service food operations to try to minimize the person-to-person spread. Whether spread by food, water or person-to-person the route of spread remains the same fecal oral and mostly via contaminated hands somewhere in the processes and not always on the ship. So as stated in this article and most others handwashing is the key.

Michael - January 29, 2014 12:01 AM

While "there's a lot of cold up north" is a stupid comment to make, it's true that mid-January is peak norovirus season in the northern hemisphere (but don't just take my word for it: http://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=norovirus). And with hundreds of passengers getting on the ship and only a handful of crew turning over at any given point, the odds probably *are* that a passenger brought it onboard.

But the passengers aren't necessarily at fault for that either. The virus has a 1-2 day latency. They might have felt fine when getting on board, then fell ill later on and spread it.

Educating people about how the virus spreads (mostly when you touch contaminated surfaces and then eat with those hands) and proper handwashing might go a long way toward reducing this problem in the future. Cruise ships might also want to start looking into hand sanitizers that actually work against it, as the alcohol ones don't kill the virus and give people a false sense of security (they are good for killing cold and flu viruses, though).

Jon Schnoor - February 2, 2014 3:05 PM

Wow. I seem to remember the name Jon Schnoor. Aren't you a paid consultant for Royal Caribbean? Or for that matter many of the cruise lines as a public health inspector? And aren't you a former employee of the CDC USPH program? If I recall, you regularly play golf with the guy that heads up the vessel sanitation program. The same guy who is sending his team to investigate these outbreaks.

Self disclosure might be nice in this instance.

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