CDC: 137 Sick with Norovirus on Norwegian Gem

Norwegian GemEarlier this week, we reported that health officials banned the Norwegian Gem from calling on St. Maarten because a number of passengers were ill with a gastrointestinal illness. The NCL cruise ship then sailed on to Tortola where it called on the port there.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now officially reporting that 128 of 2,882 cruise passengers (4.44%) and 7 of 1,100 of crew members (0.64%) on the Gem have been ill during the cruise with norovirus. 

Although it was suggested on the cruise ship that the cause of the outbreak may be contaminated water, there has been no information released to the public confirming or excluding this possible cause. Norovirus is primarily a food-borne disease. Outbreak News Today correctly states that "norovirus is typically spread through contaminated food and water, touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus and then putting your hand or fingers in your mouth and close contact with someone who is vomiting or has diarrhea."

Unfortunately, the CDC has limited resources and does not attempt to conduct an epidemiology assessment regarding the source of the norovirus outbreak.    

Photo credit: Corgi5623 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0.       

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Comments (14) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
zach - March 22, 2016 3:14 PM

Way more than 128!!!.

Overheard security talking while in medical center with 87 cases on 3/19 alone. The day after the the St. Martin denial. Did not follow staged disembarkation by CDC. How do I know?? was there and got sick.

1. Most likely contracted from the casino late night food table with no washing station nearby at all (violating their "code red" requirements. (this being after they had staff serving all food and manning each door to dinning areas to disinfect hands with sanitizer.) In all reality the casino should have closed cause several others believed that is where it was contracted (which makes senses do the rapid exchange of chips, coins, and currency.

2. Once on "Isolation" paper says 24 hours but there only goals is to isolate not make sure the person is getting better. NO ONE CAME TO CHECK, SANITIZE THE ROOM, AND THE ROOM SERVICE TOOK FOR EVER 3 HOURS FOR A PITCHER OF WATER.

3.NOT ONE PERSON CHECKED IF I WAS STILL IN ISOLATION,not a single one. although I did wait 33 hours before going back to general public, after last symptom.

4. They lied constantly stating that "a handful of people" had become infected each day, "and it was ,most likely from bad water sources in PR"

5. Thier code red lacks common sense . leaving dirty dishes on tables and not having designated place to turn them in. THat in it of itself defeated the whole purpose of keeping people from handling the plates, silverwear or even serving themselves. AND why wouldn't bartenders have to wear gloves????? when everyone else does.

6.HELLO CDC i think you should mandate the casinos closes because of the direct contact/ exchange of items among the passengers makes it a very high risk area, but too profitable to worry about safety apparently. I did not even gamble in the casino that night except with the three cookies I grabbed off the table.

7. Norwegian, just remember you failed the inspection at port , and i feel it may of had to do with the understatement of cases, and St. MArtin calling BS.

Ronald ruiz - March 23, 2016 3:19 PM

I was there and did see first hand what was going on , with my daughter and her husband and my kid I saw people not cleaning there hands skirting past the cleaners and nor crew not stoping them. I saw a man who got sick in pool went to bathroom to clean his shorts in sink in men's room, I went to a worker and told him what I saw and he did nothing, I told him it's a bio hazard and must be closed and he did nothing a half hour gone by before they cleaned room ,,,,,,,still was not closed till next day. Nor did not really train some of there workers. It's sad we did not get sick because of the warnings and is being so ultra carefull touching and cleaning and rev leaning

Dr. Khan - March 24, 2016 10:50 AM

I am in full agreement with Zach. They lied about the number of cases.
I have a degree in microbiology and I have been on over 35 cruises and I can tell you this is endemic to this ship and maybe this cruise line.
I noticed it right away and advised my family that this is a much bigger problem than they were identifying. One of the biggest causes of these outbreaks is lack of response to the crisis.
1) this ship was completely full and yet on sea days half of the deck chairs were free. No waits or lineups in food venues. Anyone that has cruised before is aware of the wait lines for chairs and food on sea days.
2)they lied about potable water being consumed in Peurto Rico because by St. Thomas it had already reached epidemic levels. There would not have been that much overnight contact with guests other than in casino.
3) sanitation was not being followed. Staff was short in all venues and you can see they were moving them around from one area to the next. They used the same rag to wipe all tables and surfaces with just one bucket of cleaner (not red buckets- bleach)
When we asked wait staff why they were not using red bucket they said they are not allowed to on the leatherette seating. Protect the bench not the guests.
4) they did not close the gym area, in fact they hosted a game of dodgeball. Imagine 60 potentially sick children putting their hands on the same ball. This is where my daughter caught it. She played dodgeball even though I warned her to not touch railings, door handles, elevator buttons. She did not realize that applied to a common ball as well.

The next evening she threw up at dinner at Teppenyaki. I had to clean her up. Wait staff passed us by with food in their hands. Maitre d took us into kitchen to wash up then we went back to room. Maitre d properly informed medical clinic and told us they would contact us. My daughter threw up all over me. We went back to room and waited for call. No one called. A couple of hours later my wife called medical clinic and they said they will contact us in morning. Next morning they never did. My daughter had a horrible night and we self imposed a quarantine on ourselves. They next day I caught it as expected. This is how it spreads from room to room. We advised cabin stewards so they would not get it but with so many unaddressed cases I cannot see how they could not help but spread it cabin to cabin. Our room were not sanitized as they should have been as there was culpable denial on management side.

I would normally not complain about these things as it can start from factors beyond their control. The rest of the cruise was wonderful. But it is the denial that really "sinks" this ship. Identify it, admit it and address it. This is the proper way to deal with it. Captain said he doesn't understand why St. Marteen refused the ship entry. I applaud the health officials that stood up to the corporate bullies and said "no". They were not convinced that the ship was doing all that it should. Silently the ship credited us back $9.70 per person for missing St. Marteen. It was not hush money. Ten dollars to get sick to the point you are vomitting bile? Sorry it doesn't cut it. It's not about the money. Spend the money to follow the right protocols and then we would all be happy. Sorry NCL, normally I would not complain publically but you brought this on yourselves. You may blacklist me for this but right is right and I think people need to know how you failed to handle this crisis properly and yes you can contact me to tell you that by my estimates close to 1/2 of the guests fell ill. That is closer to 1500 guests that you had a fiduciary responsibility for.
Heartlandhealth@rogers.com

Nancy Corrigan, Esq. PASSENGER GEM - March 26, 2016 12:16 AM

DR KHAN:
I applaud your post. I already summarized my experience which was horrific.
I was violently ill vomiting bile notwithstanding the fact that I had zofron from cancer history.
They socked me with a $2500 bill, including ridiculous charges for $360 per hour for nursing times 24 hours bc I was too ill to return to a tiny room and encouraged me to go back to the room. I saw my MD prior to trip and was fit as a fiddle. I became sick the day BEFORE the PR excursion so they are resting their laurels on the PR port. When I was well enough to meet with assistant to Captain HE DENIED my reference to my use of the term "code red", and said that he did not know the term and asked where I heard it.They overdrew my account and re4fused to allow me to call NCL customer service bc my account was blocked.I have traveled aboard NCL more than 7 times and in fact got married on ship in 2010 and returned in 2012. I was treated poorly and refused recourse. They dismissed me from their office and threatened to call security when, in tears, I explained my card could not be used bc it was overdrawn. On top of this, they refused to remove the service charges of $13.50 per day times four of us because we had docked. I had waited on line for hours the night before and two nights before that. bc I was still weak and could not wait. They would not allow a family member to wait for me. My card is overdrawn $3500 to this day, and I bounced checks left and right. I explained that I am an attorney and read the contract. They argue it occurred in PR bc it absolves them. I was one of several passengers ill that day, before PR.
This destroyed our trip and I am a 48 year old 100 lb woman who was threatened to call security to remove me from their office. I was seated at the time and pleading to use their phone to call customer service, or another attorney to assist. This was a whole lot worse for me, and likely others. They literally put my lights out as I had just returned to practice on January 1st after my final reconstrutive surgery on December 14th.
I will file a notice of claim and bring an action in Federal court but am a single mother with two kids in college!
Thank you for your medical information, it may assist me in my quest for the return of my medical bills. Honestly, the superior aboard the ship denied ANY knowledge of code red.
Kind regards, Nancy Corrigan, Esq. nancycorriganesq@outlook.com 914-471-0500
any further information, forwarded or direct is greatly appreciated

Kevin Healy - March 29, 2016 9:39 AM

Returned from My cruise on March 12th, me and my two sons both got sick from this ship even though there was no reports about it during our cruise. Captain had mention initially they were on a flu alert and claimed the ship to be virus free three days into the trip. My stomach is still getting over what ever virus this was. Been experiencing symptoms of Noro since March 12th and have not been the same since I went on this ship. Very unhappy will probably not cruise again.

teddy persaud - March 29, 2016 10:59 AM

My wife and I got sick ...it was horrible I thought we will die.. we were quarantined. The management in the ship do not care.. THIS WAS SO BAD THEY COULD NOT ENTER ST MARTEEN. I did not get to see St Marteen or Tortolla. My wife and I will never go on Norwegian again . I hope CDC INVESTIGATE THIS SHIP AND THE PEOPLE THAT GOT SICK AND HEAR THE REAL STORIES.

monica persaud - March 30, 2016 2:06 PM

My husband and I both got voilently sick on that cruse with the virus the same day they docked in Puerto Rico.I heard more than half of the ship was sick. They were trying to hide the facts.

Shannon - April 3, 2016 2:05 AM

I was not on that cruise but I was on the same ship the Feb 21- March 3 and the same thing happened! I think this ship needs to be docked until they can fix this clearly what ever the problem is it has nothing to do with pr

Zach - April 3, 2016 7:02 PM

If anyone is taking action please email me at zack3303@aol.com really upset mainly because of how they are completely understating 4.4% is a lie and they should be accountable

Dan - April 4, 2016 8:42 AM

My family of 16 cruised on the Gem from the 22 of March till the 1st of April, we were handed the CDC letter while boarding the ship and was told less then 150 passengers were affected. We were extremely concerned because of our 19 month old daughter and her constantly running and touching things. That alone was stressful. we brought our own disinfectant wipes and cleaners. The chemicals that we constantly sprayed "washy washy, Happy, Happy" may have held the virus back but in no way is health for humans in that amount, were talking 50 times a day. While i seen some food staff had no gloves or cross contaminated dish and food (but for the most part were troopers)
We also personally witness an old man having diarrhea down the hallway running a trail of feces over 20 feet. We also seen no less then 15 piles of vomit during our trip. we have cruised may time before and never seen this amount of biohazards. This wasn't all from rough seas it was mostly from the virus. I myself fell sick but from bad sushi at dinner the 2 night, mostly upset stomach and diarrhea but lasted 8 hours.
The sit down dinners were almost undo able, 2+ hours the ship had to be understaffed due to the increase need to keep clean. the buffets and waiting in huge lines to eat were horrible, we felt like trained animals that needed to spray crap on our hands, take our plate and point to our food after waiting in a huge line. Almost like jail. this was our entire trip, unable to touch food or drink till the last day. the food was a 6 at best in all I would rate it as a Chinese buffet. most of the staff handled it well but there were a few who you could tell were feed up and not nice, We told the front desk there wold be no gratuity for the horrible service at the sit down restaurants and were told to send in a form and would be credited 2 weeks later. One member of my party owed 120 in gratuity he refused to pay and was physically held at the NY port. the guards physically retained him because of his gratuity and wouldn't let him go until we video the incident. this trip and NCL was a major disappointment and would never cruise with them again.

Jennifer Crowell - April 7, 2016 1:24 PM

I cruised on the ship March 22nd to April 1st and became brutally ill and hospitalized over this past weekend. I have a bad virus in which my stools had blood in it, I haven't eaten a week and still on antibiotics. I've cruised on NCL in the past and have never experienced anything like this. The experience on this trip was horrendous. They charged me over $500 in wifi fees that they refused to remove on top of many other charges. I plan on writing a complaint letter to corporate regarding this and our poor experience. The customer service reps were terrible on the ship. I felt bad for some of the staff because they were trying very hard to make everyone happy. Me getting sick was the straw that broke the camel's back. I'm disgusted and still not well.

Steph - April 30, 2016 8:44 AM

My family of 6 and I cruised 12-22 MAR and it was a nightmare. On Day 2 my parents turned on their faucet and the water was BROWN. They called the front desk and were told there had been a plumbing incident (valve or something) and that it should all be back to normal in a few hours. We didn't think anything of it at the time, but everyone started to get sick in the following days. This trip was the single biggest waste of money and time I've ever experienced. I've waited this long to post this because I had been trying to see what NCL would do for us, but the answer has come back: Nothing. So that will be my relationship with NCL from now on: Nothing.

Joe. donza - May 13, 2016 9:56 AM

Was on the 3/12/16 sailing on the Gem. Filed a claim with my credit card provider.Its still pending. NCL never once responded directly to me acknowledging my claim against them. Both my travel partner and I became quite I'll on the cruise. It seems that Ncl is in denial of the incident since,they claim, they did all they could to resolve
But the fact remains within the three to four days enroute to Puerto Rico in the buffet restaurants, everyone was serving themselves. Only after the noro break-up did they change the system from self-serve to being served by their personnel. At which point you couldn't even get a napkin or a salt-shaker on your own Of course the waiting time became crazy. My question is why,since Ncl has had these problems before, didn't use this serving protocol from the start of the cruise?,this his cruise? .maybe this his he were cutting -corners to save the almighty buck at the passengers peril. Additionally it's my opinion that NCL As well as other cruise lines should be forced to fully disclose to the public and particularly those who are purchasing a cruise that the threat of a noro germ is a possibility. Your thoughts are appreciated. Wish me luck with my claim--I'm afraid that I'll be needing it.

Joe. donza - May 13, 2016 10:09 AM

Was on the 3/12/16 sailing on the Gem. Filed a claim with my credit card provider.Its still pending. NCL never once responded directly to me acknowledging my claim against them. Both my travel partner and I became quite I'll on the cruise. It seems that Ncl is in denial of the incident since,they claim, they did all they could to resolve
But the fact remains within the three to four days enroute to Puerto Rico in the buffet restaurants, everyone was serving themselves. Only after the noro break-up did they change the system from self-serve to being served by their personnel. At which point you couldn't even get a napkin or a salt-shaker on your own Of course the waiting time became crazy. My question is why,since Ncl has had these problems before, didn't use this serving protocol from the start of the cruise?,this his cruise? .maybe this his he were cutting -corners to save the almighty buck at the passengers peril. Additionally it's my opinion that NCL As well as other cruise lines should be forced to fully disclose to the public and particularly those who are purchasing a cruise that the threat of a noro germ is a possibility. Your thoughts are appreciated. Wish me luck with my claim--I'm afraid that I'll be needing it.

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