Pukefest on the Dawn Princess

Dawn PrincessNew Zealand newspapers are reporting that Norovirus has sickened over 200 passengers cruising on the Dawn Princess traveling around New Zealand. The cruise line confined the ill people suffering from diarrhea and vomiting to their cabins at the request of New Zealand health officials. 

The report indicates that the Dawn Princess has been traveling to various port town in New Zealand such as Akaroa, Dunedin and Fiordland. 

Cruise operators Carnival Australia informed New Zealand health authorities of the outbreak. 

Health officials said that ill passengers were not allowed off the ship when it docked.

Over 10% of the passengers, an extremely high percentage, were sickened.  

You can read about the previous official noro outbreak involving the Dawn Princess here

Update: The Otago Daily News cites Cruise Law News today in its article 'Pukefest' as norovirus bug hits cruise ship.

December 8 2014 Update: A new Zealand newspaper reports that a tour operator claims that that the "Dawn Princess failed to reveal true extent of norovirus outbreak."  That newspapers also states that this is the second norovirus on this ship this year, with a previous norovirus outbreak on the Dawn Princess during a 75 day cruise through Asia and Alaska.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Bahnfrend

Norovirus Breaks Out on Crown Princess Cruise Ship Again

Crown PrincessThe Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 158 of 3,009 passengers (5.25%) and 14 of 1,160 crew members (1.21%) aboard the Crown Princess cruise ship have been sickened with norovirus.

The CDC website says that a Vessel Sanitation Program (VSA) environmental health officer will board the Princess cruise ship in San Pedro, California today to assess the situation.

The last reported norovirus outbreak also involved the Crown Princess, In April we reported on a large outbreak of the nasty bug.  122 passengers and 30 crew members suffered a bout of vomiting and diarrhea. You can read our article about that outbreak here.

You can read about the numerous other norovirus outbreaks on the Crown Princess here. There have been five outbreaks on this ship in just 4 years,

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / CB2379 Creative Commons 3.0

A video about one of the prior Crown Princess noro-outbreak is below:

 

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A Sick Ship? Adventure of the Seas Can't Shake the Bug

Earlier this month, we were contacted by passengers aboard the Royal Caribbean Adventure of the Seas because of back-to-back norovirus outbreaks requiring "deep cleaning" of the cruise ship.You can read our article about the situation here

A number of passengers complained of some pretty gross conditions:

One lady said "i was swimming and had to go round feces, which was also in the jacuzzi...it was reported but nothing was said . . . "

Another man said "the most serious issue on board the ship was the failure of its sewage system, a point admitted by its officers during the Q and A session. The ship stank like a Royal Caribbean Cruise Norovirussewage farm throughout the 14 days. We we also found the bed linen in our cabin filthy (pillows were brown and needed to be replaced) . . . This ship has problems!"

And then there was the inevitable debate whether the virus outbreak was caused by the failure of some passengers to wash their hands versus noro-contaminated food or water versus a virus-laden ship itself.

Passengers are now telling us that the norovirus outbreak continues on the third consecutive sailing of the Adventure which is scheduled for yet another so-called "deep cleaning" this weekend. Passengers received an email from the company explaining the the ship will undergo the enhanced cleaning before it leaves Southampton on Sunday, October 26th. Will the next cruise become the fourth consecutive "Norovirus on the High Seas?"

Some of the people who contacted us have small children, elderly parents, elderly grandparents or they are recovering from cancer, or have suppressed immune systems. They are asking whether they can cancel and obtain a refund or reschedule. They are asking us what to do.

Unfortunately the cruise line holds all of the cards in this situation. Royal Caribbean will certainly keep your money if you don't show up for the cruise and it will absolutely not issue you a refund. The only issue is whether the cruise line will permit a few people to reschedule on a case-by-case basis. 

Royal Caribbean just announced yesterday that it made almost $500,000,000 in profits for the third quarter of this year (and pays no U.S. taxes on that loot) so you might think that it has sufficient money to be understanding and reasonable under this circumstances. After all, its ship is sick. Who on earth wants to voluntarily subject their family to disease? But Royal Caribbean has a strict attitude against permitting fearful customers to reschedule even if there's something wrong with its ship. 

One person who contacted us said he was nervous about his family "catching the bug" but fell that he has no chance to reschedule. He said he "will let you know how it went!"

Customers should not become human guinea pigs like this. A good vacation should not depend on the success of another last minute "deep cleaning" of a sick ship which repeatedly failed.

The ship is enormous - 15 decks, 10 pools and whirlpools, 15 bars, clubs and lounges, and thousands and thousands of cabins packed into its 1,000 plus feet. Its an enormous undertaking to clean a ship like this. The chance of a 100% eradication of the nasty bug is slim, no matter how hard the crew is pressed into working overtime.  It takes only a few microbes of noro to sicken the next round of guests. The norovirus could be hidden under the commode seat cover or in the fabric of the duvet covers where the prior passengers were blasting millions of microbes of noro-infected vomit and diarrhea into the bathroom's and cabin's crooks and crannies. 

There are few laws protecting consumers on the high seas. There should be a norovirus policy where a passenger can obtain a hassle-free refund whenever there is a consecutive disease outbreak.  

If you get sick on the upcoming cruise, consider hiring a lawyer. No, not me. There's a good firm in the U.K. which has successfully handled cases this like. You can contact them here.

The cruise line is counting on the hundreds of its customers who fall victim to the pukefest not knowing what to do. After all, you and your family are really not guinea pigs, even if the cruise line treats you like one.   

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Norovirus on the Adventure of the Seas?

We have been contacted by passengers on the Adventure of the Seas, complaining about an a norovirus outbreak.

This morning we received this latest comment:

"My family have just returned from a European cruise onboard Royal Caribbean's Adventure of The Seas. There was a nasty outbreak of noro virus inboard affecting many guests which led to a full deep clean in port here in the UK today before the ship set sail again.

Rather worryingly, my family was told by a crew member that this was the second consecutive cruise by the ship to be affected by noro virus."

The Adventure is currently on a Mediterranean itinerary.

On November 2, 2014 the ship will sail from Southampton, England on a 14 night transatlantic cruise. It will reposition for Caribbean cruises sailing from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

October 24 2014 Update: Sick ship? Adventure of the Seas Can't Shake the Bug. The Adventure suffers through its third consecutive norovirus outbreak. Will the "deep cleaning" work this time? Will Royal Caribbean permit its customers to reschedule?  

Adventure of the Seas

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Brian Burnell Creative Commons 3.0

"Virus From Hell" - Gastroenteritis Strikes Passengers on Sea Princess

MSN / Ninesman reports on a viral outbreak aboard a Princess cruise ship cruising from Australia which sickened "hundreds" of passengers this week.

A passenger who was interviewed by MSN refers dramatically to being inflicted by a "virus from hell" with sounds of "vomiting echoing down the hallways."  The Sea Princess left Fremantle on August 18th and was heading, eventually, to Singapore. This was reportedly not the first outbreak.  New passengers who boarded in Singapore were not warned of the outbreak and were described by one passenger as "lambs being Sea Princess led to the slaughter . . . they just didn't know what they were in for."

The virus was allegedly on the cruise ship "for months." One passenger says that some of the bar and wait staff were already sick, when some passengers boarded, with gastroenteritis and influenza.  The passenger said that the sick crew members were afraid to report to the infirmary out of fear of losing their jobs. In our experience, some crew members who rely on tips keep working after they are ill.

MSN says that around 500 people were affected; however, Princess claims that this was not a major outbreak with only around 100 passengers becoming ill.  Princess confirmed to a newspaper in Australia that 100 passengers were sickened by what it innocuously referred to as a "tummy bug."

Princess is declining to compensate passengers for the outbreak and will not be reimbursing them for the shipboard medical treatment needed on the ship. 

We asked Princess for a comment but have not heard back from the cruise line.  

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Bahnfrend Creative Commons

Have a comment? Please leave your thoughts below or join the discussion us on our Facebook page.

Read about cruise norovirus cases from Barfblog.

September 11 2014 Update: We just received a couple of comments from passengers on the ship (below), stating that the story is over-dramatic and the criticism of Princess is overblown.

September 12 2014 Update: Passengers who were struck down by the gastro-intestinal virus have disembarked at Fremantle this morning, according to abcnet.au. One passenger said he "was compensated for his bad experience. We got a special on our next cruise deal and the compensation was a couple of dollars as well, so they looked after us." Another passenger said "they were not told about what had happened but believe they should have been."

September 13 2014 Update: PerthNow reports that passengers said up to 400 people were ill on the ship which many are nicknaming “Pandemic Princess” and “Purgatory Princess.” Princess is sticking with its story that only a “small percentage” of passenger were affected. Passengers were offered a 50 per cent refund to be discounted from their next cruise. One retiree said that a "nice glass of brandy every night” kept him from becoming sick. 

Cruise Industry Fabricates and Distorts Norovirus Information

Christine Duffy, the CEO of the cruise industry trade group Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), has authored an article entitled "CDC report debunks norovirus cruise myth."

The article was first issued as a press release and later picked up by cruise cheerleaders like Cruise Critic. Travel Weekly is the latest travel publication to publish the misleading article. 

Ms. Duffy fabricates and distorts information in her article. 

Christine DuffyShe compares norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships with norovirus outbreaks on land. But her method of doing so is inherently flawed and misleading. 

She says that In 2013, a little over 10 million people embarked on a cruise from a U.S. port. She claims that there were only 4 norovirus outbreaks, involving around 834 passengers, in 2013. That turns out to be approximately 1 in 12,000 cruise passengers who are affected by the nasty bug, she concludes.

Meanwhile, the CDC estimates that norovirus affected 20,000,000 ashore. With a population of some 318,000.000 U.S. citizens, that turns out to be 1 in 15 people who contract norovirus on land every year.

However, to make a meaningful comparison, you have to compare the U.S. population with the average population of the cruise industry at any given point. There are around 250,000 people cruising at any given time world wide from the major CLIA lines, with around 125,000 sailing from U.S. ports. You don't compare the U.S. population to the total number of travelers. That's like comparing apples to oranges.

A typical cruiser may spend anywhere from 3 days to a week or perhaps 2 or 3 weeks a year cruising. They are not on the cruise ship 52 weeks a year obviously. So it is highly misleading to compare the U.S. population with the total numbers of travelers. It skews the number from 125,000 to over 10,000,000. It understates the likelihood of contracting norovirus on a cruise ship by a factor of 80 or so.

In addition to the flawed methodology, Ms. Duffy's numbers regarding the incidents of cruise norovirus cases are flat-out wrong. She says there were only 4 outbreaks affecting only 834 passenger in 2013. 

But the CDC data shows that there are in fact thousands of passengers who are sickened on cruises every year. From February 25, 2013 to February 22, 2014, for example, the CDC reported that there 13 outbreaks totaling 2,468 passengers. So to make a correct statistical comparison, the land-based outbreaks must be compared to 2,468 incidents in a total cruise population of 125,000 (not 834 incidents out of over 10,000,000 people).

Remember that the CDC data is limited. It doesn't include outbreaks when the cruise ship doesn't return to a U.S. port. Even when a U.S. port is involved, it doesn't even record incidents when less Norovirus Cruise Shipthan 3% of the total number of passengers become sick. So that means that 175 passengers could become ill with norovirus on the Oasis of the Seas and the CDC would ignore it. The CDC data reveals only a fraction of the actual number of cruise norovirus victims. Plus it's well known in the cruise industry that many passengers don't report their sicknesses to the ship infirmary because they don't want to be quarantined.  

During many of the Congressional hearings on cruise ship crimes over the last few years, the cruise industry offered similarly misleading comparative data. It would provide crime statistics using the total U.S. population compared to the total number of passengers who travel on cruise ships. This skewed the statistics wildly in favor of the cruise industry. It made it appear that fewer crimes occur on cruise ships. Congress chastised the industry for providing such misleading comparisons.

Senator Rockefeller criticized Ms. Duffy for not being truthful when she testified before a Senate subcommittee on cruise ship safety in 2012. 

It's a shame that travel publications like Travel Weekly publish such rubbish. It's a disservice to the U.S. public who deserve honest numbers and meaningful analysis.   

CDC Press Release for Cruise Industry Backfires

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently issued new information about the cause of norovirus, indicating that a leading cause of the nasty virus is infected food handlers who work while sick and don't regularly wash their hands.

The study and conclusions are of course directly relevant to cruise ship norovirus cases considering that cruise ships are in essence giant floating restaurants.

But the new CDC report tried to be kind to the cruise industry, stating that you are far more likely to Cruise Ship Noroviruscatch the noro bug in a restaurant than on a cruise ship. The CDC says that cruise ships account for 1 percent of reported norovirus cases, while the other 99 percent of the other cases occur on land. 

A comment to a NPR article "Norovirus: Far More Likely To Come From Restaurant Than Cruise Ship," says that this is misleading. If the average individual who goes on a cruise spends an average of one week a year on a cruise, then 51 out of 52 weeks a year they are not on a cruise. So to state that over a year's time they are more likely to catch this illness when they are not on a cruise is an underwhelming statement by itself." 

The CDC on line information indicates that for cruise ships calling on U.S. ports alone, there have been 47 norovirus outbreaks since January 2011. If you consider that the average population of the cruise ship industry is just 250,000 or so at any one given time, the cruise ship fleet would be one of the sickest locations in the world considering that each outbreak involves at least 100 to 250 people. Earlier this year, some 700 Royal Caribbean passengers fell ill with norovirus.

Considering that there are over 300,000,000 U.S. citizens ashore, there undoubtedly are far more people getting sick with noro from restaurants ashore than on a cruise ship. But getting sick at home has got to be a heck of a lot better than power-puking in a tiny little bathroom in a tiny little cabin on a ship with hundreds of others puking around you on the high seas.

As far as norovirus cases attributable to contaminated food, the CDC points the finger directly at ill cooks and waiters. The CDC reports that restaurant workers account for 70% of norovirus cases involving contaminated food. The CDC says:

  • 1 in 5 food service workers report working while sick with vomiting and diarrhea. Fear of job loss and leaving coworkers short staffed were significant factors in their decision.
  • Food service workers practice proper hand washing only 1 of 4 times. 

The CDC suggests that one way to deal with the problem is "requiring sick food workers to stay home, and considering use of paid sick leave and on-call staffing, to support compliance." A CDC spokesperson say that "we really need to call upon the food service industry to work with public health to help foster an environment where food handlers can stay home when they're sick."

Of course this is impossible on a cruise ship where galley workers live on the ship and have cabin mates who live in close quarters.

Many of the food workers on cruise ships, like waiters and assistant waiters, earn a basic salary of only $50 a month and depend on tips from the customers. Missing a week because they are sick with noro would result in significant loss of money for these cruise waiters and assistants. Many galley workers keep working while sick.

There is also a dynamic on cruise ships that it you are sick, the attitude of the managers and supervisors is "go home" (i.e., quit, you will be easily replaced). The CDC has previously documented many cases of cruise employees working in the galley who work while ill. 

The cruise lines always blame the passengers for not washing their hands, but the culprit seems to lies elsewhere. The new CDC report clearly indicates that eating food in a restaurant, whether on a cruise ship or not, with a sick galley crew that doesn't wash their hands is a more likely way to get sick.

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Grandeur of the Seas is Still Sick: Cruise Industry Heading Toward Record Breaking Year for Virus of the Seas

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has documented passengers sailing on Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas out of Baltimore have been sickened on two consecutive cruises. 

The CDC website reflects that 97 passengers and 8 crew members on the Grandeur of the Seas became ill with vomiting and diarrhea. It left April 5 for a seven-day cruise and returns to Baltimore today.

Royal Caribbean Cruises notified passengers who will be boarding today to arrive late at the port Grandeur of the Seas - Baltimore - Noro Virusbecause the cruise ship will undergo another round of the so-called "enhanced cleaning."

The Associated Press indicates that Royal Caribbean believes norovirus to be the cause.

As is the situation with virtually all gastrointestinal outbreaks on cruise ships, the CDC has not announced an explanation how the outbreak took place. Contaminated food? Contaminated water? Sick crew members working while ill in the galley or dining rooms? Cruise passengers not washing their hands? (the cruise lines' usual excuse). Your guess is as good as mine.  

This is the second consecutive cruise on the Grandeur with a illness outbreak, The CDC reported that 111  passengers and 6 crew members became ill with norovirus on the Grandeur during its cruise from March 28 to April 5. You can read our report here.

The CDC has documented a total of 8 gastrointestinal illness outbreaks on cruises returning to a U.S. ports so far this year. (There was also a norovirus outbreak aboard the P&O Oriana recently). There were just 9 outbreaks in all of last year. Norovirus is cited as one of the reasons the public has less confidence in the safety and reliability of cruising, especially from people who have never cruised before.

This week we were contacted by many cruise passengers asking whether they could cancel the cruise which leaves today because of the ongoing outbreak. Unfortunately the cruise lines hold all of the cards in cases like this.  Fear of becoming sick is not a legally recognized reason to cancel a cruise and expect a refund. However, it all depends on the goodwill of the cruise line. A FOX News report indicates that the spokesperson for Royal Caribbean, Cynthia Martinez, said "if passengers don't want to take Saturday's cruise, Royal Caribbean staff will help them reschedule." 

You can contact Ms. Martinez on Twitter - @CrisisCommChick / telephone (305) 982-2458 / email cynthiamartinez@rccl.com

Suing a cruise line for compensation when exposed to a gastrointestinal virus is a losing proposition because the CDC does such a poor job trying to determine the cause of the outbreak. In this most recent case the CDC has not determined the type of virus much less how the virus came on the cruise ship.

The last message we received was last night: "I will be traveling on the Grandeur this Saturday as well and our check in time was delayed 4 hours! I will be bringing my own bleach wipes on board. Wish us luck!"

Good luck!

Photo Credit: WBAL Baltimore

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Norovirus Aboard Crown Princess Sickens 66 Passengers & 17 Crew Members

Multiple news sources are reporting that an outbreak of a gastrointestinal illness has stricken "at least 66 passengers and 17 crew members" aboard Princess Cruises' Crown Princess.

A spokesperson for Princess Cruises says that the nasty digestive bug is likely norovirus. 

There have been 6 prior gastrointestinal outbreaks on cruise ships calling on U.S. ports this year. There were just 9 in all of last year.

We have been contacted by passengers complaining that passengers were sick and there was a strong smell of vomit in the hallways.

Norovirus has plagued the image of the cruise line. There was a massive outbreak aboard Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas in January. A recent Harris Poll revealed that norovirus was one reason why the public does not perceive cruising as safe or reliable.  

We previously reported on a norovirus case involving the Crown PrincessHere We Go Again: Norovirus Sickens 100 Passengers on Crown Princess Sailing to Galveston

April 10 2014 Update:  The infected count is now at 104 passengers and 25 crew members on the Crown Princess. 

 

 

Vomiting & Diarrhea Bug Infects Passengers on Grandeur of the Seas

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 111 out of of 2122 passengers (5.23%) and 6 out of 790 crew (0.76%) have reported ill with gastrointestinal illness involving vomiting and diarrhea. The Royal Caribbean ship was on a 7 day cruise from Baltimore.

You can read the CDC report here. The CDC hasn't figured out yet whether the gastrointestinal outbreak was caused by norovirus. 

Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein reports that cruise passengers have received the following Grandeur of the Seasinformation in an email:

"Hello, this is Royal Caribbean International. We would like to provide you with some important information regarding your Saturday, April 5th, sailing onboard Grandeur of the Seas out of the Port of Baltimore. During the ship's last sailing, a number of guests experienced a gastrointestinal illness. We will conduct enhanced sanitizing onboard the ship and within the terminal to help prevent any illness from affecting your cruise. Therefore, your check-in and boarding will be delayed. Because space and seating in the terminal is limited, we ask that you not arrive to the port before 2:00 PM. Check in will take place between 2:00 PM and 4:30 PM."

I always wonder about the effectiveness of "enhanced cleaning" when the CDC can't determine what the disease is much less how it can aboard the cruise ship.

Any passengers cruising this week please let us know whether the virus was eradicated or whether the outbreak continues.

 

 Photo Credit: Wikipedia / J. Glover

The Norwegian Star Flunks Sanitation Inspection: Is There a Correlation Between Failed CDC Cruise Ship Inspections And Norovirus?

The first official norovirus outbreak on a cruise ship this year involved the Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) Norwegian Star

The outbreak occurred during a cruise from January 5-19, 2014. The virus sickened 130 of 2318 cruise passenger (5.61%) and 12 of 1039 crew members (1.15%).  You can read the CDC report here.

The CDC concluded that the virus in question which sickened the 142 or so people was norovirus. This was the "causative factor" in CDC parlance. The CDC can usually figure out the "causative factor" and NCL Norwegian Starmost of the time norovirus is the culprit. But I have never seen a CDC report in the last 10 or 15 years where the CDC figured out how the norovirus came aboard the cruise ship.

The cruise lines always blame the passengers. Sometimes the blame is direct with a cruise line public relations representative pointing the finger at their guests. Sometimes it is more subtle with no blame assessment but in the form of "passengers-need-to-wash-their-hands" type of admonishment. 

Determining the cause of a norovirus outbreak is a scientific process to be made by epidemiologists and doctors, not cruise line PR people.

The CDC is severely limited by the few inspectors and epidemiologists who are assigned to the cruise ships. The cruise lines are also eager to re-load their cruise ships and begin another cruise as soon as possible. Our federal government and the cruise lines work together to keep the cruise industry moving. No one wants to inconvenience the next round of passengers and hold a ship in port. Unfortunately, no one is advocating a more comprehensive (and slower) methodical analysis of data. 

My suggestion is that any time there is an outbreak, the CDC should automatically conduct a sanitation inspection as soon as the ship returns to port pursuant to its vessel sanitation program (VSP). The inspectors should determine whether the cruise ship's food or water supplies are contaminated. Medical literature indicates that many outbreaks are due to noro-laden food or water. Particular attention should be focused on the crew members' medical records, particularly the logs indicating whether food handlers (cooks and waiters) have reported to the ship infirmary with acute Cruise Ship Norovirusgastrointestinal symptoms of cramping, diarrhea and nausea.  

Yes, it will take greater resources from the CDC to accomplish this but it is worth it. The "enhanced cleaning" that takes place after an outbreak is "hit or miss." No one figures out what caused the outbreak. The ship is just pressing everyone to work overtime and spray and wipe everything in sight.

There was no CDC sanitation inspection on January 19th when the Norwegian Star returned to port. I would have liked to see the food handler's medical logs for the preceding two weeks in order to determine whether there were complaints of nausea, diarrhea, cramps, fever and headaches.  How did the cruise line handle the illnesses? Did they log all of the complaints and quarantine the sick crew members?  Did they interview the crew members' cabin mates to determine whether they were ill too?

The Norwegian Star underwent a CDC sanitation inspection on February 16th. The results were disgusting. Many crew members worked while suffering from acute gastrointestinal illnesses, threatening the health of passengers, and then appeared in the ship infirmary after working. The cruise line failed to properly document and log many of the sicknesses and report them to the CDC.  For the January 19th to February 2nd 2014 cruise, the number of sick passengers reached over 2% but the cruise ship did not notify the CDC. Many of the cabin mates of the sick crew members were not interviewed by the ship's medical staff, as required by the CDC protocols.  

The following violation was typical:

"Violation: On 28 January, the medical notes indicated a food worker had an illness onset at 0600 with Cruise Ship Food Handlers - Norovirusfour episodes of diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and a headache, but the AGE surveillance log indicated these symptoms started on 28 January at 1315. On the same day at 1315, this person had their last AGE symptom. There was no documentation indicating how long this person was isolated. This individual had four roommates, but there was no documentation the 48 hour interviews were conducted for three of the four roommates."

The CDC flunked the ship with a score of 82. You can read the CDC report here. In addition to the problems with the sick crew members, parts of the galleys and restaurants were filthy.

Does the CDC employ epidemiologists to study the results of vessel sanitation reports to look for trends to explain why gastrointestinal outbreaks occur?  Correlating the medical records of sick food handlers and their cabin mates with outbreaks may be a good idea. A scientific analysis of medical records and logs of crew members with GI problems would certainly be a better use of time than having to listen to the cruise line always blame the passengers for not not washing their hands. 

 

Photo Credit: Top: Wikipedia / Pjotr Mahhonin; bottom: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

Centers for Disease Control Confirms Gastrointestinal Outbreak Aboard HAL's Massdam

HAL MaasdamTen days ago we wrote about a gastrointestinal outbreak on the Holland America Line (HAL) Maasdam which was sailing routes in South America. 

Passengers were stating that numerous people are sick with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and other noro virus like symptoms. 

Some passengers complained that they became tired of the HAL captain blaming them for the outbreak.

The public relations people at HAL and parent company Carnival Corporation ignored our requests for information.

The Maasdam finally returned to Fort Lauderdale and the CDC boarded. The CDC is now reporting that 65 of 1096 passengers (5.93%) and 8 of 569 crew (1.41%) were ill with an unspecified gastrointestinal illness.

You can read the CDC report here.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Andrew J Bryson

Passengers Report Gastrointestinal Outbreak Aboard the HAL Maasdam

Several cruise passengers have informed us that there is a gastrointestinal outbreak on the Holland America Line (HAL) Maasdam which is currently sailing routes in South America.

Passengers are stating that numerous people are sick with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and other noro virus like symptoms. The number of sick passengers and crew has not been released to the people we have communicated with. 

Today one passenger reported: 

"MS Maasdam has been fighting NOROVIRUS pretty much most of the cruise from Rio to Ft Lauderdale. RED ALERT."

HAL MaasdamAnother passenger reported that he is ill and is tired of being blamed by the ship's captain for the disease:

"I am on the sick Holland America Maasdam which has had Noro virus ever since the departing Rio and won't be scheduled to be back in Fort Lauderdale until the end of the month. I'm getting tired of hearing the Captain blame the passengers for the spread of the disease. As a physician, I've clearly noted that the disease is passed by vectors such as cruise cards, bar staff and wait staff never washing their hands, and the tables and chairs being cleaned with the same rag. Captain it's not the passengers its your staff." 

The Maasdam is on a 26 day cruise, which started in Rio de Janeiro on March 2nd and will be ending in Fort Lauderdale on March 28th. 

We reached out to HAL and parent company Carnival this morning about this reported outbreak but have not yet received a response. Neither HAL nor Carnival responded. 

Are there other passengers or crew members with information about this alleged outbreak?  Please leave us a message or join the discussion on our Facebook page

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Andrew J Bryson

Norovirus Breaks Out On P&O Cruises' Oriana

Oriana Cruise ShipThe British press is reporting that the Oriana cruise ship has returned to port in Southampton with "dozens" of passengers sick with norovirus.

The 19 year-old P&O cruise ship ended its cruise around the Canary Islands early because of propeller problems. The Daily Echo newspaper in the U.K. is calling the ship "cursed" because of the norovirus outbreak.

The Daily Echo says that the ship returned to port on Wednesday due to propeller issues and passengers were permitted to stay on board and using the facility until Saturday. However, 57 passengers on board were then struck down with the highly contagious norovirus.

P&O Cruises offered refunds and credits to passengers, but some passengers said they might sue. 

The cruise line said that it started "enhanced sanitation" protocols.

P&O Cruises also released the familiar PR statement: "the safety and comfort of passengers and crew is always our number one priority.”

 

Photo Credit:  Wikipedia / Pjotr Mahhonin

Disease Outbreak on HAL Veendam

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that there has been a disease outbreak on the  M/S Veendam operated by Holland America Line (HAL)

The CDC states that the Veendam cruise ship has returned after a a 14 day cruise from February 8-22, 2014 with 114 of 1273 (8.96%) passengers suffering from norovirus-like symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea. 10 of 575 (1.74%) crew members are reportedly ill.

The CDC has not figured out the type or cause of the disease outbreak.

Veendam Cruise Ship - NorovirusThe CDC has confirmed four disease outbreaks on cruise ships so far this year.

The story was first mentioned by the Cruise Fever blog.

The HAL Veendam was last infected with e-coli last year. You can read about that outbreak here: Gastrointestinal Virus Plagues Passengers Aboard HAL's Veendam Cruise Ship.

The Veendam has experienced problems with cleanliness and Illnesses over the years.

In 2012, this HAL cruise ship flunked a health inspection. That's hard to do. Read our article: Gross! Holland America Line's Veendam Flunks Health Inspection.

The Veendam also sickened 80 and killed one passenger during a gastrointestinal outbreak in November of 2011.

Over the years, HAL has one of the worst records with disease outbreaks.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Djheini

Princess Cruises' Defense Every Time Norovirus Strikes: "The Passengers Bring It With Them"

This morning I wrote an article about Princess Cruises immediately blaming the sick passengers for what appears to be the latest norovirus outbreak aboard the Caribbean PrincessBlame Game: Princess Accuses Passengers of Starting Norovirus Outbreak on Caribbean Princess. Princess's PR spokesperson Julie Benson accused the passengers of bringing the virus with them when they boarded the cruise ship.

She didn't mention that the virus was wreaking havoc during the prior cruise.

Blaming the passengers is part of the PR strategy of Princess and the cruise industry.  

This afternoon I remembered reading a book by cruise expert Professor Ross Klein about this public Cruise Ship Squeezerelations defense strategy by Princess. The book is called "Cruise Ship Squeeze."  Professor Klein has been recognized as an expert regarding cruise line issues by both the House of Representatives and the Senate before whom he has testified several times.

I suggest reading Chapter 8 of Dr. Klein's book. At pages 179 - 183, you can read about the cruise industry and Princess blaming the passengers. Eleven years ago during a 2003 cruise, passengers were stricken with a gastrointestinal illness. Princess accused their cruise passengers sick with norovirus of "bringing it with them." But the truth is that during the prior cruise, the cruise ship had experienced passengers sickened with the same sickness. 

No scientists arrived at this conclusion. And there was nothing remotely scientific about what Princess represented to the public. 

Ever since then Princess says the same thing over and over every time norovirus sickens the guests. 

Who needs epidemiologists when the cruise line PR team has already figured out what to say?

Norovirus on Explorer of the Seas: More Sick than Reported

Explorer of the SeasCNN interviewed a family who became sick with gastrointestinal illness while sailing aboard Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas.  

These passengers (Mom, Dad and two kids), made some interesting comments. They disputed the official statistics reported by the cruise line to the Centers for Disease control (CDC) indicating that only 20% of the passengers were infected.  

They believed that a more reasonable estimate is that 80% were infected and 20% were not infected. At some point, they say, the cruise ship's medical infirmary was over-run with sick passengers. The facility could not process and treat the hundreds of people becoming ill. 

The family also said that the cruise line medical personnel "told us to stop coming down" (to the infirmary).

Watch the video below. 

Photo Credit: Roberto Schmidt / AFP / Getty

 

Blame Game: Princess Accuses Passengers of Starting Norovirus Outbreak on Caribbean Princess

Last night the Caribbean Princess cruise ship returned early to Houston, Texas with passengers and crew members suffering from a gastrointestinal illness (GI) outbreak. There are around 173 people officially reported to be ill on the ship, mostly passengers. A Houston news station says the outbreak was caused by norovirus.

Determining the type of GI outbreak and the origin of the outbreak is a deliberate, scientific process that is the work of trained and experienced expert epidemiologists.  

The experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have not yet determined either the type or the origin of the virus.  The outbreak could be attributed to contaminated food, or contaminated water, or galley or food handlers working while ill, or the ship failing to clean up after the last cruise when passengers became ill, or new passengers with the virus who were not properly Caribbean Princessscreened. But whatever the potential cause and origin, it's important to determine what the CDC says about the outbreak.

Princess Cruises, however, has already blamed its guests.  Princess PR spokeswoman Julie Benson tells CBS News that "the pattern suggests the illness was brought on board by passengers." Ms. Benson is not an epidemiologist of course. She has no medical or scientific education or training. Princess Cruises didn't fly a team of epidemiologists into the Gulf of Mexico and lower them down from a helicopter to the cruise ship to conduct tests and make a analysis.

Ms. Benson's comments, in my assessment, are a PR stunt. This is right out of the cruise industry's playbook of how to manage a crisis when a cruise ship sickness epidemic breaks out. Rule number 1: Blame the Passengers!

Cruise lines like Princess don't want the public to think that their cruise ships or crew members are the problem. To divert attention from the possibility of bad food or contaminated water or sick crew members, the cruise lines point the finger at their customers and accuse them of bring the virus aboard or having poor hygiene.

But could it be bad hygiene of the crew? The CDC has found crew working while ill before. That's why the public has to rely on the education and experience of the experts and not PR cruise line people.

Yesterday we wrote that there were passengers sickened during the last cruise. Did the ship clean up the contaminated surfaces and test the food and water after the last puke fest? How many people were sick last week?  Perhaps Princess will tell us? Perhaps not. 

I have mentioned before that cruise lines often don't want the CDC to make any conclusions about the cause or origin of widespread viral outbreaks. Why? So the PR people can spin the story for marketing purposes.

Princess would rather protect their own reputation and blame the sick passengers than wait for the CDC to finish its investigation. 

 

Photo BCredit: Mayra Beltran/Houston Chronicle

Norovirus Outbreak on Caribbean Princess Cruise Ship

Diamond Princess NorovirusThis morning I received an email from a reader of Cruise Law News who said that the Princess Cruises' Caribbean Princess cruise ship will be arriving in Houston tomorrow night 36 hours or so early due to a norovirus outbreak. 

This evening the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the Caribbean Princess has suffered an outbreak affecting the following people infected during its current January 25th - February 1st cruise:

  • 162 of 3102 passengers (5.22%); and
  • 11 of 1148 crew members (0.96%)

The CDC has not yet announced the type of pathogens involved in this latest cruise ship infection.

A Houston newspaper said the virus was norovirus.

The newspaper also said that Princess Cruises issued a statement today saying "that the trip was cut short by one day because of thick fog expected over the weekend."

Yeah, right.

Princess Cruises was recently featured in Time Magazine's Top 13 Worst cruise Ship Norovirus Outbreaks.  

Princess Cruises had five of the worst outbreaks: Crown Princess (January 2010) - 396; Crown Princess (February 2012) - 363; Ruby Princess (March 2013) - 276; Coral Princess (February 2009) - 271; and Sun Princess (July 2012) - 216.

The last gastrointestinal illness outbreak on a Princess cruise ship involved the Diamond Princess just two weeks ago.

How is Princess handing this latest outbreak? Leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

January 30, 2014 Update:  Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein received information from cruise passengers indicating that there were problems with norovirus on the prior cruise:

"From a reader: Passengers have been notified that during the current cruise there has been an increase in the number of cases of gastrointestinal illness amongst passengers caused by Norovirus. In response, we have arranged for the ship to undergo a prolonged and additional disinfection in Houston on Saturday, January 11, 2014. As a consequence, cruise check-in and embarkation will be delayed until 2:00 pm.

This was also noted by a passenger who just disembarked the ship who said, "Cabins on both sides of us had to be sanitized due the passengers being sick."

January 31, 2014 Update: "Blame Game: Princess Accuses Passengers of Starting Norovirus Outbreak on Caribbean Princess."  "Not our fault" says the PR people at Princess Cruises. How about letting the experts conclude their investigation first?

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Yankeesman312

Why Cruise Lines Want the Cause of Norovirus Outbreaks to Remain a Mystery

One hundred and fifty passengers reported ill on the Explorer of the Seas on Tuesday January 22, 2014, according to the cruise line's records. The following day, Wednesday, another 300 passengers reported being sick. In the first couple of days into the 10 day cruise, the Royal Caribbean cruise ship was faced with a full blown gastrointestinal epidemic. 

The numbers increased from 450 to 684 by the end of the cruise, including crew members.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that it sent one CDC sanitation inspector and one epidemiologist to the cruise ship when it arrived in St. Thomas, USVI on Sunday, Janaury 26, 2014. 

Cruise Ship NorovirusWhen I heard this news about the arrival of the CDC, I thought "just one epidemiologist?" The ship is huge - 15 stories high and longer than 3 football fields! It has over 4,200 people on board. How can one scientist possibly conclude not only the exact type of virus which was sickening the people on the enormous ship but also make an accurate determination how the virus came aboard and spread so quickly? There needs to be a team of a dozen epidemiology experts to handle such a task.

So the Explorer is back in New Jersey. Over 3,000 passengers will board tomorrow.

What type of virus sickened the ship and its passengers? The CDC has not yet concluded, assuming it will make a determination.

The CDC could not figure out the last two cruise ship GI outbreaks. The "causative agents" for the outbreaks on the NCL Star last week and the NCL Gem in November are listed as "unknown."  

The cause of the recent Explorer of the Seas outbreak may end up "unknown" as well.

If you look at the CDC data over the years, you will see that usually the CDC will at least figure out what type of pathogen is involved. It's usually norovirus, or e-coli or a combination of the two. But what you will never see is the CDC figuring out where the virus came from and how it spread.

Why? I believe that the CDC resources are so minimal and the time to conduct an investigation is so limited that it is virtually impossible to make a meaningful scientific analysis of the problem. All of the guests scatter back to their homes around the world. It's impossible to interview all of them. And the cruise line wants to re-rack the ship quickly. Ships don't make money sitting idle. The cruise lines depend on continuous rounds of customers buying booze, spending money on excursions and gift shop purchases, and gambling their money away. Investigating a cruise ship disease outbreak is completely different from an outbreak at a nursing home or child care facility where investigators can take their time, interview and test everyone and get to the truth of the matter.     

Look at the CDC data and you will learn that the CDC has not determined how norovirus comes aboard cruise ships for the last 50 outbreaks. Not one single time. They have failed miserably time after time in determining this causal issue.

The first two primary objectives of a CDC investigation are to:

  • determine the etiology of the outbreak; and
  • determine the method of transmission among the passengers.

There are a number of possible causes for a norovirus outbreaks. The CDC and FDA say that the most likely cause is often contaminated food or water.  The CDC has also flunked cruise ships during their sanitation inspections when they find evidence that galley employees kept working after they were Cruise Norovirussick. Earlier this year, a south Florida TV station aired a special about "Cruise Ship Workers Breaking Rules & Making Passengers Sick."

We also know that some galley employees hide food and cooking equipment from the CDC inspectors. Silversea Cruises was caught hiding 15 large trolleys of meat, fish, cheese and deserts down in the crew quarters. We revealed this last year and then CNN aired a special last year. Don't think that just Silversea plays hide-the-salami from the CDC sanitation inspectors. Unfortunately, the CDC inspects cruise ships which come into U.S. ports only twice a year.

Of course, passengers can be infected before they cruise and bring the virus onboard with them. They can also fail to wash their hands when they go to the buffet and make pigs of themselves at the buffet. Many passengers know that if they disclose their sickness they can be left behind. Many don't have insurance and the cruise lines never provide a refund to someone showing up ill. Some don't want to report sick to the infirmary because they are afraid of being quarantined and billed for the medical services.

The determination of exactly what caused the initial onset of the sickness and caused it to spread is a scientific / medical process. It should have nothing to do with the litigation blame game or public relations / reputation-protection issues.

But the cruise industry will always blame the passengers for bringing the virus onto the ship. They will not wait for the CDC to finish its investigation. The cruise trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), issues the same talking points after every single outbreak. The passengers need to wash their hands, CLIA will say. The 16,000 CLIA travel agents say the same thing, over and over, like trained parrots.

Today a well know travel agent tweeted: "It is the passengers!" as the only possible explanation for the outbreak on the Explorer.  Two days ago, Royal Caribbean Chairman Richard Fain was asked about the outbreak on the Explorer during a TV interview . He responded by saying that his cruise ship was "amazingly safe" and that the cause of the viral outbreak was because "they're having a lot of cold up in the north."  Of course norovirus has nothing to do with having a cold or cold weather. The cruise executive's off-the-cuff comments were just another way of delivering the "blame the passengers" message and diverting attention away from the ship and the crew. 

Passengers and crew members deserve to know why they are sick. 

Anecdotal stories, tall tales, PR statements and blame games will never solve the problem. Only scientific analysis from educated, trained and experienced epidemiologists will get to the bottom of the problem.

If I oversaw the cruise industry, which collects 35 to 40 billions dollars, tax free, every year, I would not be satisfied with the CDC never determining why a virus came aboard on my fleet of cruise ships and spread like wild fire, sickening my hard working crew and ruining the vacations of my guests. "Unknown" is not an acceptable answer. I would hire my own team of experts to get to the bottom of the matter. Then I would transparently tell my employees, customers and the public exactly what the scientists concluded, whether it was attributable to the ship food, or water, or the crew, or the Cruise Ship Noroviruspassengers.

But the cruise industry will never do that. They fear that perhaps 2 or 3 times out of 5, a group of experts may point to the cruise ship or crew rather than the dirty hands of the passengers as the cause of the outbreak.

That would be bad for the cruise industry's reputation and image. That would permit personal injury lawyers to file class action lawsuits. That would permit passengers to be fully compensated rather than having to accept 50% refunds and credits to sail on another cruise ship that they may never want to go on again.

As matters now stand, a scientific process designed to lead to the truth and the attendant medical and legal consequences gives way to a public relations effort full of speculation, untruthful talking points and finger pointing. 

And so the cause of viral outbreaks on cruise ships remains a mystery. And that's exactly what the cruise lines want. 

Will the Explorer of the Seas Be Ready to Safely Sail Tomorrow?

Explorer of the Seas Norovirus CleaningThe Explorer of the Seas arrived back in port in New Jersey yesterday.

ABC news interviewed some of the sick passengers. Its video below shows one passenger being taken away in an ambulance. ABC calls the incident a "horrific outbreak at sea." 

Incredibly, even though this is the largest gastrointestinal illness outbreaks on a cruise ship in 20 years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still has not officially announced what is causing the widespread illnesses.  In addition, the CDC has not declared how the virus came on the ship. It is an impossible task for a single epidemiologist to make such a determination. Without figuring out where and how the virus started, it seems difficult to take steps to eradicate the virus and make certain that the ship is safe to sail on.

The cruise line crew members are busy spraying, wiping and scrubbing. The ship sets sail again tomorrow. I say good luck to the next round of guests. 

 


 

Chart Shows Massive GI Outbreak: Explorer of the Seas Returns to New Jersey with 684 Sick People Aboard

Explorer of the SeasThe noro-stricken Explorer of the Seas has returned to New Jersey filled with 684 ill passengers and crew members. This is reportedly the largest gastrointestinal illness outbreaks on a cruise ship in twenty years.

A gastrointestinal illness (GI) chart from the Royal Caribbean cruise ship shows that the outbreak became obvious on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 when nearly 150 passengers reported that they were sick. By the next day, Wednesday. January 22, 2014, over 300 additional passengers suffered from the onset of the illness. You can track the outbreak affecting both passengers and crew on the chart below.

The chart does not have data included from yesterday or today.

The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that there are 684 ill, with 630 passengers and 54 crew members affected. 

It will be interesting if Royal Caribbean will produce a (GI) chart showing the number of patients who suffered from GI during the prior cruise.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Explorer of the Seas Norovirus Chart 

  Photo Credit: Explorer of the Seas - Thomas Layer / AP Photo 

Norovirus on the Explorer of the Seas: Why No Compensation for Crew Members?

Crew members work hard on cruise ships. Waiters and cabin attendants earn wages from Royal Caribbean of only $50 a month. That's right. $50 a month. That's something like $1.67 a day. They depend almost exclusively on tips from the passengers to support their families back home.

Utility cleaners are not entitled to tips, and they earn around only $545 a month. That's around $18.30 a day. 

Crew members work a minimum of 12 hours a day, sometimes more.

Norovirus Explorer of the Seas - Royal CaribbeanThey work 7 days a week. Every single day of the month. For 8 months.

When a norovirus outbreak occurs, they are pressed into duty to try and sanitize the huge ship. That involves hours and hours of extra spraying and wiping and scrubbing everything in sight.

I cannot imagine the extra work required of the cabin attendants who clean as many as 18 cabins and bathrooms a day. I don't know how these men and women clean so many cabins and bathroom when there's no gastrointestinal illness outbreak. But when noro virus strikes and the puking and diarrhea starts, there are literally millions and millions of noro infected microbes floating around in an aerosolized form. The microbes can fall into the fabric of the furniture, the duvet covers on the bed, into the carpet fibers, and all the tiny nooks and crannies of the bathroom tiles.  

When the passengers leave the cruise ship at the last day of this cruise from hell, will they tip these hardworking crew members?  Many passengers are mad and feel ripped off. They didn't obtain the vacations which they paid for with their family. They want their money back from the cruise line. Are they going to track down the public bathroom cleaners responsible for sanitizing all of the public restrooms and give them a $50 tip?

Today Royal Caribbean announced "compensation" for the passengers: a 50% refund and a 50% future credit. Is that fair? Some will accept it. Others will think that they are being mistreated again. Some people were sailing on the Explorer as a replacement cruise after the Grandeur of the Seas caught on fire last year. Are they interested in testing their luck one more time? 

Whatever you think of the cruise line's offer of compensation, remember one thing. The crew is not getting a nickel extra from the cruise line. So if you are a passenger and want to bitch, whine, moan and complain, don't forget about all of those crew members you left behind. Remember that they were the ones cleaning up all of your vomit and removing your bio-hazard bags. They are not receiving any compensation at all.  They are busy trying to get the cruise ship in shape for the next 3,000 guests who will soon board.

Explorer of the Seas Norovirus

Photo Credit: Top - Getty Images

Time Magazine: The Top 13 Cruise Ship Norovirus Outbreaks

With the Explorer of the Seas sailing back to New Jersey with almost 650 victims of norovirus related nausea and diarrhea, Time magazine just published the article Cruise Out of Control: The 13 Worst Norovirus Outbreaks on Cruise Ships.

The worst outbreak is, of course, Royal Caribbean's Explorer but the cruise line and its sister line Celebrity Cruises have the top three worst outbreaks and five of the top 13 worst outbreaks.

The passengers and crew aboard the Celebrity Mercury suffered through outbreaks on five consecutive  sailings back in 2000, including 443 sick in February 2000 and 419 in March. The Centers Norovirus Cruise Shipfor Disease Control and Prevention finally issued a rare no-sail order because the ship kept infecting the passengers and the cruise line wouldn't stop sailing.

The overall winner of Time's top 13 list is Princess Cruises which had five outbreaks on its brand alone: Crown Princess (January 2010) - 396; Crown Princess (February 2012) - 363;  Ruby Princess (March 2013) - 276; Coral Princess (February 2009) - 271; and Sun Princess (July 2012) - 216.

The disturbing thing about the list is that the Centers for Disease Control were unable to publish a single conclusion about where the norovirus came from. The public is left with the "blame game" of wondering whether the cruise ship food or water was contaminated, or the outbreak was caused by a sick galley worker, or was brought aboard by sick passengers and then spread because of inadequate hygiene.

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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When Norovirus Strikes, Cruise Line Cheerleaders Run & Hide

The news of 600 passengers and crew members stricken with what appears to be norovirus is dominating the cruise news today. The story broke on Friday with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announcing that a little over 300 passenger and crew aboard the Explorer of the Seas were suffering from nausea and diarrhea. 

The number rose to over 450 by the weekend. This morning the CDC raised the number of sick people to over 600.

This story came on the heels of another Royal Caribbean norovirus case last week. The Majesty of the Seas returned to Miami the other week with passengers and crew sickened by norovirus. The story Explorer of the Seas Noroviruswas heavily reported as well.

The cruise norovirus stories seem to bring the disgusting Triumph "poop cruise" stories back to life. Hundreds of people floating around on a nasty ship jammed with people who wanted off the cruise and away from all of the vomit and diarrhea.

This morning around 4:00 AM I published my second article ("A Royal Mess") on the outbreak. I then went to the airport in Miami at 5:30 AM to meet a client. A CNN special about the Explorer's gastrointestinal illness (GI) outbreak was on a flat screen television positioned above one of the baggage carousels. Hundreds of people who had just flown into Miami watched the television as they waited for their bags. I watched them either shake their heads in disgust or laugh, perhaps nervously, as the CNN anchor interviewed a Royal Caribbean passenger who described the widespread illnesses on the sick ship.

I was familiar with this particular passenger's plight because we had exchanged tweets on Twitter about the cruise ship GI outbreak. Passengers tweeted over the weekend to anyone and everyone who would listen to stories about the ordeal. I could see that reporters from ABC, CBS and other major networks were sending messages to anyone they could find on Twitter looking for a live voice to tell the story. Reuters reported that one passenger wrote on Twitter: "I've been sick and quarantined... Everything I touch goes in a biohazard bag." A newspaper in the U.K., the Daily Mail, embedded tweets from some of the sick passengers, including a couple of tweets that I shared with one ill passenger.

The puke-fest-on-the-cruise-from-hell-story was growing and growing. It became clear that far more than 300 people were sick. The story would shortly become viral.

As usual, CNN beat their competitors in covering the story with a couple of video interviews of passengers on the stricken ship. One passenger was angry about the cruise line's disorganization. He said his last cruise with Royal Caribbean also involved widespread gastrointestinal illnesses. Another passenger complained that no one in the ship's room service would answer his calls for water, and no one told him when the quarantine was lifted.     

Where were the public relation representatives of Royal Caribbean protecting the crew's and cruise line's reputations? Where were the PR experts for the cruise industry? Royal Caribbean finally sent out a formal statement to the press but there was no one on the cruise line's twitter feed interacting contemporaneously with the sick and suffering on the cruise ship. 

The trade organization for the cruise line, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), was asleep. Indeed, a check of the CLIA Twitter feed (@CruiseFacts) shows no tweets since December 18, 2013 - over a month! That's an eternity in the fast paced world of social media.

The CEO of CLIA, Christine Duffy, was no where to be seen. She needed to present the cruise industry's side of the story. She last tweeted on Thursday, the day before the outbreak from her handle @CLIACEO. Ironically, she last tweeted about a "great column" in Travel Weekly about the "new wave of attacks on the cruise industry" which featured a travel agent's criticism of me. (You can read my response here).

This shows a problem with the cruise lines' PR. The cruise industry PR is always late and in reaction to bad press. The cruise industry seems to be always complaining about CNN and the bad press, but it doesn't bother to interact with its aggrieved customers in real time. By the time it finally responds to bad news, there are other stories bringing even worse news. The travel writers will be pleased to write a puff piece whenever CLIA wants one, but the coverage is strictly after-the-fact. It lacks spontaneity and genuineness. There are no travel writers fast and nimble enough to react immediately when trouble comes.  

When disaster strikes, whether it's a fire, a capsizing, or just the latest norovirus outbreak, the cruise lines don't know what to do. Their twitter and Facebook pages are silent. Their executives go to the Miami Heat games. The travel agents and travel publications run and hide.

A crisis management expert, Rich Klein, just wrote a blog about the predicament facing Royal Caribbean. With the headline "Honesty Remains Lonely Word," he writes that the cruise line has active Twitter and Facebook pages "but 24+ hours into their respective crises, only customers are reporting the obvious news while the companies offer little insight into what happened."

As sick passengers lamented their cruise-from-hell on Twitter and aggressive news reporters brought their stories to an international audience, Royal Caribbean and CLIA were enjoying their weekend. No one had their hands on the wheels of the PR machine. When genuine sympathy and a quick refund were in order, the cruise industry engaged in slow motion corporate talk. Royal Caribbean has still not even mentioned whether or how it intends to compensate its sick guests for the unpleasant, aborted cruise. 

 

Photo Credit: Thomas Layer / AP Photo

A Royal Mess: Sick Count Increases to Over 600, Cruise Ends Early

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that over 600 people have been sickened by the gastrointestinal illness outbreak on the Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas, CNN reports.

The Royal Caribbean cruise ship left Cape Liberty, New Jersey on January 21, 2014 for a 10 day cruise through the Caribbean. The ship missed a stop at its private stop in Labadee Haiti after the outbreak. It sailed to San Juan to be cleaned. 

The CDC initially stated that over 300 people (281 passengers and 22 crew members) were ill. (Its official report is here with the new statistics). However, over the weekend we began to hear reports from passengers that the number Royal Caribbean Cruise Explorer of the Seas Norovirusof people suffering from nausea and diarrhea had increased to to over 450 and, now, to over 600. 

CNN quotes a spokeswoman with the CDC that more than 600 people on the ship have become ill, reporting vomiting and diarrhea. The CDC spokeswoman said 564 passengers and 47 crew members reported being ill.

Royal Caribbean is ending the cruise two days early. The cruise line will "use the extra time to sanitize the ship even more thoroughly." 

We have been contacted by guests on this ill fated cruise as well passengers from the prior cruise who became ill. 

Passengers who contacted Royal Caribbean say that the cruise line is not considering refunds of any type.

We previously reported on the incident in our article: Puke Fest Aboard Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas.

There has been no official word from the CDC whether this is in fact norovirus, although the symptoms are consistent with the virus. The cruise lines invariably blame the passengers, but the CDC has never in my experience ever pin-pointed the exact source of an outbreak like this.

NBC News raises the issue whether the outbreak on the Explorer is linked to a nasty new type of norovirus known as the GII 4 Sydney strain which caused an outbreak on the Queen Mary 2.

Join our discussion on Facebook about why norovirus outbreaks occur on cruise ships

 

Puke Fest Aboard Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that there is an outbreak of gastrointestinal sickness of a large percentage of cruise passengers aboard Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas cruise ship.

The CDC indicates that 281 passengers (9.21% of total passengers) are suffering from norovirus type of symptoms. The symptoms include vomiting, nausea, headaches and diarehhea. You can read the report here

The pro-cruise site Cruise Critic calls the problem a "small outbreak" but the truth is that 9% is a high percentage.  It is not unusual for passengers not to report the illness in order to avoid being Explorer of the Seasquarantined in the cabin or for crew members who rely on tips to keep working after they are ill. The total numbers are often under-reported.

In addition to sick passengers, 22 crew members are reportedly ill according to the CDC. 

The CDC website states that an environmental health officer and an epidemiologist will board the ship in St. Thomas, USVI on January 26, 2014 to conduct an epidemiologic investigation. 

It may be possible to determine whether the outbreak is in fact related to norovirus. But the CDC will not have any success is determining why and how the virus came aboard. There is not enough time for the CDC to conduct an exhaustive scientific analysis and, as usual, the ship will not sit idle waiting for the test results. The cruise ship will continue to sail whether the CDC determines if it is norovirus or exactly why it is on the ship. 

Earlier this week, cruise expert Professor Ross Klein indicated that the CDC reported 130 passengers and 12 crew members became ill with gastrointestinal illness while cruising aboard the NCL Norwegian Star

The Majesty of the Seas returned to Miami a week ago with 70 people reported ill with gastrointestinal illnesses.

Were the outbreaks on the Royal Caribbean and NCL ships caused by the passengers not washing their hands? That's always what the cruise lines say.

Or was it due to crew members who kept working after they became sick and causing the outbreak? Or was it contaminated food or water, which is a common cause?

We will never know. The cause of gastrointestinal outbreaks is usually a mystery on cruise ships.

 

Have a comment? Please leave a message below or join the discussion on our Facebook page - what's the most common cause of norovirus on cruise ships?  

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Emma Jones

Norovirus on Diamond Princess: How is Princess Cruises Handling the Outbreak?

Diamond Princess NorovirusA newspaper in New Zealand is reporting that 60 cruise passengers aboard a Princess cruise ship which sailed from Australia have been infected with the dreaded norovirus. They have been suffering from vomiting, nausea and diarrhea. 

The newspaper is stating that cleaners are working to sanitize the Diamond Princess before the next group of passengers board. 

Check-in has been delayed as the extra cleaning has been taking place. 

One passenger expressed serious reservations about the upcoming cruise. The thousands-of-dollars cruise vacation can't be cancelled because there was no chance of a refund, he said.

The newspaper correctly points out that norovirus can be transmitted through infected food or water, person-to-person contact, and surface contact.

If you were on the cruise, is the estimate of 60 ill passengers accurate?

What, exactly, is Princess saying about refunds?

How did the cruise line handle the outbreak?

 

Photo Credit:  Wikipedia / Barrylb

Noro Virus on the Sun Princess?

This evening we received an email from a passenger on the Sun Princess cruise ship stating that the cruise ship is experiencing an outbreak of what is described as norovirus which is diminishing the cruise experience of the passengers. 

The primary complaint seems to be that the cruise line allegedly knew about the noro outbreak but did not tell the passengers until after the ship sailed. Earlier, on December 26th, we previously posted comments about noro virus on the Sun Princess.  Here's what we received this evening:

"The Sun Princess is again out in the South Pacific with about 2,000 "Guests," all of whom were boarded without advice that the ship was sailing at 'RED ALERT' levels for the NORO virus raging in the vessel. The company is clever at preserving their profits at the risk of passenger health in not advising passengers of the outbreaks until well out on the ocean.

Holiday pleasures diminished, no condiments on tables, no self-service buffers, constant urgings to use expensive bottled water, very expensive medical centre visits, confined to cabins etc. etc. etc This concealment of health risks is deeply concerning and must be addressed by the industry at large right now."

We have written hundreds of articles over the years about noro virus and how the cruise line handle (and don't handle) the outbreaks. The cruise lines always blame the passengers for not not washing their hands, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have concluded that the most common causative factor is contaminated food and water.

Irrespective of what side you are on in this debate, there are a couple of things that everyone should agree on.

First, there is not enough time during turn-around day for the cruise ships to be adequately cleaned. There is not even enough time to figure out from an epidemiology perspective where the virus came from.  All of the spraying and wiping and fogging are pointless if the water or food are contaminated with the virus. But the cruise lines pressure the crew to madly try and super-clean the ship when it returns at the end of the cruise. 

Secondly, if the cruise line knows that there is a viral outbreak, it should be required to tell the passengers before they embark on the ship. Passengers should not be forced to sail on sick ships.

I for one would hate to take my family into a cabin where just a few hours earlier a sick family was power-puking millions of microbes of noro pathogens everywhere.

Update: Statement by Princess Cruises. Princess provided a statement which reads in its entirety as follows:

"Sun Princess experienced an outbreak of AGE on the prior voyage, however the cause (now known to be Norovirus) was not confirmed until the next voyage began.

During both voyages, the ship increased sanitation procedures, announcements were made by the captain, and letters were distributed to all passengers advising of the situation onboard. We also received verification from New South Wales Health that they were happy with the ship's actions and response." 
 

Have a thought?  Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Lemeki Lenoa

Norovirus on the Oasis of the Seas?

We have been notified by several cruise passengers aboard the Oasis of the Seas that they became sick with gastrointestinal symptoms including severe nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.  

The cruise line has not disclosed how many passengers or crew experienced symptoms like this yet, and there is no indication whether the illnesses are in fact due to norovirus or some other virus.

Royal Caribbean sent passengers embarking today on the Oasis the following information:

"Hello, this is Royal Caribbean International. We would like to provide you with some important information regarding your Saturday, December 28, sailing onboard Oasis of the Seas out of Port Everglades, Florida. During the ship's last sailing, a number of guests experienced a gastrointestinal illness. We will conduct enhanced sanitizing onboard the ship and within the terminal to help prevent any illness from affecting your cruise. Therefore, your check-in and boarding will be delayed. Because space and seating in the terminal is limited, we ask that you not arrive to the port before 1:30 PM. Check in will take place between 1:30 PM and 4:00 PM. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation and we look forward to welcoming you onboard."

If you have any information about the situation aboard the Oasis, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.  

 

Photo credit: Wikipedia / Baldwin040

Celebrity Summit "Cruise From Hell:" Another Passenger Speaks Her Mind About Norovirus

Celebrity Summit Cruise ShipLast week we published an article which featured a comment by a passenger aboard the noro-infected Celebrity Summit cruise ship. 

A number of people commented or contacted our office about the comment, both pro and con. 

We rarely handle norovirus cases, but the discussion around the subject, we think, is still important. How the cruise industry treats gastrointestinal infection cases reflects the cruise lines' standards for hygiene and the cruise companies' attitudes toward their customers.

Here's the latest comments about the situation on the Summit:     

We too were on the Summit recently. We reported how dirty our Royal Suite was. They said they cleaned it, but the only evidence was that they used epoxy on the dining area parkay floor. The smell was horrendous.

I had allergic reaction tongue swelled, face, nose, eyelids and had hives on face and upper body. The doctor on call would not acknowledge this and commenced to tell me that I was having an allergic reaction to blood pressure and cholesterol medications I have been on for years. He told me to stop taking these medications and he filled new prescriptions together with benedryl. They put in a IV to rehydrate me two times.

At the end of the cruise I was taken off the ship in a wheelchair. I had been sick the entire second week. Our butler was under orders to charge us for all the bottle water we needed. They clean the suite with a dirty rag and some kind of spray they use in all the rooms and hallways. It's disgusting! You wouldn't use someone elses used tissue. How sanitary is that?

They charged our ship account $600 for the doctor and pills (that I didn't use except for the benedryl). When we questioned the charge even though we had bought the travel insurance, the Concierge said we "must read the fine print." Three days after my allergic reaction, my disabled husband got the norovirus. Through all of this the doctor refused to come to our suite. They said we needed to come to the doctor office.

This trip was from hell!

Have a comment? Leave your thoughts below or join the discussion on on our Facebook page.

Norovirus Outbreak Aboard the Celebrity Constellation

We received information that the Celebrity Constellation has been hit with a norovirus outbreak during the September 25, 2013 to October 7, 2013 cruise.

A passenger informed us:

Just off the Celebrity Constellation Black Sea cruise Sept. 25th - Oct. 7th. Over 300 sick with Norovirus etc . . . Crew did their best but the sickness progressed rapidly . . . no time to really get rid of the problem between cruises. Expensive problem for passengers traveling from far Celebrity Constellation Norovirusaway places and not being warned prior to boarding the ship. This produces lots of anxiety for all who look forward to a wonderful time. Celebrity should do better for their loyal customers. 

Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein also commented on his popular web site CruiseJunkie that passengers had complained about the disease outbreak on the Constellation.

This outbreak was taking place at the same time as another norovirus outbreak on another Celebrity cruise ship, which you can read about here:

G.I. Blues: Over 300 Sick on the Celebrity Summit.   

We commented on Celebrity Cruises' problems with norovirus aboard the Constellation last year.

If you were on the Constellation, please leave a comment below regarding how Celebrity handled the situation or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

Photo Credit: Getty Images 

Norovirus on the Celebrity Summit: A Reader's View

From time to time, we will feature a reader's comments to one of our articles. The motto of our blog is "everything the cruise lines don't want you to know," so we like to offer our readers a peek inside what really happens during cruises.

Here are the comments from a passenger who was aboard the Celebrity Summit during the recent norovirus outbreak we reported on last week:     

"While just more than 300 passengers is the official number, I was on that cruise and I can assure you that many, many more were sick.

Celebrity Summit - NorovirusThe majority of people did not report to the ship's doctor, preferring to stay in their rooms and tough it out. Each night during the height of the infection, many of the large tables in the dining rooms were virtually empty. Crew members and entertainers were also sick. Many people we're overtaken with little warning, and some did not get to the bathroom before vomiting or experiencing diarrhea. Often the halls in the stateroom areas reeked of excrement.

The staff worked very hard to keep things cleaned up and sanitized, but there were not sufficient staff on board to deal with this huge health issue. Unaffected staterooms were not kept up to the expected standard, as staff were always busy dealing with cleaning and disinfecting rooms where people were sick."

Do you have a comment or a story to tell about your recent cruise experience?  Let us hear from you.

 

Photo Credit: News 12 New Jersey

G.I. Blues: Over 300 Sick on the Celebrity Summit

Celebrity Summit Cruise ShipCruise expert Professor Ross Klein reports that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicates that 307 of 2112 passengers (14.5%) and 14 of 952 crew (1.5%) aboard the Celebrity Summit have reported sick with "gastrointestinal illness."

You can read about the outbreak on the CDC website here.

There is no indication whether the illness is due to norovirus, e-coli or some other virus or bacteria. 

The CDC is working with Health Canada officials as the cruise ship sails in Canada on its way to Bayonne, New Jersey,  The cruise ship will arrival in Bayonne on October 5, 2013.

The CDC will send an epidemiologist and an environmental health officer to meet the ship and conduct an epidemiologic investigation and environmental health assessment, and monitor the sanitation procedures onboard prior to the embarkation of new passengers.

Over 14% of the passengers being sick with gastrointestinal illness is a very high percentage.  

In the past week, we have reported about cruise ship norovirus outbreaks on two Fred Olsen cruise ships, the Black Watch and the Boudicca.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Yankeesman312

Norovirus: What's the Cruise Industry's Priority? Public Relations or Passenger Health?

BBC News has an article about a gastrointestinal virus outbreak sickening passengers aboard a Fred Olsen cruise ship this week.

Last week we reported on the Fred Olsen Black Watch cruise ship (what a dreadful name) which was nicknamed the "Black Death" by norovirus infected passengers who have suffered through three consecutive sailings aboard what some people are also calling the "plague ship."

Around 10% of Black Watch passengers have been infected over the last month.

Fred Olsen Boudicca Cruise Ship - NorovirusBBC News says that the Boudicca is the latest Fred Olsen ship to become sick. The cruise line confirms there has been an outbreak of what the cruise line is saying is a "a gastroenteritis-type illness" on board the cruise ship which left Belfast last week. That means that the cruise line doesn't know exactly what type of sickness it is.

Is it norovirus or a e-coli outbreak? Fred Olsen doesn't seem to know.

This is not the first outbreak this year on the Boudicca this year. Read: Our Plague Ship Diary: After Ten Days on Cruise Hit by Norovirus, Two Friends Present the Holiday Snaps from Hell

What caused the latest outbreak? Contaminated food or water?  Sick crew members?  Fred Olsen is not saying if it knows. Usually the cruise lines are quick to blame everything but the cruise ship and its crew. The "dirty handed passengers" of the nasty passengers are usually blamed. 

What we know from the BBC is that at least 72 Boudicca passengers out of the 760 or so passengers are ill. That's around 9%, which is many times the percentage of sick passengers which the Centers for Disease Control requires to be reported in the U.S. 

The cruise line says that the cruise ship will return to Belfast tomorrow where the ship will be cleaned and sanitized. The ship will then quickly head off on a 12-night cruise to Madeira and the Canaries. 

Cruise lines like Fred Olsen tout that "the health, safety and well-being of all our guests and crew is paramount." But is this true?

A responsible company would make the best effort to find out exactly what type of illness affected the passengers, such as testing the food and/or determining whether food handlers were sick and not properly quarantined (a problem recently noted by health inspectors during U.S. CDC Vessel Sanitation Program inspections).

Right now there are over 70 Boudicca passengers spewing vomit and spraying diarrhea in their cabins and bathrooms. (Watch Vomiting Larry) Many millions of infected particles of some type of virus are covering the floors, carpets, bed covers, and nooks and crannies of these cabins. Yes, the cabins will be cleaned thoroughly (we hope) but will a few dozen infected particles linger to greet a new round of passengers? Its takes just 20 particles or so to get sick.

The new passengers, of course, are not told whether their cabins were the scene of a puke-and-diarrhea-fest just hours before they arrived.

It seems like an impossible task for the poor cabin attendants pressed into action for such a short period of time to try and kill off all of the noro or e-coli in the cabins after such intense purging of the stomach and bowels of the sick people. But what if the culprit is in the food from the galley?  There is no way that the cruise ship will find out in the limited time when the sick disembark the ship and the healthy arrive. There's not enough time to slow down and take an extra couple of days to let the epidemiologists perform their job of finding the causative viral or bacterial agent and determining how it came aboard the ship.    

Instead, we hear cruise lines telling the new passengers: "Trust us. Your health is our highest concern."

"Black Death Plague" Claims New Cruise Victims

Last week we reported on a norovirus outbreak on the Fred Olsen cruise ship, Black Watch, while sailing to Russia. The cruise ship's sickened passengers dubbed the ship the "Black Death." One ill cruise passengers was quoted saying:

“The staff marked doors of those infected with a cross. It was like the Dark Ages. Forget the Black Watch – we were on the Black Death plague ship.” 

Well the so-called "plague" continues. The Daily Record says that 72 people on the latest cruise aboard the Black Watch have been struck down with the same sickness causing nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.

Fred Olden Black Watch Cruise ShipThe cruise line confirmed to the newspaper that 112 passengers on the August 18th cruise became sick, and then 59 more passengers fell ill on a September 1st cruise to Norway. That means that 234 passengers have become ill on the last three cruises on this cruise ship which carries less than 750 passengers.

According to the Daily Record, one poor passenger said: 

“Norovirus was rife. The sauna, jacuzzi, casino, buffet and cinema – all the facilities we had paid for – were closed, as were all the public toilets."

“In my opinion, this ship should never have been allowed to leave  . . . It should have been docked until it was free of the bug.”

My thoughts?

There's no excuse having three consecutive noro outbreaks which average over 10% of the passengers (the article doesn't mention the sick crew). 

The business model of all the cruise lines keeps the ships running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There's is no time for a systematic, scientific inspection to determine the actual cause of the norovirus and to determine when and how it is was introduced onto the ship, whether by food, water or a previously-sick passenger.  "Enhanced cleaning" of everything, when the virus may have been brought aboard in lettuce or sprouts, is pointless. Cruise lines are quick to blame the passengers for not washing their hands, but the real culprit could be contaminated food, water or an ill crew member.    

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Ra Boe 

"Black Death Plague Ship?" Cruise Ship Sickness Back in the News

The Daily Record reports that the Fred Olsen Black Watch was nick-named "Black Death" after more than 100 passengers were struck down by a norovirus outbreak during a 12-night Scandinavia and St Petersburg cruise. 

The cabins of infected quarantined passengers were marked with crosses to warn cruise staff who wore face masks for protection. Their luggage and bags were was marked with chalk to protect baggage handlers.

An ambulance was waiting in the home port to take a sick cruise passenger to the hospital Black Watch Cruise Ship Norovirusin Dunfermline.

The newspaper reports that the previous cruise also had a norovirus outbreak. The newspaper quoted a passenger on the sickly cruise ship saying:

“The staff marked doors of those infected with a cross. It was like the Dark Ages. Forget the Black Watch – we were on the Black Death plague ship.”

130 out of 778 guests became ill.

Meanwhile a small number (8) cruise passengers aboard the the luxury cruise ship, the Queen Mary 2 (QM2), come down with gastrointestinal symptoms thought to be norovirus, according to the Daily Echo

Norovirus is also commonly known as the "cruise ship sickness."

The cruise industry hates it when people call it that. Cruise lines point out that norovirus is also common in hospitals, nursing homes and child-care facilities. They are right of course. But it's a sad commentary when you have to compare high priced cruise ships to places with ill patients, infirm geriatrics, and kids with poop in their diapers.

Caribbean Fantasy Flunks Sanitation Inspection - Why Doesn't the CDC Shut Nasty Ships Like This Down?

Professor Ross Klein's website reports that the Caribbean Fantasy, operated by American Cruise Ferries, failed a surprise inspection by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month.  

The Caribbean Fantasy received a failing score of 81. The CDC report is, in a word, gross.

The CDC discovered major problems with the maintenance of the ship's potable water tanks and bunkering system. 

The most disgusting findings were the discovery of "numerous food safety violations" where the ship's American Cruise Ferries Caribbean Fantasystaff used storage lockers to improper store food and galley equipment and utensils.  CDC inspectors found "pests" in the storage lockers which started to be cleaned only during the CDC inspection. 

The CDC found a refrigerator out of order, an oven in the galley out of order, a door to another oven broken, and a dishwasher broken.

Among other disgusting findings by the CDC:

"Multiple condiments and salt and pepper shakers stored among soiled pots and pans."

"Numerous large plastic containers, pots, pans, baking sheets, and coffee carafes were stored as clean but still soiled with food remnants."

"Different sizes of live nymph cockroaches were under the shelves where galley equipment was stored."

Pest management receiving logs had prefilled comments, including "All deliveries free of infestation."

Some "rat guards were not installed."

You can read the report here.  

Earlier this week, we mentioned that the Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC), as past of its Vessel Sanitation Program, gave failing scores to two cruise ships following inspections this summer. The cruise ships involved were Regent's Seven Seas Navigator and Un-Cruise Adventures' Safari Endeavour. Both ship flunked the CDC's sanitation inspections.

The Seven Seas Navigator scored a 79 and the Safari Endeavour scored a 81.

These dismal scores of supposedly luxury lines come at a time when the Silver Shadow failed in a highly publicized and spectacular fashion when the CDC caught the crew hiding 15 trolleys of meat, fish, cheese and other perishable items in crew quarters this summer. The CDC concluded that the Silver Shadow intentionally hid food outside of the galley as part of a scheme to obtain high CDC inspection scores.       

Time for the CDC to shut some of these dirty cruise ships down.

 

Photo Credit: acento.com.do

Two More Cruise Ships Flunk CDC Food Sanitation Inspections

Navigator Seven Seas Navigator Cruise ShipThe Centers for Disease Control Prevention (Vessel Sanitation Program) has given failing scores to two cruise ships following inspections this summer.  

The Regent's Seven Seas Navigator and Un-Cruise Adventures' Safari Endeavour flunked the CDC's sanitation inspections. 

Regent's Seven Seas Navigator scored a dismal score of 79.  You can read the report here.  

The Safari Endeavour scored a failing score of 81.  You can read the report here.

These failed scores are even worse than the humiliating failure of the Silver Shadow.

The CDC caught the Silver Shadow cruise ship hiding trolleys of meat, fish, cheese and other perishable items in crew quarters this summer after a surprise inspection. 

CNN Covers Silver Shadow Cover Up of Nasty Sanitation Practices - While Silversea Cruises Refuses to Talk

Yesterday CNN aired a special program about the "hide and seek" games which crew members were ordered to play on the Silver Shadow cruise ship, where the ship routinely hid trolleys of food items in crew members cabins to avoid detection by sanitation inspectors of the U.S. Public Health Department.

Our little blog was the first to cover the story ten days ago in our article Silver Shadow Fails Sanitation Inspection After Caught Hiding Filthy Conditions from Health Inspectors

You can see the photos of the cruise line's filthy practice on our Facebook page here.

Silver Shadow Silversea Cruises SanitationBefore we published our article, we contacted several people at Silversea Cruises to discuss the matter but no one would respond.  Its seems like the cruise line thought it could just ignore the problem and it would go away. Quite frankly this is the holier-than-thou attitude of many cruise lines which think that they can do anything with impunity.

The story was mentioned extensively not only on CNN, but is being discussed on other networks (Peter Greenberg was talking about the issue on CBS this morning) as well as being mentioned in newspapers and online travel travel boards. 

The comments to the CNN article are spilling over from Silversea Cruises to the cruise industry at large.

The story comes at a key time while the Senate debates enacting legislation to more aggressively regulate the cruise industry. Yesterday Senator Rockefeller convened a hearing where he announced that he is enacting legislation to provide consumers greater protection while on cruise ships. 

Watch the video below.  Its disappointing to see that the cruise line faced no real consequence after the CDC caught it intentionally gaming the system. Remember it was crew members who exposed the cover up, not the CDC by itself. And the CDC really didn't do anything except tell the cruise ship not to do it again.

Why wasn't the ship detained in port?  Why wasn't the cruise line fined?

 

CDC Releases Report on Silver Shadow's Disgusting Sanitation Problems

Last week we published an article that Silversea supervisors forced crew members aboard the Silver Shadow to hide trolleys of food in the crew quarters to avoid detection by USPH inspectors: Silver Shadow Fails Sanitation Inspection After Caught Hiding Filthy Conditions from Health Inspectors

Today the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published its report.

It's damning to Silver Shadow's sanitation practices. Quite frankly, it's worse than I expected. The final score is 82 (it was initially 84). Here's a portion of the report:

Silver Shadow Sanitation CDCSite: Other-Galley Crew Cabins

Violation: An organized effort was made to physically remove over 15 full trolleys of dry foods, spices, canned foods, cooked foods, milk, raw meats, pasteurized eggs, cheeses of all types, baking goods, raw fruits, raw vegetables, and a variety of both hand held and counter model food equipment, pans, dishware and utensils to over 10 individual cabins shared by two or three galley crew members in order to avoid inspection by VSP staff. All the out of temperature potentially hazardous foods were discarded along with most other foods that were not canned or in original containers. The lead VSP inspector poured concentrated chlorine liquid over all the discarded foods as they were dumped into garbage bags to ensure they would not be used again

You can read the report here.

The report contains no photos, but you can see some of the photos we posted last week on our Facebook page.

We also asked crew members from other cruise lines whether cruise ships playing "hide and seek" from the USPH is a common practice in the cruise industry.  Its not a scientific poll, but around 90% of crew members said "yes."  Take a look here.

On Wednesday, Senator Rockefeller oversees another Senate hearing into whether cruise passengers need greater protection from the cruise industry's bad consumer practices.  I'm sure this issue will come up.  I look forward to hearing the cruise industry's response.

 

Silversea Cruises Sanitation Failure: How Many Cruise Lines Play Games with USPH Inspectors?

Last Monday I published an article about the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) failing the Silver Shadow cruise ship following a surprise inspection last month when the ship was calling on Skagway, Alaska. The article is entitled: Silver Shadow Fails Sanitation Inspection After Caught Hiding Filthy Conditions from Health Inspectors

Former Silversea Cruises employees contacted me earlier this year and complained that they were ordered to take trolleys of pots and pans, cutlery and food items from the galley and hide them away from the U.S. public health inspectors in the crew cabins and hallways. We told them to report this practice to the CDC which later boarded, inspected and flunked the Silver Shadow. 

The reaction to the story has been mixed. Passengers who learned of the failed score and the alleged CDC Inspection - Silver Shadow Cruise Ship"hide and seek" tactics of the cruise ship appear to be upset not only with the unsanitary practice but with what they characterize as dishonesty and a lack of transparency by the cruise line. You can see this sentiment in a series of comments on the popular Cruise Critic boards.

Silversea will not respond to inquiries from our firm, but suggests in a PR statement it released that the incident is an aberration, pointing out that the scores on its previous inspections throughout its small fleet of cruise ships have been in the high 90"s and it also recently scored a perfect 100.

This argument, in my opinion at least, seems to be no different than a student caught cheating on a test who defends his failed score by pointing out that he received straight A's on all of the previous tests. The student's dishonesty is surpassed only by his disingenuity.   

The other reaction to the story is that this is "business as usual." This sentiment is being expressed by crew members. We have heard from crew members over the last 20 years who have told us of similar stories of the lengths to which some cruise lines go to obtain a passing USPH score. The comments to our article on Facebook, by crew members at least, are to the effect that this practice is wide spread on other cruise ships. It was back luck that Silversea got caught.

You can see similar comments by crew members about how cruise lines cheat on USPH inspections which were posted to a similar story I wrote in December. 

My Cruise Law News Facebook page has over 60,000 followers, and the majority are crew members from all over the world.  The consensus seems to be that all cruise lines engage in this practice to one extent or the other. I'd like to flush this issue out further. So I will post a simple question on my Facebook page:

Do cruise lines hide pots & pans, galley equipment and food from USPH inspectors?  You can click on the link and see what the crew members have to say about the issue.

Whereas passengers may be disgusted by this practice, I suspect that most crew members will yawn and say that this is business as usual.

July 22, 2013 Update:  CDC just released its official report. It's nasty. Here's our article.  You can read the official CDC report here.

CDC Failed Inspection - Silver Shadow

 

Photo Credit:  Former Silver Shadow crew member.

Silver Shadow Fails Sanitation Inspection After Caught Hiding Filthy Conditions from Health Inspectors

Last December, I wrote an article about the practice of certain cruise lines which hide dirty pots & pans and cooking equipment from U.S. health inspectors. The article, which focused on the MSC Poesia, is entitled "Hide & Seek" - Cruise Lines Play Games With USPH Inspectors.

After I published that article, several former crew members from Silversea Cruises left comments alleging that the Silver Shadow also played "hide and seek," concealing food and galley items in crew hallways and cabins, away from the sanitation inspectors in the galley.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) conducted a surprise inspection of the Silver Shadow on June 17th while it was in a port in Skagway, Alaska. The inspectors found the food and galley equipment in crew quarters as described by the former Silversea ship employees.  The CDC flunked the cruise line, issuing a score of 84. 

Silversea Silver Shadow Sanitation CDCThe inspection occurred after former Silversea Cruises' crew members contacted our office and, in turn, complained to the CDC about disgusting conditions aboard the Silver Shadow cruise ship.

The crew members complained that the cruise line forced the crew to hide food, cooking utensils, cutlery, and pots and pans in their cabins to avoid detection by U.S. health inspectors.

Crew members aboard the Silver Shadow allege that were forced to store raw meat, salami, fish, cakes, and every kind of culinary preparations in their cabins and remote hallways to avoid inspections by the U.S. Public Health (USPH). The crew members claim that they had to sleep with the food and galley items in cabins with no windows or operational air conditioning. According to crew members, some spoilable food items were kept out of the refrigerator in cabins and hallways but were served the following day to the cruise passengers. 

Other complaints included the alleged use of out-of-date ingredients which were served to the guests, according to the former crew members. The crew also complained that they were forced to Silversea Silver Shadow Cruise Shiphide food infested by flies and insects in cabins where the toilet flush was out of order for days.

We received photographs (above and below) from the crew members which they state were also sent to the CDC. You can see additional photographs on our Facebook page.  

An epidemiologist at the CDC thanked the crew members for the information, writing: "The pictures and information you provided were very accurate and reflected what was seen and experienced by the inspectors yesterday on the ship . . . Thank you for passing along all of this information and protecting the health of passengers and crew on the ship. We appreciate your help!"  

Although the failed inspection occurred one month ago, the CDC has still not posted the failed score or its report of the inspection on its internet site.  

Silversea Cruises holds itself out to the public as a premiere "ultra-luxury" cruise line and charges correspondingly high fares to its cruise passengers.

One former crew member stated that the crew on the Silver Shadow were forced to use tap water to top off expensive bottled water.  

These claims are similar to the allegations in a lawsuit filed by a Silversea crew member (aboard the Silver Spirit and Silver Wind) in 2011 that his employment as a bartender was terminated after he complained that crew members were required to fill expensive, premium top-shelf brand liquor bottles with cheaper brands and to fill empty expensive French champagne bottles with cheaper Italian sparkling wines. The case is Marin Asenov v. Silversea Cruises, Ltd., Case No. 0:11 CV 62360 WJZ. You can read the allegations in the lawsuit here

The Silver Shadow cruise ship has always scored high on the CDC's Vessel Sanitation Program. Its scores have ranged from 92 to 99 (out of 100) since 2000.  

This latest news brings into question whether the Silver Shadow's high scores over the years may have been a result of the cruise line playing hide and seek with the sanitation inspectors at the USPH.

We reached out to Silversea Cruises and asked for the cruise line's comments about the failed inspection. We have not received a response. 

Have a thought about this issue? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.  

July 17, 2013 Update: Silversea Cruises just issued this PR statement which was posted on the Cruise Critic site:

Silversea Cruises Statement

On June 17, Silversea’s Silver Shadow received an atypical score of 84 during the Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) inspection in Skagway. Silver Shadow has scored in the high 90s on its previous VSP inspections where the maximum achievable score is 100. Silversea is deeply disappointed by this specific and only unsatisfactory score and has taken immediate measures to address the issues identified in the inspection report.

The company takes very seriously its responsibility to maintain the highest standards in all areas of its operations. Silversea has an excellent track record when it comes to sanitation, which can be verified on the CDC's website. Silversea ships have achieved perfect scores of 100 on several VSP inspections, including Silver Spirit's most recent inspection in April, which is testament to the company's commitment in this area.

Following a thorough review of Silver Shadow's procedures, we have taken the necessary measures to ensure that the standards are the best in the industry. All Silversea ships have comprehensive policies and rigorous training programs in place to make certain its staff and crew implement best practices to ensure shipboard safety. Silversea is sincerely sorry for the shortcomings in Silver Shadow's evaluation and is committed to ensuring that future inspections result in higher scores in line with the usual Silversea standards.

Saul Fonseca | Area Sales Director

July 21, 2013 Update:  Read our article:

How Many Cruise Lines Play Games with USPH Inspectors? 

And don't miss the results of our Facebook poll: Do cruise lines hide pots & pans, galley equipment and food from USPH inspectors?

Of the first 100 crew members who answered the poll (admittedly unscientific), around 90% said yes, cruise lines hide galley items from inspectors. One crew member said: "There will be more equipment in the crew cabin during the inspection then in the galley that's for sure!!!" 

July 22, 2013 Update:  The CDC finally released its report on the failed Silver Shadow inspection. Here is our article.  You view the official CDC report, click here.

Silversea Silver Shadow CDC Vessel Sanitation Inspection

Passengers on Celebrity Eclipse Sickened By Norovirus

Celebrity Eclipse Cruise ShipA newspaper in the U.K. reports that dozens of passengers were struck down by a "vomiting bug" on board a cruise ship which docked in Southampton yesterday.

The Celebrity Eclipse returned from a two week Mediterranean cruise which departed on May 11th. 

77 passengers and five crew members - 1.8 per cent of those on board the ship - were "laid low" by an illness thought to be the winter vomiting bug norovirus.

A spokesman for Celebrity Cruises said it would undergo an “extensive and thorough” clean now that the vessel had returned to Southampton.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Jonathan Schilling 

The Cruise G.I. Blues: Why We Don't Handle Gastrointestinal Virus Cases

The last several articles on this blog have involved gastrointestinal (G.I.) virus outbreaks on cruise ships.

The cruise ships involved are Holland American Lines’ Volendam and Veendam, (HAL ships, historically, are the most likely to be contaminated with norovirus), the Discovery cruise ship which was held up in Liverpool for what the cruise lines describe as “enhanced cleaning,” and most recently the Celebrity Millennium which arrived in Alaska with a bunch of sick passengers who went ashore and coughed all over the city of Seward.

These ships join the list of other sick cruise ships this year. There are seven official reports of Cruise Ship NorovirusG.I. cases so far this year documented by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But the list is incomplete. The CDC requires cruise lines to report outbreaks only when a certain percentage (more than 3%) of the passengers become ill. If the cruise ship does not call upon a U.S. port, then the CDC has no jurisdiction and there is no obligation to report any G.I. cases to the U.S. federal government.

Most countries around the world don't require reporting of cruise G.I. cases. So when you read the CDC database of G.I. outbreaks on cruise ships, remember that this is only those cruises which dock at a U.S. port and where at least 3% of the passenger report to the infirmary.

My partners at my law firm ask me why I blog about G.I. cases because our firm rarely handles such cases. Why don’t we handle G.I. cases? For a couple of reasons:

It is usually impossible to prove where the virus originated. The CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concluded long ago that most norovirus outbreaks are due to contaminated food and water. No, not due to the dirty hands of the cruise passengers as the cruise lines want you to believe, but noro-laden food or contaminated water.

But general propositions are no help in a particular case. The CDC makes no real effort to pinpoint the epicenter of the outbreak on the cruise ship.

The CDC usually can figure out the causative agent (i.e., noro, e-coli, etc.) but that’s where the federal agency’s inquiry ends. The CDC has but a few hours to board the cruise ship and conduct its Cruise Ship Norovirusinvestigation once the ship returns to a U.S port. It does not have the time or the resources to perform a full blown epidemiology assessment during the limited time the ship is in port.

Was the water well used to irrigate the potatoes or lettuce which were loaded onto the cruise ship contaminated by noro-infected swine feces that leeched into the well supplies? You will never know because no one is doing any investigation to find out.

The cruise lines don’t want such sophisticated analysis either, because the most likely cause of norovirus outbreaks is not bad passenger hygiene but contaminated food and water. It’s bad for cruise business for an official U.S. agency to point the finger at contaminated water or infected food, or to conclude that food handlers worked while infected with noro and, in turn, contaminated 150 plates of salad consumed by the passengers.

Illnesses due to e-coli or norovirus are nasty. You’re afraid that you are going to die and then you’re afraid that you’re not going to die, the joke goes. But it’s no joke. Sick passengers do die, particularly elderly passengers with suppressed immune system and especially those who are ignored by the ship doctors or those who receive bad care while on the cruise ship.

The rights of ill or dying passenger infected with norovirus on cruise ships are limited. The Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) prohibits the recovery of damages for elderly retirees. Their deaths are financially meaningless if they become sick during a cruise and then later die either on or off of the cruise ship. Cruise lines love DOHSA. Also, sick passengers who receive bad medical care by the ship doctors usually have no recourse against the cruise lines because the ship doctors are legally considered to be “independent contractors” for whom the cruise lines have no responsibility. And neither the cruise lines nor the CDC or FDA are trying to find out where the norovirus came from in the first place.

Cruise lines are cutting back on the testing of water, placing increasing demands on its crew members who often work while sick, hiding dirty galley equipment from CDC inspectors, and pushing their ships and staff past reasonable limits leaving little time and resources to maintain a clean and hygienic environment. 

Cruise Ship NorovirusIt’s easier for the cruise lines to blame the passengers for poor hygiene and then stand behind the CDC’s and FDA’s indifference and archaic laws like DOHSA which have insulated the cruise industry from the consequences of their negligence and recklessness for decades.

In a nutshell, we don’t handle G.I. virus cases because the deck is stacked against the cruise passenger. Cruise passengers typically don’t know when they board a noro-infected ship that they have few rights and that the cruise line will blame them if they get sick. We blog about the problem because it is an insight into the way which the cruise industry operates its business and treats its customers.

The cruise lines say that the “health and safety of cruise passengers are its highest priorities.” That’s not true. We prefer that the cruise passengers understand that before they walk up the gangway into a noro-contaminated ship.

Celebrity Millennium Puke Cruise Arrives in Alaska

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports the Celebrity Millennium cruise ship sailed to Seward, Alaska last Friday, May 10th, with an elevated number of passengers and crew with a gastrointestinal illness.  164 of its 1,963 passengers and 30 of its 935 crew members experienced the gastro-illness.

The CDC states that the "causative agent" (type of pathogen) is "unknown," although at least one newspaper, the Seward City News, states that the sickness outbreak is believed to be caused by norovirus.

Comments to the newspaper complained about cruise passengers coughing and hacking in public and the locals having to be on higher alert to wash their hands when cruise ships come into port.  

Photo Credit: Wikimedia / Captain-Tucker

Celebrity Millennium Cruise Ship Norovirus

 

Viral Outbreak Delays Departure of Cruise Ship From Liverpool

The Daily Post in the U.K. reports that a gastrointestinal virus outbreak has delayed the departure of a cruise ship from Liverpool.

The cruise ship involved is the MV Discovery which was scheduled to depart on a Norwegian cruise last night at 6:30 PM but was delayed until 10:30 PM while a "deep clean" was performed. 

I have always been skeptical about how a cruise ship can be disinfected in just 4 hours. 

Discovery Cruise ShipOne passenger, who described being treated like a leper, said: "I was on a ship which had norovirus and in the end it took four days to clean it, so I cannot see how four hours will help."

But a representative of the operating company said that 3 hours was "exactly the amount of time needed."  It's hard to fathom how anyone can say that with a straight face, particularly considering that the type of virus is unknown, the source of the virus is unknown, and the precise location of the virus is always a mystery.  

As usual, the cruise company also blamed the passengers: 

Paul Foster, speaking on behalf of Cruise and Maritime Voyages, said: "It’s one of those things that are brought on board by passengers. I always say a ship cannot get a sore throat."

But that simply not true. There are such things as "sick ships."  Cruise ships and their food and water supplies can become contaminated with a wide variety of viral and bacterial diseases such as Legionnaires Disease, norovirus, e-coli, and unspecified gastrointestinal viruses. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ({FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that the most likely source of a norovirus outbreak is contaminated food or water. Yes, a virus can be spread by bad hygiene of either passengers or crew, but usually the source of the outbreaks starts with something like noro-laden food or water.

The Discovery was launched in 1972 and is a 40 year old ship. It was formerly the Island Venture, Island Princess, Hyundai Pungak and Platinum

The cause of any particular outbreak is the business of expert epidemiologists - not cruise CEO's or Cruise Directors who are quick to point the finger at the passengers.  

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / yeldark

Volendam Norovirus Outbreak Sickens HAL Cruise Passengers

A Canadian news source, CBC News, reports that cruise passengers on a 31-day Holland America Line (HAL) cruise returning to Vancouver suffered from the ill effects of a norovirus outbreak. 

The outbreak involved HAL's Volendam.  The cruise line, which has experienced more gastrointestinal outbreaks than any other cruise line in the last decade, drained its pools and hot tubs and emptied its libraries to try and contain the spread of the norovirus outbreak.

HAL reported 28 guests and one crew member (2.37 % of the total 1,222 people on board) were sick over Volendam Cruise Ship Norovirus Outbreakthe course of the cruise. At three percent, Health Canada could launch a full investigation but will not because the reported cases did not reach this percentage.

One passenger told CBC that the problem appeared worse to those onboard than just the reported cases: "It had to be quite high, because it seemed like you would never sit at a table at dinner without someone having had it." 

After a few hours of cleaning, the cruise ship sailed on a week-long cruise to Alaska at 5 p.m. on the same day it returned to Vancouver

Yesterday we reported on another HAL disease outbreak on the Veendam

The last time we reported on the Volendam, the article involved a crew member fatality when a cable to a lifeboat snapped.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Barek

Gastrointestinal Virus Plagues Passengers Aboard HAL's Veendam Cruise Ship

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that sixty (60) of the 1237 passengers (4.85%) aboard the HAL Veendam cruise ship exhibited symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea and vomiting during the last cruise.

Ten (10) of the 574 crew members (1.74%) also reported ill with gastrointestinal illness.

You can read the report here

Holland america Line Veendam Cruise ShipThe ship sailed from April 13 to May 4, 2013.

The Veendam has experienced problems with cleanliness and Illnesses over the years.

Last year, this HAL cruise ship flunked a health inspection.  That's hard to do.  Read our article: Gross! Holland America Line's Veendam Flunks Health Inspection.

The Veendam also sickened 80 and killed one passenger during a gastrointestinal outbreak in November of 2011.

Over the last decade HAL's cruise ships have experienced the most gastrointestinal illnesses and the Veendam has the third most outbreaks of the hundreds of cruise ships operating out of the U.S.  The only other cruise ships with a worse records are the Ryndam and the Amsterdam, both HAL ships. Read about the problem here.    

 

Photo Credit:  Wikipedia / Djheini

Carnival Fascination Cruise Ship Flunks Health and Sanitation Inspection

A Carnival cruise ship has become the sixth cruise ship this year to flunk a sanitation inspection by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The Carnival Fascination failed the surprise inspection with a score of only 84. You can read the report from the CDC here.  It's full of dirty and unsanitary conditions in the galley and food serving areas, as well as problems with the recreational water supplies.

The Fascination had a problem which we are hearing about more often, that is when crew members are experiencing acute gastrointestinal illness but keep working. This substantially increases the Carnival Fascination Cruise Shipchances that they will infect other crew members and the passengers that they come into contact with. The problem is particularly critical when the infected crew are food handlers. 

Five other cruise ships have failed CDC inspections this year.

Two weeks ago we wrote about the Celebrity Summit, the Golden Princess, the Sea Dream Yacht Club's Sea Dream, and the Caribbean Fantasy operated by America Cruise Ferries all of which flunked the CDC inspections. You can read our article: Disease Breeding Grounds: Three Cruise Ships Fail Health & Sanitary Inspections

A week ago, we wrote about another Celebrity Cruises ship, the Celebrity Century, which also failed the inspection.

Read the U.K.'s Daily Mail article:  Carnival Fascination Fails Health Inspection After Dead Flies, Leaking Brown Material and Cockroach 'Nymph' Found on Board

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Jonathan Schilling

Report of Gastrointestinal Sickness Outbreak on Celebrity Infinity Disappears: Honest Mistake or Diabolical Cover-Up?

Those of you who read this blog regularly know that I find lots of information about things that the cruise lines would prefer you not know on Professor Ross Klein's website called CruiseJunkie.com.  A silly name I know, but the information is quite serious if you are interested in accurate information about cruise passengers and crew who disappear under mysterious circumstances, fires and collisions, and disease outbreaks on the high seas.  There is no other credible website like this anywhere which tracks such information in the cruise industry. 

Yesterday Professor Klein's website contained information about a gastrointestinal illness (GI) outbreak aboard the Celebrity Infinity cruise ship. He linked to the CDC Vessel Sanitation website which contained a report that 101 of 2086 passengers (4.84%) and 17 of 927 crew (2.05%) have reported ill Celebrity Infinity Cruise Shipwith gastrointestinal illness. Two CDC Vessel Sanitation Program environmental health officers and an epidemiologist boarded the ship on arrival in Fort Lauderdale on April 1, 2013 to conduct a targeted environmental health assessment and evaluate the outbreak and response activities. 

But when I clicked on the link to the CDC information, the website said:

"The page you requested cannot be found at this time. It may be temporarily unavailable or it may have been removed."

So what happened?  I don't know. 

Professor Klein questions whether this is a mistake of some sort or whether there is a cover-up at play.

Again I don't know. But I do know after being a lawyer for 30 years that there is a very cozy relationship between the cruise lines and federal agencies like the CDC whose surprise inspections are hardly a surprise. And last year it became obvious that after Congress passed a law requiring the cruise lines to report crimes to the FBI which had to post the data on a Coast Guard website for the public to view, these federal agencies worked behind the scenes with the cruise lines to cover the crime statistics up.  

So what's up with the CDC posting a GI outbreak and then the information disappearing?

Celebrity has had difficulties with its shipboard sanitation this year with the Summit and the Century failing CDC inspections for health and sanitation.  

Is the removal of the report of the outbreak aboard the Celebrity Infinity a mistake or is something else more sinister going on?

I'd like to hear from passengers and crew members whether there was a recent gastrointestinal illness or norovirus outbreak on the Celebrity Infinity?  Please let us know.

Am I being overly-suspicious? Maybe so. But I'd rather be paranoid than a naive sap who looks the other way while another federal agency and a cruise line play games behind the public's back.

April 7 2013 9:30 PM: The CDC report on the Celebrity Infinity has reappeared. Here it is.  Celebrity Cruises has the dubious distinction of 2 failed CDC inspections and a GI outbreak for 2013.

 

 

Photo Credit: Celebrity Infinity  - Wikipedia / Yankeesman312

Another Celebrity Cruise Ship Flunks Health & Sanitation Inspection

Celebrity Century Cruise Ship - Failed CDC ScoreAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), another Celebrity Cruises ship flunked a surprise inspection.

The Celebrity Century failed the CDC inspection, receiving a score of only 78.

Last week we reported that another Celebrity cruise ship, the Summit scored, flunked an inspection with a score of only 81. Three other cruise ships received failing scores as well.  So far this year there have been five cruise ships with failing grades. Read our article: Disease Breeding Grounds: Three Cruise Ships Fail Health & Sanitary Inspections.

The most disturbing finding was not just that the Century was dirty with contaminated food debris, but that crew members worked while ill with gastrointestinal sicknesses. Several of the ill ship employees worked in the galleys or interacted with passengers while ill.  The other cruise ships who flunked the inspections earlier this year also had ill crew members who worked with food and around passengers as well.  

These findings are significant because the cruise lines always blame the passengers when there are norovirus outbreaks and accuse the quests of not washing their hands.  The outbreaks may be due to ill employees who may be contaminating the food and infecting passengers.  

Celebrity Cruise Ship - Failed CDC ScoreYou can read the report of the Century here

The report indicates that two cruise ship cook worked while ill before reporting to the ship's medical infirmary.  A sick hair stylist worked all day around passengers before going to the medical center. And an ill gift shop attendant worked before going to the medical center and continued working after he was suppose to be in isolation.

A particularly disgusting finding was that the toilet intended for galley workers was found locked when the galley was in service, and when the inspectors opened the door, the bathroom had no toilet paper.

And you wonder why there are norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships?

Leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

Photo Credit: Celebrity Century Cruise Ship - Wikipedia / Emesbe

Disease Breeding Grounds: Three Cruise Ships Fail Health & Sanitary Inspections

Centers for Disease Control - Cruise Ship CDC Cruise Critic is reporting that three cruise ships recently failed inspection by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The cruise ships are the Celebrity Summit, Princess Cruises' Golden Princess and the SeaDream II.  

Take a moment and read the actual CDC reports of these ships. They are disgusting.

You can understand how easily norovirus and other gastrointestinal viruses can spread after reading about cooks and food handlers working while they are suffering from acute gastrointestinal symptoms. The monitoring of water treatment on some of these cruise ships is spotty and there was even one ship using a reverse osmosis system (which is suppose to be used only when the ship is underway) that was sucking up nasty water in the ports.    

The report for the Celebrity Summit is here. You will read about several crew members, including food handlers, who were suffering from acute gastrointestinal (referred to as AGE) symptoms but were still working, including handling food. The gastrointestinal surveillance logs were not being completed. There were widespread dirty and greasy conditions with flies and insect droppings in the bars and galleys.

The report for the Golden Princess is here. The Princess Cruises ship also had crew members with acute gastrointestinal symptoms continuing to work throughout the day even though they were Celebrity Summit Cruise Shipobviously ill in the morning.  An assistant buffet steward was suffering from GI problems but worked the buffet from 9:30 Am and did not report to the ship infirmary until 4:00 PM. There were inadequate reports regarding potable water facilities.  The ship had dirty and soiled areas, including the signature Princess restaurant Sabatini's.        

The report for the Sea Dream Yacht Club's Sea Dream II is here. This is the ship that was operating its water system continuously, including at port, and had been doing so for years. There were also dirty and unsanitary conditions noted.

The next time there is a norovirus outbreak and the cruise line instantaneously blames the passengers for not washing their hands, there may be a lot more to the story.

March 27, 2013 Update: In reading cruise expert Professor Ross Klein's website, I realized that Cruise Critic omitted another failed CDC score by the Caribbean Fantasy operated by America Cruise Ferries. You can read the report here. The deficiencies include failing to maintain acute gastrointestinal sickness logs, potable water deficiencies, galley and potwash cleaning shortcomings, and the failure to maintain cleaning equipment in proper order including several dish-washing machines and conveyors which had been not in proper condition for over a year. 

 

Photo Credit:

Celebrity Summit - Wikipedia / Yankeesman312

Royal Caribbean's Norovirus of the Seas Returns to Florida with Sick Passengers

CBS (Miami) reports today that  a Royal Caribbean cruise ship arrived back in Port Everglades this morning with an outbreak of norovirus on board

The cruise line has not responded to requests for information, but passengers aboard the Vision of the Seas complained about vomiting and diarrhea. Passengers said more than 200 passengers had to be quarantined due to the outbreak.

“It’s been a hell of an experience,” said passenger Johny Celaire, of the 11-day cruise.  The captain reportedly announced there had been an outbreak of the norovirus on board shortly after the cruise Vision of the Seas Norovirusship departed.

CBS reports that one cruise passenger, Joan Webber was not  quarantined even though her husband was ill.  She is concerned that other passengers infected with the virus will take taxi cabs to hotels and airports where others could be exposed.

“There are people flying out today that are going on an aircraft that have diarrhea so bad they don’t know how they are going to get back up to Canada,” Webber said. “I’m surprised we didn’t go and have the health department talk to us.”

CBS further reports that Celaire said Royal Caribbean’s customer service reps added insult to injury when they called to inquire about the situation.

“She said to me if you had washed your hands you’d be okay,” Celaire said. “I said, ‘How the hell do you know if I didn’t wash my hands?’”

Blaming the passengers is a common ploy by the cruise lines even though the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) state that the most likely cause of norovirus outbreaks is contaminated food or water. 

 

 

 

 

 

South Florida TV Station: Cruise Ship Workers Breaking Rules & Making Passengers Sick

Cruise Ship Virus - NorovirusThursday night a news station in West Palm Beach, Florida is airing an expose into passengers who are sickened on cruise ships.

WPTV - 5 aired a teaser video tonight entitled Cruise Ship Workers are Breaking the Rules, and Making Passengers Sick.

It sounds like the TV station will take a look at the outbreak of gastrointestinal viruses which have plagued the cruise industry over the years. It promises to reveal the cruise lines with the most problems (i.e., Princess Cruises and Holland America Line).

Cruise lines always blame the passengers for not washing their hands, and the passengers usually blame the cruise lines for having unsanitary ships.  Meanwhile no one is conducting a scientific analysis to determine exactly where the virus originated.  

I will be watching tomorrow night at 11:00 PM.   

 

 

New Mutant Norovirus Strain to Wreak Havoc on Cruise Industry?

Researchers in Europe, Japan, New Zealand and the U.S. have detected a new variation of norovirus which emerged last year.  The virus was and remains particularly prevalent in the United Kingdom where norovirus sickened over 1,000,000 people.  The virus was tracked back to Australia and has spread to a number of countries,  The U.S. Centers  for Disease Control (CDC) documented the new mutant virus to have entered the U.S. last fall.

The researchers' findings and conclusions are set forth in a publication "Indications For Worldwide Increased Norovirus Activity Associated With Emergence of a New Variant of Genotype II.4, Late Sydney 2012 - Mutant Norovirus - Cruise Ship Danger2012." The new virus has been labeled "Sydney 2012."

An article in Bloomberg explains that this virus has posed a problem for cruise lines late last year and will continue to plague the cruise industry this year. In "Sydney Vomiting Bug Poses Risk for Cruise-Line Passengers," Jason Gale explains that "new epidemics of acute gastro often emerge on cruise ships, where control is hindered by close living quarters and shared dining areas." 

Gale writes that cruise ships carrying sick passengers have docked in New York and Florida the past three weeks, "heralding a new wave of infections for which there is no specific treatment or vaccine." The article cites a professor of microbiology in Australia, Peter White, who says: “Cruise ships are almost a sentinel sensing system for norovirus. Norovirus is going to wreak havoc in their cruise industry for the next year while this new strain gets a grip.”

Last month we wrote about Cunard's Queen Mary 2 sailing into New York from the U.K. with several hundred passengers and crew members sickened with norovirus, Princess Cruises' Emerald Princess docking in Fort Lauderdale with over 200 ill passengers and crew, and the Princess Crown Princess arriving in Galveston from Europe with hundreds puking from noro. 

The researchers are quoted saying: “Cruise ship holidays create an environment in which norovirus is easily spread and outbreaks readily occur." Professor White, who identified the new mutation, refers to cruise ship passengers and says: “It’s almost impossible for them to protect themselves against a norovirus outbreak once it occurs. The only way you could do it would be to stay in your cabin the whole time and not go out.”

 

Photo credit: Bsip/Photoshot/UPPA/Zuma Press via Bloomberg

Septicemia Turns Dream Cruise Into Nightmare for Teenager

Chelsea Rose Cartwright - P & O CruisesA newspaper in the U.K. reports on the grave illness suffered by a 18 year old college student in England which left her fighting for her life.  

Chelsea-Rose Cartwright, photo left, developed septicemia from a virus she caught while on a cruise in the Mediterranean. Septicemia is a severe blood infection that can lead to organ failure and death. It often begins with chills, high fever, rapid breathing, and/or a rapid heart rate.  

Ms. Cartwright planned to be a bridesmaid at her father’s wedding during the cruise in November of last year. But she spent most of her time in a cabin with a fever. After she got off the cruise ship, she spent over a month in hospital. She underwent two 6 pint blood transfusions.

Her condition was so critical that her family thought that she would die. Ms. Cartwright's mother said “She could barely talk and could not walk. Her condition got worse and it got so bad at one stage we feared we may lose her.”

Ms. Cartwright became ill on a P&O cruise ship based in Southampton. 

She will be recovering in the hospital for another month.

Her mother stated to the newspaper that she is considering making an official complaint about how P&O staff cared for her daughter aboard the cruise ship.

 

Photo credit: Facebook

ABC's "Uneasy Voyage: Dangerous Virus on Cruise Liners Leaves Hundreds Ill"

ABC News aired a video look tonight at the recent spate of multiple norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships, focusing on the most recent outbreaks spreading to passengers and crew aboard the Queen Mary 2 and the Emerald Princess cruise ships. 

You can read about our articles about the Emerald Princess and the QM 2.

Watch the video below with ABC's Matt Gutman reporting:

 

 

Cunard's QM 2 is Latest Cruise Ship to Sicken Passengers with Norovirus

Queen Mary 2 - QM 2 Cruise ShipCunard's Queen Mary 2 is in the news with reports that over 150 passengers have been stricken with norovirus as the cruise ship sails on a thirteen night itinerary in the Caribbean from New York.

The Daily Mail states that 150 - 200 passengers have fallen ill with symptoms of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

There were reportedly norovirus cases on board the cruise ship during the transatlantic crossing to New York. The Daily Mail suggests that the cruise ship may therefore not been properly cleaned prior to this latest cruise.

Some cruise passengers are debating all of this on the Cruise Critic message board with one person speculating that as many as 500 people may have been affected during the cruise.  Carnival, which owns Cunard, said that although 130 passengers were affected only 19 currently have "active symptoms." 

The Travel Mole publication suggests that Cunard has been playing down reports that "hundreds" of passengers have been hit by the virus.    

If you are on the cruise, please leave a comment about how the cruise line has handled the situation.

 

Photo Credit: Daily Mail

Norovirus Strikes Emerald Princess Passengers on Christmas Eve - Princess Suffers More Than 50% of U.S. Norovirus Cases This Year

Miami's WSVM Channel 7 television station is bringing us some bad news this Christmas Eve, reporting that passengers aboard a Princess Cruises cruise ship sailing on the high seas are ill with the dreaded norovirus.

According to News Station 7, more than 150 passengers and crew members reportedly caught the norovirus aboard the Emerald Princess.

This is the second Princess cruise ship in a week to report cases of the contagious virus.  The Crown Princess sailed to Galveston with over 100 cruise passengers and crew members ill with norovirus. You can read several comments by passengers criticizing the food serving and hygiene on Emerald Princess Cruise Shipthe cruise ship  

The news station states that crews will sanitize the ship once it docks at Port Everglades on Thursday, whatever that means.

The sick passengers and crew were reportedly confined to their cabins to prevent a further spread of the disease on the 10-day cruise.

As far as cruise ships calling on U.S. ports, Princess Cruises has by far the most gastrointestinal illness outbreaks - with all of the cases involving norovirus.  According to the data collected by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), of the total number of 15 outbreaks, this is the ninth sailing with an illness outbreak on Princess cruise ships this year alone:

The Crown Princess suffered two outbreaks in January and February; the Ruby Princess in February; the Sun Princess in July; the Dawn Princess in August and September; the Ruby Princess again in October; the Crown Princess again in December; and now the Emerald Princess.  

As year 2012 ends, Princess has experienced more than 50% of the CDC documented gastrointestinal cases. Considering there are 26 cruise lines associated with the Cruise Line International Association, one cruise line having more than 50% of the sicknesses is quite a feat!

Princess' standard operating procedure is to always blame the passengers for bringing the virus aboard.  Let's wait and hear what Princess says this time. Who wants to make a bet that the cruise line PR representatives point the finger at the poor people spending Christmas Eve puking in their staterooms?

Anyone sailing on the Emerald Princess have comments about the latest norovirus outbreak?  

December 26, 2012 Update: The Global Dispatch states:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Vessel Sanitation Program team will be boarding Princess Cruises’ “Emerald Princess” as it arrives in Ft. Lauderdale Dec. 27 to investigate an outbreak of yet unknown etiology, which has sickened nearly 200 passengers and crew.

According to health officials, a total of 166 passengers and 30 crew were sickened with the symptoms of diarrhea and vomiting, resembling norovirus. The voyage dates for the cruise were from Dec. 17 to Dec. 27.

The CDC said the cruise ship took the following actions in response to the outbreak to include cleaning and sanitizing, making announcements to notify passengers and crew and to encourage hand hashing, collecting stool samples for laboratory analysis and reporting twice daily to CDC officials.

This outbreak follows a norovirus outbreak reported aboard a “Crown Princess” cruise destined for Galveston, TX. More than 100 passengers and crew were sickened in this outbreak, according to a Chron.com report earlier this week.

Norovirus is a highly contagious illness caused by infection with a virus of the same name. It is often called by other names, such as viral gastroenteritis, stomach flu, and food poisoning.

The symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and some stomach cramping. Sometimes people additionally have a low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and a general sense of tiredness. The illness often begins suddenly, and the infected person may feel very sick. In most people, the illness is self-limiting with symptoms lasting for about 1 or 2 days. In general, children experience more vomiting than adults do.

Norovirus is spread person to person particularly in crowded, closed places. Norovirus is typically spread through contaminated food andwater, 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.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia (Holger.Ellgaard)

Why Do the Cruise Lines Always Blame the Passengers When Norovirus Breaks Out?

Yesterday I mentioned that over one hundred people are sick with norovirus aboard the Crown Princess cruise ship which will be arriving in Galveston tomorrow at the end of a 20 day cruise from Italy.  This is the third outbreak of noro on this particular Princess cruise ship this year.

According to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), although there are cases of noro illness transmitted by hand-to-hand contact, the most likely cause of a norovirus outbreak is contaminated water.  Contaminated food is also a likely culprit.

But if you study the last one hundred cruise ship norovirus cases, one thing is certain - the cruise line will always blame the passengers for bringing the virus aboard.

The New York Times just published a short (three sentence) article about the latest norovirus outbreak on the Princess ship. The newspaper reports that Princess is again pointing its finger at its passengers:

"A spokeswoman for Princess Cruises says more than 100 passengers and crew members contracted a stomach virus on one of its ships, the Crown Princess. The illness struck during a Venetian cruise due to end Saturday at Galveston. The spokeswoman said the cruise line suspects the virus was brought on board by passengers." 

If the cruise lines don't flat out accuse the passengers of being the problem, there will always be an implication that the passengers must not have washed their hands.

The amazing thing about the cruise industry is the frenzy activity when the ships come to port. A tremendous amount of provisions are brought aboard at every port, literally hundreds of thousands of pounds of beef, chicken, pork, fish and shellfish as well as every fruit and vegetable under the sun. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of water are pumped into the ship. The crew members get on and off the ship and of course the passengers do as well.

Cruise Ship NorovirusWas the food and/or water served to passengers on the ship contaminated? Did the passengers or crew eat contaminated food ashore?  Were the hands of a crew member involved in food preparation infected?

Proving exactly how the virus appears on a cruise ship is a difficult scientific process. But no one is engaged in such testing.  Yes, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) test to determine whether the gastrointestinal illness is due to noro or e-coli, but that's where the testing stops.

So the public is left with the blame game.  The Crown Princess has not even arrived at the port of Galveston where the CDC inspectors are awaiting. But Princess is already telling the New York Times that its contaminated ship is the fault of unidentified guests and their dirty hands.     

 

Photo Credit: Centers for Disease Control

Here We Go Again: Norovirus Sickens 100 Passengers on Crown Princess Sailing to Galveston

Princess Cruises Crown Princess NorovirusA Galveston television station reports that a Princess Cruises' ship, sailing from Venice, Italy with a final destination in Galveston, has stricken nearly one cruise passengers with the dreaded norovirus.

KHOU states that the 20-day cruise turned out to be the "trip from hell" for dozens of passengers who fell ill. Ninety six passengers and six crew members on the Crown Princess became ill with the highly contagious norovirus.

With passengers stricken with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, a spokesperson for Princess Cruises responded that the cruise line took "extra precautions" with sanitation such as disinfecting "high-touch surfaces like railings, door handles and elevator buttons, encouraging passengers to use correct hand washing procedures and enhancing this with the use of hand sanitizing gels placed throughout the ship." 

Like all other of the many cruise norovirus cases, there will be no effort to scientifically determine the cause of the outbreak and try and track it down to either hand-to-hand contact from a passenger or crew member or from contaminated food or water.  Yes the enhanced cleaning is appropriate but Crown Princess Cruise Ship Noro Viruswon't do too much good if the nasty bug is in the food and/or water.  

The Crown Princess cruise ship left Venice on December 2, 2012 and is scheduled to arrive in Galveston on Saturday.

The Crown Princess experienced several bouts of norovirus earlier this year resulting in hundreds sick and one cruise to be cut short.

The first outbreak struck on the ship's January 28, 2012 cruise cruise and again on the February 4, 2012 cruise with several hundred passengers and crew members becoming ill. After the second outbreak Princess brought the ship back to Fort Lauderdale two days early for an “enhanced cleansing protocol.”

The Crown Princess also had some nasty noro outbreaks in December 2011 which you can read about here and here.

Anyone with info about this latest outbreak please leave a comment below. Or please leave a comment on our facebook page about this story.

Crown Princess Web Cam GalvestonDecember 22, 2012 Update: I am informed that there was a "red alert" for disease outbreak aboard the Crown Princess throughout the Atlantic crossing.  The cruise ship is now in Galveston (as you can see from the ship's bridge cam) and the CDC will board.  If you were on the cruise, how do you think the cruise line handled the outbreak?  Is around 100 sick passengers an accurate number of guests affected by the norovirus?  

Don't forget to read: "Why Do the Cruise Lines Always Blame the Passengers When Norovirus Breaks Out?"

 

Photo credit:

Top: AP via Fox News

Middle: WPTV

Bottom: Princess Cruises

"Like a Crime Scene:" Passengers Threaten Riot on Sickly Cruise Ship "Vomit Hell"

U.K. and Australian newspapers don't mince words. Unlike the U. S. media which may politely refer to nasty norovirus outbreak on a cruise ship as a "stomach bug," the U.K. press and an Australian newspaper are using some choice words to describe a vomiting virus which has swept through P&O's Oriana cruise ship, sickening many hundreds of passengers.

The P&O crew taped off areas of the ship "like a crime scene" while passengers said the liner reeked of vomit, the British tabloid The Sun reports.  Reports of 300 to 400 ill passengers have come from on board the cruise ship. "There might be a riot because the captain and crew refuse to listen. We'll refuse to disembark unless we get some answers. It's been a cruise to hell," British passenger Dave Stringer, 57, told The Sun as mentions in its article Fury Over Cruise Ship Vomit Hell.

P&O Oriana Cruise Ship NorovirusIt seems that P&O is blaming the passengers for allegedly bringing the virus aboard and then spreading it by not washing their hands - which is the cruise industry's usual defense to a sick ship.

The London Evening Standard reports that the cruise line appears to be involved in a cover-up:

"A spokeswoman for P&O's parent company Carnival said there had been 'an incidence of a mild gastrointestinal illness' among the passengers.

She added that as of today, of 1,843 passengers, 'the number of passengers with active symptoms is six.'

But passenger Paul Gilman, 62, told the Daily Mail: "It has been outrageous from start to finish. People were falling like flies, yet the crew were trying to insist everything was fine.

'Everyone is saying, this is a plague ship. It's a living nightmare.'"

The Oriana returns to Southampton today where, after "enhanced cleaning" takes place, the ship will re-rack with another 1,800 passengers for a holiday cruise.  Stay tuned for more vomit-cruise-from-hell stories.

 

Photo Credit: News Tank

Massive Norovirus Outbreak Plagues Over 40% of Passengers on Rhine River Cruise Ship

Newspapers in Germany report that 67 passengers suffered "heavily illness" on a cruise ship last night aboard the Dutch river ship MS Bellriva. Around midnight the passengers began experiencing what is described as "agonizing nausea, diarrhea and vomiting."  

The cruise ship anchored in the district of Wiesbaden Biebrich on the Rhine River.

The newspapers say that the sick passengers were housed in quarantine in a separate area of the ship during the night. That seems quite difficult because the river ship has only three decks. Some Rhine River Bellriva Cruise Ship - River Ship passengers were sent to local hospitals in the morning after experiencing cardio-problems.

There were 188 people on board the ship, including 146 passengers. 

The newspaper state that the passengers were stricken with the dreaded norovirus.

50 members of fire rescue departments showed at the shore up to deal with the many ill passengers.

Videos show many medical responders wearing white hazmat suits standing under a sign on the entrance to the cruise ships saying "Welcome Aboard."   

"Hide & Seek" - Cruise Lines Play Games With USPH Inspectors

Cruise Ship Pot Wash - USPHThere are certain things you learn from crew members once they become your client. No matter whether the ship employees are from Jamaica, Serbia or India, or whether the crew members are employed by Carnival, Princess or Royal Caribbean, they all tell similar stories of "ship life."

Crew members regularly tell us that they work in excess of 12 hours a day but are prohibited from recording the actual hours they work. Waiters can't record their time spent showing up before meals to prepare their work stations, or attending meetings, or performing "side jobs."  Once they have worked their maximum hours, they have to log out and then keep performing tasks such as polishing the silverware. Cruise lines don't like paying overtime and the supervisor will get in trouble by the department heads if there is money spent on overtime wages for the crew. 

We also hear the same stories over and over from ship employees around the world about the tremendous amount of effort they spend trying to get the cruise ships ready for United States Public Health ("USPH") Inspections.   USPH inspections in theory are suppose to be unannounced, but in reality they are rarely a surprise.  Cruise lines routinely hire people in a supervisory position from federal agencies like the USPHS, FBI and Coast Guard. In turn, their friends in the federal government often give the cruise lines a head's up when the ship will be met by a team of USPH inspectors.

When a USPH inspection is about to happen, the food and beverage workers will literally work 18 to 24 hours on the days right before the cruise ship arrives in the port where the inspection will take place. There are certain types of baking pans and sheets used everyday for frying greasy food which are extremely difficult to get clean and probably won't pass inspection. There are hundreds of these pot Cruise Ship USPH Inspectionand pans which the crew try and clean in the pot wash room (top photo) but it's difficult to get them all spotless. So what happens is that the galley cleaners are instructed to rack the pans and sheets in large trolleys and then hide the trolleys down in the crew quarters.

When the USPH inspection is truly a surprise, crew members tell us that there is often a mad scramble to dump everything dirty into boxes and cartons and then stash the stuff in crew members cabins and corridors on the bottom crew-only area on the bottom deck.

One crew members just sent me photos (right) taken of this practice. This was on the MSC Poesia during a USPH inspection in March 2011.

A bad USPH score is a kiss of death for a cruise ship F&B department head and his supervisors. Ships cut corners to pass inspection. 

When the U.S. inspectors leave the ship, the dirty pans, plates, cups and kitchen equipment are returned to the galley.  The ship cooks then get busy cooking for the next round of 3,000 passengers. 

Read the comments to the question "Do cruise ships hide dirty pot & pans from USPH inspectors?" on our facebook page. 

 

Photo credit:

Top - Kruzeri.com

Bottom - Anonymous

Disease on HAL's Amsterdam Sickens 10% of Passengers

Cruise Ship Illness The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 10% of the passengers aboard Holland America Line's Amsterdam cruise ship were sickened by a disease on the ship. It is not yet known whether the disease was norovirus or due to some other causative agent. 

The Amsterdam was in port in San Diego yesterday after a long cruise starting in Sydney Australia on November 11 and arriving in San Diego on December 5, 2012. 81 of 791 passengers became ill. This turns out to be 10.24% of all passengers (assuming all passengers reported their illness and the cruise line accurately reported the outbreak to the CDC). This is an extremely high percentage of affected passengers.

The cruise line's PR department down-played the outbreak saying "a number of guests reported to the infirmary with a common type of gastrointestinal illness."  The popular cruise site Cruise Critic (owned by Expedia travel company) shrugged the illness off as due to a "stomach bug" and repeated HAL's advice to passengers for "extra hand washing."

As usual, there is no discussion regarding the most likely cause of the outbreak. Cruise lines like HAL like to blame the passengers and suggest that they brought the virus aboard and it was then spread because other passengers didn't wash their hands. If this is viral based, due to norovirus, or due to e-coli infection, the real culprit is probably contaminated food or water.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), whereas "person to person" transmission of norovirus has been documented, "norwalk gastroenteritis is transmitted by the fecal-oral route via contaminated water and foods." The FDA indicates that contaminated water is one of the most likely causes of norovirus. The FDA reports that "water is the most common source of outbreaks and may include water from municipal supplies, well, recreational lakes, swimming pools, and water stored aboard cruise ships."

Most of the affected passengers reportedly became symptomatic after the cruise ship left its last port of call (Hilo, Hawaii) on November 29th. Are we to believe that suddenly 10% of the passengers suddenly stopped washing their hands? Or is it more likely that contaminated food or water introduced at the last port of call were the culprit?

The Friends of the Environment (FOE) has an interesting article that the problem is not sick passengers affecting the cruise ship, but sick ships affecting the passengers. FOE tracked the top 12 cruise ships with the most gastrointestinal outbreaks from 2000 to the present, based on the CDC data.

Out of the top 12 sickest ships, HAL operates 5 of them and has the top three sickest ships. HAL's Amsterdam is number 2. The Ryndam is number 1. The Veendam, which recently flunked a CDC health inspection (you can read about the filthy ship here and here), is number 3. The other HAL cruise ships which made the top 12 sickest list are the Volendam (no. 9) and the Zaandam (No. 11).  

Holland america Line Cruise Ships - Norovirus

Art credit: Chan Lowe / Sun Sentinel

Chart Credit: Friends of the Earth

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 

Norovirus Outbreak on Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas?

A number of people have contacted us, including one passenger "Nancy" from Australia, complaining about a recent, major norovirus outbreak on the Voyager of the Seas.  She writes:

"The Voyager of Seas has relocated to Asia Pacific region husband and I sailed on the relocation cruise from Singapore 22nd Oct 2012 to Fremantle Australia. There was Norovirus outbreak around 800 passengers affected undetermined number with chest infection, one Norovirus victim airlifted . . . The ships doctor was swamped with sick passengers couldn't cope turned people away untreated. Cabins were sanitized once during the 14 night cruise and measures taken to fight the infection cabins sanitized as we left the ship ,very hard to fight when there are 3000+ people in one place." 

Voyager of the Seas Cruise Ship Norovirus Outbreak Nancy also commented on the absence of any mention of the disease outbreak: "The outbreak didn't rate a mention on TV or news papers ($$ damaging to tourist trade)." (The image of the Voyager of the Seas to the left was from an earlier norovirus outbreak when the ship was sailing out of New Orleans in February). 

Another person commented:  "My Mother just went on the Singapore to Perth cruise & many people were quarantined . My Mother got sick the last few days of cruise & is still recovering, vomiting diarrhea etc. . . Virus of the Sea Ship . . ."    

Passenger Nancy appeared sympathetic to the cruise line and thought the outbreak may have been due to the failure of the passengers to wash their hands.

Like most outbreaks, it does not appear that any effort will be made to establish the real cause of the outbreak (i.e., a sick passenger brought the virus aboard, or food and water were contaminated, or a sick crew member spread the virus).

The last norovirus reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) involving the Voyager of the Seas was earlier this year on a January 28 to February 4, 2012 sailing

Royal Caribbean and sister cruise line Celebrity have experienced recent problems with norovirus outbreaks - the Celebrity Constellation sailing out of Southampton reportedly had 350 passengers stricken with norovirus last week, and the Rhapsody of the Seas was quarantined last month while in port in Fiji due to the port's concern that sick cruise passengers may infect the local community.  The U.S. media typically does not mention these type of outbreaks. 

Neither of these latest outbreaks were reported to the CDC because the ships did not call on a U.S. port. 

Can anyone else on the cruise verify the outbreak and comment on how the cruise line handled it?  

Please leave a comment below or follow the discussion on our facebook page about the outbreak.

November 23, 2012 Update: Norovirus Continues to Sicken Cruise Passenger on Latest Cruise

Cruise Puke Fest: Norovirus Strikes Celebrity Constellation

Yesterday we received an email from a cruise passenger planning to board the Celebrity Constellation, indicating that embarkation would be delayed several hours today because of a norovirus outbreak on the cruise ship.

Today news outlets are reporting that there has been a large outbreak of the dreaded disease on this ship. BBC reports that Celebrity Cruises' Constellation arrived in Southampton at 06:00 GMT at the end of a 12-night cruise. The local port health authority said about 350 passengers had fallen ill with norovirus and were exhibiting vomiting and diarrhea. 

Its departure has been delayed until 20:00 while "deep cleaning" takes place. Of course this type of Celebrity Constellation Cruise Shipcleaning is not much good if there is contaminated food or water or a sick crew member in the galley or waiting on tables. 

The BBC report further reports that around 2,200 passengers and 900 crew members had been on a wine cruise around the coasts of France and Spain. Passenger David Mattey said his holiday had been "completely ruined" when he went down with severe vomiting and diarrhea. He said: "The sanitation on that ship is bad."

The U.K.'s Daily Echo mentions that passenger Mattey was bed bound for seven days, and had to go to the medical center several times for an intravenous drip to rehydrate his body. Mattey told the newspaper: “For elderly people to go down with something like this is horrendous. I have never suffered from anything like it before I still feel very weak and I am relieved I am home.”

Celebrity Cruises is quoted telling the newspaper that only "a small number of guests" were affected by the virus. The 350 sickened passengers as reported by the BBC is a very high number to become sick.

This outbreak does not have to be reported to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) because the cruise ship does not call on a U.S. port. The last outbreak affecting this ship which was reported to the CDC occurred in February this year

The last outbreak reported about a Royal Caribbean / Celebrity cruise ship was last month and involved the Rhapsody of the Seas.

The cruise ships ported out of Southampton have experienced problems with norovirus outbreaks in the past which you can read about here and here

How did the cruise line handle this latest outbreak? 

 

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons (Megadri).

Independence of the Seas - a Dirty Cruise Ship? Sick Passengers Sue Royal Caribbean for £500,000

The U.K.'s Daily Echo reports today that twenty-five ill cruise passengers (and their family members) who sailed aboard the Independence of the Seas filed a lawsuit against the Miami based cruise line, Royal Caribbean Cruises, claiming that the dirty ship conditions and unsanitary galley and food led them to become ill.

The newspaper states that in addition to the unsanitary shipboard conditions, the Royal Caribbean cruise ship had insufficient medical facilities and staff to deal with disease outbreaks during cruises.

The lawsuit is described in the newspaper article as including complaints of "flies in their bathrooms, a waiter blowing (his) nose on a napkin that was then placed on a table and an outbreak of illness Independence of the Seas - Norovirus so severe there were often ambulances waiting for passengers in the ports they visited."

There is no mention where the lawsuit was filed or the name of the passengers' lawyers, but it appears that the case was filed in England. The passengers are seeking £500,000 in compensation from the cruise line. The Independence of the Seas sailed from Southampton England.

The affected passengers sailed on five different cruises over the course of a seven month period from December 2010 through June 2011.  In the U.S. courts, cruise lines like Royal Caribbean have successfully enforced a one year limitations period.  There appears to be a longer limitations period in which to file suit in the U.K.

Royal Caribbean denied the allegations of under-cooked food and poor galley hygiene, stating that it delivered “extremely high” health standards for its guests. During the time period in question, "the ship, Independence of the Seas, sailed on 15 cruises, welcoming over 67,000 guests."

Although the cruise line is down-playing the allegations, the fact of the matter is that Royal Caribbean had a problem with norovirus on this cruise ship notwithstanding its attempts at "enhanced cleaning."  It should be pointed out that if the cruise line really carried some 67,000 passengers in this six month period, it collected well over £100,000,000 as well.    

The last norovirus outbreak we reported on which occurred on the Independence  of the Seas was in March 2012.

Independence of the Seas - Lawsuit - Unsanitary FoodThe cruise lines always blame the passengers for not washing their hands, but there is far more to the story than pointing the finger at the guests. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), whereas "person to person" transmission of norovirus has been documented, "norwalk gastroenteritis is transmitted by the fecal-oral route via contaminated water and foods."

The FDA also indicates that contaminated water is one of the most likely causes of norovirus. The FDA reports that "water is the most common source of outbreaks and may include water from municipal supplies, well, recreational lakes, swimming pools, and water stored aboard cruise ships." 

Consider a couple of our articles regarding this subject: 

Cruise Ship Norovirus - Clean the Damn Toilets!

Cruise Ship Bathrooms, Norovirus and Medical Care

It will be interesting how this case turns out! 

 

Photo credits:

Drawing - Maxim Magazine

Independence of the Seas - Echo Daily

Norovirus Outbreak on Rhapsody of the Seas in Fiji - Cruise Ship Quarantined

Cruise Norovirus - Rhapsody of the SeasThe Fiji Broadcasting Corporation (FBC) reports that a Royal Caribbean cruise ship berthed at the Suva Wharf in Fiji was quarantined today by authorities following what is described as an outbreak of norovirus. The Health Ministry in Fiji reportedly confirmed 51 cases of the contagious virus on board the Rhapsody of the Seas which is carrying around 2300 passengers and 870 crew.

The FBC states that affected passengers have been isolated and no one is allowed to enter the quarantined area on the ship except the medical response team. 

The cruise ship will leave Fiji for Noumea, New Caledonia later tonight.

Because this outbreak occurred on a cruise ship which did not call on a U.S. port, it will not be reported to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

You can get norovirus from an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces.

The Rhapsody of the Seas experienced a norovirus outbreak the last week of August when 53 of 2,129 passengers (7.19%) experienced vomiting and diarrhea.

October 31, 2012 Update: Cruise ship under quarantine leaves Fiji.

Small Cruise Ship Sanitation Blues: Grand Mariner Flunks the Fed's Galley Inspection

Cruise Ship SanitationCruise Critic reports today that just one month after HAL's Veendam flunked an inspection by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Blount Small Ship Adventures Grand Mariner's 100 passenger cruise ship also failed a CDC inspection: 

"Moldy ice-cubes, inadequate monitoring of food temperatures, raw meat stored with nonmeat items, ingredient containers left open, dirty dish-washing sinks" and 31 other violations earned the ship the failing score of 75 out of 100.

Wow.  Sounds like the kitchen in my college apartment.  And people pay money to cruise and eat on these ships? 

HAL's Veendam Flunks Health Inspection

Below is a CNN video regarding the 16 year old Holland America Line's Veendam cruise ship which failed an inspection conducted by the Centers for Disease Control.

We blogged about this incident last week in our article:

"Gross! Holland America Line's Veendam Flunks Health Inspection."

CNN described the ship conditions as "really gross:"

 

 

Norovirus Outbreak on Celebrity Solstice?

Celebrity SolsticeWe received complaints from cruise passengers that there was a gastrointestinal outbreak on the Celebrity Solstice at the end of August. One cruise passenger contacted us and stated: 

"Our Celebrity Solstice cruise out of Barcelona on 8/27/12 had a huge outbreak of the norovirus. People were sick at the end of the cruise, however Celebrity loaded up the ship to head back out the same day. I don't see how in the world the boat could have been cleaned thoroughly."

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) do not document cases of cruise ship norovirus / gastrointestinal illness when the cruise ships do not call on a U.S. port.  

There have been 11 official cases of such illnesses on cruises calling on U.S. ports this year, all of them declared by the CDC to be norovirus cases. Passengers aboard the Celebrity Silhouette and the Celebrity Constellation were struck by norovirus earlier this year.

 

Photo Attribution: Maprie at en.wikipedia  

Did the Carnival Glory Sicken Canadians Ashore With Norovirus?

Cruise Ship NorovirusWhen passengers fall victim to norovirus while cruising, cruise lines typically blame the passengers for bringing the virus aboard and sickening the ship and crew. But if this Canadian news report is correct, its looks like the table has been turned on one cruise line which allegedly sickened people ashore in the port of Halifax with the dreaded "cruise ship virus."

According to CTV News, the Carnival Glory which stopped in Halifax about two weeks ago is the suspected source of an outbreak that shut down two restaurants on the waterfront this week. Two waterfront restaurants, The Bicycle Thief and Ristorante a Mano, had to close after at least 26 staff and customers became ill with what appears to be the norovirus. 

Other business owners complained that Carnival cruise passengers came through their shops and sickened the employees and customers.  

Some locals commented that they intended to avoid waterfront businesses out of fear that the virus from the cruise passengers might infect them.

We commented on the puke fest on the Carnival in a prior blog.  

Norovirus on Carnival Glory Sickens Passengers

A puke fest is underway on the Carnival Glory cruise ship, with passengers taking to the message boards at Cruise Critic to comment that passengers are suffering from diarrhea and other norovirus-like symptoms,

The message board states that Carnival prepared a letter to passengers this weekend that passengers on the prior cruise experienced norovirus sickness. Several passengers are stating that the current cruise has been plagued by norovirus as well.  Some comments mention the strong smell of vomit in public areas of the cruise ship.  

One passenger comments that the Centers for Disease control (CDC) came onto the Glory on August 9th.  

Carnival Glory Norovirus Outbreak Cruise ShipThere has been no official determination by the CDC yet. According to the CDC, cruise line calling on U.S. ports are required to report the total number of gastrointestinal (GI) illness cases evaluated by the medical staff when the GI illness count exceeds 2% of the total number of passengers or crew on board.

Last year there were 14 official cases of norovirus on cruise ships.

The usual debate is taking place about where the virus comes from, how it's spread and how the cruise lines is handling the outbreak.   The cruise industry bristles at the label "cruise ship virus" and always blames the passengers for not washing their hands and spreading the virus. The fact of the matter is that no one is conducting a scientific analysis to determine the origin of the virus notwithstanding the CDC's findings that the most common cause of norovirus on cruise ships in contaminated food or water.  

Some people are commenting that Carnival is doing a good job dealing with the outbreak, while others are saying that the cruise line is not disclosing the true number of affected passengers to avoid an official determination that the outbreak is norovirus related.

The last norovirus involved the Sun Princess during a July  8 - 21st sailing.  

Augyst 13, 2012 Update: The CDC says that the type of virus is "unknown."   This is the ninth gastrointestinal outbreak aboard a cruise ship calling on a U.S. port this year. 

 

Photo credit: Mark Davis via Wikimedia

Newsweek Magazine Weighs in on Cruise Safety Debate: "The Hidden Horrors of Cruising"

Today, Newsweek magazine and its online edition - The Daily Beast - weighs in on the 6 month anniversary of the Costa Concordia disaster with a far reaching article looking at all aspects of today's cruise industry.

Cheap cruise fares? Certainly.  But at what cost? Long working hours, low pay, and exploitative working conditions. An injured india crew members says to Newsweek: “They never feel that we are humans . . . They believe we are machines.” But Costa counters: employees are a “precious resource whose rights must be safeguarded as an ethical and moral imperative.” 

Newsweek takes a look at a number of other cruise health and safety issues, like norovirus and sick crew members pressed into working while ill and who lie to passengers to keep the machine running.

I'm quoted a couple of times about the cruise industry's new safety policies (what a joke).

The article's title is not subtle: "The Hidden Horrors of Cruising," written by Eve Conant and Barbie Latza Nadeau.

Your travel friendly publications won't be re-printing the article anytime soon.

If you can't wait until the magazine arrives at your newsstand, you can read it online at the Daily Beast

Costa Concrodia - Cheal Fares & Hiden Dangers

"The industry hopes you won’t worry about such disasters next time you’re lured by an Internet ad for a $299 cruise."

Photo credit: Max Rossi / Reuters-Landov

Another Princess Cruise Ship Stricken With Norovirus?

Island Princess Cruise Ship - Norovirus? The Sun Sentinel newspaper in Fort Lauderdale reports that passengers aboard the Island Princess cruise ship are experiencing symptoms of gastrointestinal illness, according to a spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control ("CDC"). 

The Princess cruise ship is scheduled to return to Port Everglades this morning after sailing a 10 night Panama Canal cruise.

The newspaper reports that the incident is not yet an official “outbreak" which occurs only when at least three percent of passengers experience symptoms such as of the illness, which include vomiting and diarrhea.

There are 1,970 passengers aboard the Island Princess

Several Princess cruise ships have experienced problems with norovirus this year, Including the Ruby Princess and the Crown Princess.  

If you were ill on this cruise or have observations regarding how Princess dealt with the issue, please leave a comment below. 

Ruby Princess Latest Cruise Ship to Battle Norovirus

Ruby Princess - NorovirusPrincess Cruises' Ruby Princess cruise ship experienced a norovirus outbreak with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reporting that 129 passengers 9 crewmembers suffered gastrointestinal illness.

The Ruby Princess was on a 7 day cruise from February 26 to March 4, 2012 out of Fort Lauderdale. 

The Ruby Princess suffered another outbreak last month, although the prior sickness was not reported or investigated by the CDC.

The cruise industry has struggled with gastrointestinal outbreaks this year, some outbreaks reported by the CDC, some not, with Princess Cruises and the Royal Caribbean/Celebrity ships leading the cruise puke fest.

Here is a list of cases I have reported on just this year:

Princess' Ruby Princess Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas Celebrity' Constellation

Princess' Crown Princess (two sailings) Celebrity's Silhouette Cruise Sickness - Norovirus

Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas

Princess' Ruby Princess 

P & O Aurora.

There has been a sick cruise ship virtually every week this year. 

Only cruise ships calling on U.S. ports are required to report sickness outbreaks to the CDC.  Cruise line are required to make the report only when 3% or more of passengers or crew reported symptoms of diarrheal disease to the ships medical staff during the voyage.

Under-reporting occurs regularly because many passengers can't make it away from their toilets due to diarrhea, and some passengers don't want to be confined to their cabins. Crewmembers often work while sick.

 

Photo credit:  bottom - cheezburger.com

Norovirus Hits Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas

Independence of the Seas - NorovirusA reader of Cruise Law News in the U.K. alerted me to an article in the Daily Echo that one of Royal Caribbean's cruise ships based in the U.K. has been hit with a break out of norovirus: 

"Thousands of holidaymakers due to set sail on board a Southampton-based cruise ship were hit by delays yesterday after norovirus hit 117 passengers and three crew on the liner’s previous cruise.

They were delayed boarding Royal Caribbean ship Independence of the Seas until 3pm so that her cabins and the cruise terminal could be sanitized.

She set sail just after her scheduled 7 PM departure."

Were you on this cruise?  How did the cruise line handle the outbreak?  

Please leave a comment below.

March 7, 2012 Update:

Professor Ross Klein's website has this quote from a passenger:

"We have just returned today 06.03.12 from an 11 day cruise on Independence of the Seas.  We were asked to check in late (15.30), by email.  We were left standing in corridors, the check in lounge and even outside for about three hours. They kept apologising for the delay over and over again.

While we were on the ship the staff were constantly sanatizing all handrails chairs and tables, the shops were sprayed every night.  Each time someone entered the toilet a voice would say"Stop don't forget to wash your hands."  When you sat down to dinner then someone would announce that we were on a high state of alert for Norovirus and to please wash your hands. We were handed wipes each time you entered a venue. We were not allowed to put condiments on our food the waiters etc had to do it for you. They even had to put the milk in you coffee and handed you sugar packets with tongs. We felt like lepers and it spoiled the whole holiday.

must say that the crew had to work extra hard but they always had a smile for us, but they must all be shattered."

 

Photo credit:  Daily Echo

Read Sun Sentinel's Cruise Crime Database (and Don't Forget the Cartoons)

With cruise safety hearings coming up later this month in Washington, the debate will resume regarding how many crimes really occur on cruise ships.

The cruise lines will say that crime is rare but will not refer to any database to support their their self-serving conclusion.  Cruise lines do not reveal their own internal crime statistics, except when ordered to do so under the threat of sanctions by a court.

But there are some on-line sources of information.  In addition to this blog, there is of course the web site Cruise Junkie by cruise expert Ross Klein who tracks cruise ship crimes.  

Another interesting source is a database by the Fort Lauderdale newspaper, the South Florida Sun Sentinel, which listed cruise crimes from December 2007 to October 2008.  You can look at the hundreds of various crime allegations, some petty and some very disturbing, here.

Unlike the Miami Herald which is beholden to the cruise lines which advertise in the Miami newspaper, the Sun Sentinel has maintained a sense of journalistic integrity when it comes to reporting on things that go wrong during cruises.

The Sentinel also has a sense of humor about the cruise industry.  Take a look at the cartoon which ran last week after several Princess cruise ships returned to Fort Lauderdale filled with passengers sickened by norovirus:

Chan Lowe - Cruise Ship Norovirus

" . . . viral diseases, crimes of violence, theft, seasickness, weight gain, liver damage, possibly getting stuck at the dinner table for the entire journey with people who deny the theory of evolution … sounds like the kind of vacation from which lasting memories are made . . ."

The cartoon and comments are by Chan Lowe who has been the Sun Sentinel’s editorial cartoonist for the past twenty-six years.  

 

Cartoon credit:  Chan Lowe / South Florida Sun Sentinel / Tribune Media 

Norovirus Update: Celebrity Constellation Cruise Ship is Latest to Join List of Sick Ships

A number of cruisers have been contacting our office asking about a sickness outbreak aboard the Celebrity Cruises' Constellation cruise ship. 

The Centers for Disease Control ("CDC") officially placed the Constellation on its vessel sanitation list of ships with sickness.  The Constellation sailed on January 28th from Fort Lauderdale and returned yesterday, February 11th. 

95 out of 1,992 passengers reported being ill during the voyage (4.77%).  12 crewmembers reported being ill. The sick passengers and crew reported symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea.

Only cruise lines calling on U.S. ports are required to report disease outbreaks to the CDC.  Cruise Celebrity Cruises' Constellation Cruise Ship - Norovirus?lines are required to make the report only when 3% or more of passengers or crew reported symptoms of diarrheal disease to the ships medical staff during the voyage.  Under-reporting occurs regularly because many passengers can't make it away from their toilets due to diarrhea, and some passengers don't want to be confined to their cabins. 

This is the fifth "official" cruise ship sickness outbreak which has found its way onto the CDC database which lists the Celebrity Silhouette, Celebrity Constellation, Royal Caribbean Voyager of the Seas, Princess Cruises' Crown Princess and P & O Cruises Aurora cruse ships.  The CDC data does not include the outbreak on Princess Cruises' Ruby Princess, which we reported on last week

The CDC has confirmed norovirus only on the Crown Princess and Aurora.  It is disappointing that the CDC can't figure out the type of disease on the other ships.  In no cases did the CDC pin-point the cause of the outbreak, to either a virus brought on the cruise ships by a passenger, or unsanitary handling of food by a crew, or infected food and/or water.  If the CDC can't figure out how the outbreak occurred, it seems hard to respond to the problem and eradicate the causative factors.

There has been a lot of criticism on how Celebrity Cruises handled the latest outbreak on the Silhouette.  You can read the comments by passengers here.   

How did Celebrity Cruises handle the outbreak on the Constellation?  If you were on the cruise, please leave her comments below, pro or con.

November 5, 2012 Update:

News sources are reporting that the Constellation suffered another outbreak of norovirus, this time during a 12 day cruise which just returned to Southampton.  BBC reports that 350 passengers became ill with vomiting and nausea. Read our article: Cruise Puke Fest: Norovirus Strikes Celebrity Constellation. if you were ill on that cruise please leave a comment at the end of that article.    

 

Photo credit:  Getty

Princess Cruises Ends Crown Princess Cruise Early, Citing Norovirus

In a responsible step to sanitize its cruise ship following an outbreak of what appears to be norovirus, Princess Cruises decided to end the current cruise of its Crown Princess cruise ship after consulting with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). 

Nearly 400 passengers and crew on the last cruise became sick due to gastrointestinal illness, which is suspected to be norovirus as we reported over the weekend.   The current cruise out of Fort Lauderdale has seen 114 passengers and 59 crew members become ill, continuing an outbreak that began last week. 

Princess states that it will offer full refunds to the over 3,000 cruise passengers on the current cruise.  It will also assist the passengers in arranging flights home from Ft. Lauderdale.  Princess is providing hotel accommodations for affected passengers, if needed, and will provide all Crown Princess Cruise Ship - Norovirus?passengers a 25% cruise credit toward a future cruise.

Compare this proactive move to the debacle Celebrity Cruises faced in 2010 when four consecutive sailing of the Celebrity Mercury where hit by norovirus.  Celebrity kept reloading the cruise ship and sickening subsequent passengers until the CDC ordered the Celebrity Mercury to be shut down.

It's nice to see the cruise lines act responsibly like this.  The official statement from Princess is below:

Princess Cruises' Statement on Gastrointestinal Illness Aboard Crown Princess - February 7, 2012

The increased incidence of gastrointestinal illness that occurred during the previous cruise of Crown Princess has reappeared on the current voyage which departed Saturday, February 4, despite rigorous sanitization measures.

In consultation with the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), who has informed us that there are widespread outbreaks of Norovirus occurring in the US, it was agreed that the best course of action to stop the spread of the illness is for the ship to undergo a two-day extensive sanitization. To accomplish this, Crown Princess is now returning to Fort Lauderdale where the cruise will end on Thursday, Feb. 9. The ship was scheduled to return on Saturday, Feb. 11.

We sincerely regret having to cut short our passengers’ cruise vacations because of this highly-unusual situation. We will, of course, be refunding their cruise fare, arranging flights home, including covering change fees if air was not booked through Princess, providing hotel accommodation if necessary, and offering a 25% future cruise credit.

Crown Princess departed February 4 on its scheduled Southern Caribbean cruise after a comprehensive disinfection of all cabins and public areas, which was overseen by the CDC together with our public health, medical and onboard departments.

On the current sailing 114 passengers (3.70% out of 3,078) and 59 crew (5.01% of 1,178) have reported gastrointestinal illness. On the previous cruise, 364 passengers (11.73% of 3,103) and 30 crew (2.57% of 1,168) were affected.

At the first sign of increased cases of gastrointestinal illness, we immediately initiated additional enhanced sanitation procedures to interrupt the spread of illness for both passengers and crew members. Our sanitation program has been developed in coordination with the CDC and includes such measures as disinfection of high-touch surfaces; encouraging correct hand washing procedures and enhancing this with the use of hand sanitizing gels placed throughout the ship; isolating ill passengers and crew in cabins until non-contagious; encouraging passengers to use their own cabin’s bathroom facilities; and providing regular verbal and written communication to passengers about steps they can take to stay well while onboard.

The enhanced disinfection of the ship in Fort Lauderdale will include bringing aboard additional cleaning crew to assist with a thorough sanitization of all public spaces and surfaces including soft furnishing and carpets, railings, door handles and the like. The staterooms will be sanitized multiple times before making up the rooms with fresh linens and towels on Saturday morning, just prior to passenger embarkation.

We continue to work closely with the CDC to determine the cause of the illness, which is suspected to be the easily-transmitted Norovirus, which is so widespread that only the common cold is reported more frequently.

Following this additional sanitization of Crown Princess, we expect that the next cruise on February 11 will depart as scheduled.

The current seven-day Caribbean sailing of the ship was scheduled to visit Curacao and Aruba, but we regret that the early return to Fort Lauderdale has necessitated cancellation of these calls.


# # #

What is Norovirus?

Norovirus is so widespread that only the common cold is reported more frequently. The CDC estimates that there are 23 million land-based Norovirus cases each year in the U.S., affecting one in 12 people, or 8% of the population. In contrast, the number of cruise passengers affected is .028% of the 8 million cruising population, or 1 in 3,600 of those who vacation aboard ships. Symptoms of Norovirus include mild stomach upset with vomiting and diarrhea, usually lasting between one and three days. The illness generally resolves without treatment or long-term consequences.

Health officials recommend that the best way cruise passengers can protect themselves from getting ill is to wash their hands frequently and thoroughly.

Further information about Norovirus is available through the below links to the CDC and Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).

http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/vsp/pub/norovirus/Norovirus.htm
http://www.cruising.org/regulatory/cruise-industry-policies/vessel-sanitation


Contact: Karen Candy (661) 753-1540 Julie Benson (661) 753-1530
kcandy@princesscruises.com jbenson@princesscruises.com

 

Photo credit:  Wikimedia Commons (Cliff)
 

Cruise Sickness Hits Celebrity Cruises' Silhouette Cruise Passengers

ABC News reports tonight that over 30 cruise passengers were suffering from sickness when the Celebrity Silhouette cruise ship called on St. Maarten today.

Over the last few days, at least four cruise ships have suffered from outbreaks of illness, including norovirus: the Oasis of the Seas and the Voyager of the Seas (both operated by Royal Caribbean Cruises) and the Crown Princess and the Ruby Princess (operated by Princess Cruises).

If you have information about the illness aboard the Silhouette, please leave a comment below.

Norovirus On Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas Sickens 200 Passengers - Fifth Cruise Ship Sickness Outbreak This Year!

Voyager of the Seas - NorovirusWhile reports of five hundred sick passengers aboard two of Princess Cruises' ships sailing to Fort Lauderdale (Ruby Princess and Crown Princess) dominate the news here in South Florida, a newspaper in New Orleans is reporting that over 200 passengers were stricken with norovirus on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship this weekend.

This means around 700 people on these three cruise ships are battling diarrhea and vomiting.

The norovirus outbreak aboard Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas caused delay of the cruise ship's departure from New Orleans   According to WDSU.com, 20 of the over 200 affected passengers on the ship were quarantined in the port as a result of their illness.

The delay was around two hours Saturday evening as cleaning crews tried to sanitize the cruise ship.  It is impossible to adequately sanitize a ship this large in such a short turn around, assuming the norovirus is not in the cruise ship's food or water.

Yesterday we reported on norovirus outbreaks on the Ruby Princess and Crown Princess.

Last year, there were 14 sickness outbreaks on cruise ships calling on U.S. ports.  So far, in the first five weeks of this year, there are already five outbreaks.

With the Costa Concordia disaster and several other overboards, deaths and shipboard rapes, the cruise industry is off to a rough start in 2012.

Were you on the Voyager of the Seas?  Please leave a comment below and let us know how the cruise line handled the outbreak. 

November 11, 20122 Update:  Passengers report a large norovirus outbreak on the Voyager of the Seas as it sailed to Australia.

November 23, 2012 Update: The norovirus continues to infect unsuspecting passengers aboard the Voyager of the Seas in Australia. This time throughout the November 5 tp 23, 2012 18-night sailing returning to Sydney.

 

Photo credit: Kerry Maloney  / NOLA.com / Times Picayune

Two Princess Cruise Ships Sicken Passengers with Norovirus

Two cruise ships operated by Princess Cruises are sailing into South Florida have well over 200 passengers experiencing norovirus like symptoms - nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.

The Crown Princess arrived in Port Everglades today with 140 ill passengers and an additional 18 sick crewmembers.

Tomorrow, the Ruby Princess will arrive at port in Fort Lauderdale with 90 infected passengers and 13 sick crewmembers.

Princess Cruises Ships NorovirusThe "official" reported cases are usually far less than the actual number of cases, we have found.

PR people for Princess, as usual, are talking about subjecting the cruise ships to "enhanced cleaning" of  "high-touch surfaces like railings, door handles and elevator buttons" and "encouraging passengers to use correct hand washing procedures and enhancing this with the use of hand sanitizing gels placed throughout the ship."

At this point, there is no indication whether ill passengers boarded the cruise ships and sickened others, or whether ill crew handling food sickened the passengers, or whether the food or water sickened the passengers and crew.

The other month I was interviewed in a travel publication and discussed the problem of norovirus on cruise ships in an article entitled "When Bugs Swim."  Cruise lines Ike Princess always blame the passengers and suggest that they need to wash their hands more or use hand sanitizers which are not effective at combating norovirus.  

Cruise lines never admit that their own crew, or the the cruise food or water, may be the culprits.  Many attempts at cleaning by the crew actually make the problem worse, particularly when the source of the virus is the cruise line's food and water and then the vomitted norovirus is spread by rags which the crew rub all over the ship. 

This is the fourth sickness outbreak reported on a cruise ship this year, according tp the CDC.

If you were on these cruises, please leave a comment below and let us know how the cruise line handled these two outbreaks.

February 5 2012 Update:

CNN reports that the number affected on these two cruise ships is around 500.

Meanwhie, in New Orleans:

 Norovirus On Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas Sickens 200 Passengers - Fifth Cruise Ship Sickness Outbreak This Year!

 

Photo Credit:   CBS-12

CruiseLog's Article on Cruise Ship Sickness Misses the Boat

The popular cruise blog written by Gene Sloan for the USA Today newspaper published an article yesterday entitled "Outbreaks of Illness on Cruise Ships at Multiyear Low."

CruiseLog cites statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control ("CDC") of 11 outbreaks of illnesses so far in 2011, down from 14 in 2010 and 15 in 2009.  It concludes that this reflects a "downward trend that began several years ago as the industry increased prevention efforts."

But looking at the data at the CDC website, you can see that the "trend" is actually flat, with 14 to 15  outbreaks reported to the CDC for each the past 3 years (2008, 2009 and 2010).  This year will probably end up with the same number of reported incidents.

There has been an additional outbreak reported to the CDC just since the CruiseLog article was published yesterday.  HAL's Ryndam cruise ship has reported that more than 5% of its passengers reported to the ship's infirmary complaining of vomiting and diarrhea. You can read Cruise Ship Sicknessabout this latest outbreak here.  The cruise ship is returning to Tampa tomorrow.

Unfortunately, there seems to be an outbreak or two over the Christmas and New Year sailing somewhere each year, so we should reasonably expect there to be the usual number (14 to 15) this year as in past years.

My real criticism of the CruiseLog article is not whether the number is actually 15 versus 11.  It is that the article really doesn't explain that the cruise ship outbreaks reported to the CDC are probably less than 50% of the actual number of incidents which occur around the world each year.  Remember that cruise lines do not report sickness outbreaks to the CDC if the cruise does not call on a U.S. port.  This is significant because many cruise lines re-positioned a greater number of their cruise ships to Europe and Asia in recent years compared to five years ago

Although it is difficult to track the incidents outside of the U.S., we have reported on a number of incidents this year. 

For example, in September, norovirus broke out on Celebrity's Eclipse sailing out of Southampton, England. Royal Caribbean's cruise ships sailing out of this U.K. port remained on heightened alert for months.  You will find no mention of this is in the official CDC database.  The cruise lines certainly will never voluntarily disclose this.

In November, we reported on one death and 80 sick passengers on HAL's Veendam which Holland America Line Veendam Cruise Ship Norovirus?experienced a sickness outbreak as the cruise reached in Rio de Janeiro.  

The other issue that the CruiseLog does not explain is the cruise lines report disease outbreaks only when 3% of passengers are afflicted based on the number of ill passengers who appear in the ship infirmary.  This is significantly less than the true number of those afflicted with viral illnesses.  Many sick passengers know that they will be quarantined in their cabins or they simply do not want to wait in the long lines outside of the ship infirmary. 

The Clinical Infectious Disease Journal reported earlier this year that 40% of passengers with a viral infection did not report being sick to the ship medical staff.  If these passengers were included in the sickness count, then the number of CDC reportable cases would surely increase.   

CruiseLog also points to Carnival as not reporting a single outbreak this year.  Does that mean that Carnival has a vaccine against the cruise ship bug?  Hardly.  Consider the following comments by cruise passengers on the CruiseJunkie website about the Carnival Conquest last week:

"From a passenger: There was an outbreak of something vomiting and diarrhea starting on Tuesday of the cruise (4-11 Dec). My husband got sick on Thursday morning and was asked to stay in cabin on isolation. On Friday I came down with vomiting and diarrhea. We were told there were lots of people sick.

Another passenger writes: On our final day at sea suddenly all the crew was wearing gloves and none of the passengers were allowed to get their own plate or food at the buffet.  Everything had to Cruise Ship Norovirusbe served by the staff and they were constantly wiping down everything and making announcements about hygiene.  We asked if something was going on and we were told no however by that night 3 of the seven people in our party were very sick and once we walked in on an employee in the bathroom vomiting very badly.  A casino employee told us that night many of the crew and passengers were very sick. 

When we were getting off the boat Sunday we saw stacks and stacks of mattresses in plastic they were loading on the ship.  We still have people from our group sick and I wish we had been told something.  We received no information and since I was traveling with two children and my seventy year old father I continue to be concerned." 

Families intending to cruise and worried about norovirus should read news sources like CruiseLog with a grain of salt.  There is no empirical evidence that norovirus and other cruise ship sicknesses are on the decline. 

Regarding cruises not calling on a U.S. port, the best sources of information are anecdotal, like cruise community forums and websites not beholden to the cruise lines like Professor Ross Klein's CruiseJunkie.

Celebrity Solstice Hit By Cruise Ship Virus?

The Centers for Disease Control ("CDC") report that 118 of the 2,730 passengers aboard the Celebrity Solstice cruise ship have reported to the ship's medical facility with vomiting, diarrhea and other symptoms of gastrointestinal illness.

The Solstice is currently on a 14 day cruise and will return to Fort Lauderdale on December 11, 2011.

Pursuant to the CDC Vessel Sanitation Program, environmental health officers and an epidemiologist will board the cruise ship, once it returns to Fort Lauderdale tomorrow, in order assess the outbreak and the cruise line's response activities.

It has been our experience over the years that the "official" CDC numbers of ill passengers and crewmembers is usually less than the true number of those afflicted with viral illnesses.  This is because many sick passengers know that they will be quarantined in their cabins or they simply do not want to wait in the long lines outside of the ship infirmary.  Often, sick crewmembers are Celebrity Solstice - Cruise Ship Sicknesspressed to work notwithstanding their sicknesses.  

We wrote about the problem of under reporting last year when the Celebrity Mercury experienced a prolonged outbreak of norovirus: Is Celebrity Cruises Under-Reporting Sicknesses to the CDC?

This is not the first time the Solstice has experienced an outbreak this year.  In January and February, there were norovirus outbreaks on the Solstice with one passenger dying due to exposure to the virus. 

Celebrity Cruises has experienced other bouts of widespread illnesses in 2011.  Over 100 passengers became sick on the Millennium in May of this year. 

Not all gastrointestinal outbreaks are documented with the CDC.  The cruise lines do not have to report the outbreaks when the cruise ship does not call on a U.S. port.  In September, norovirus broke out on Celebrity's Eclipse sailing out of Southampton, England.  You will find no mention of it in the official CDC database.

Earlier this week, we discussed Is there a Cure for the Cruise Ship Virus?

If you were on the Solstice and have something to add to this story, please leave a comment below.  Was the sickness more widespread than reported?  How did the cruise line handle the situation?   

 

Photo credit:  Examiner

Is there a Cure for the Cruise Ship Virus?

Afraid of your cruise vacation ruined by a nasty bout of diarrhea and vomiting?

There may be hope for you.   

Cruise Ship Virus - Norovirus - Passenger SicknessWebMD and a few other medical journals report that there have been promising results from the tests of an experimental vaccine designed to prevent infection and symptoms associated with  norovirus.

WebMD explains that researchers sprayed the experimental vaccine in the noses of 47 volunteers. They also sprayed a "placebo vaccine in the noses of 43 other volunteers."  The study participants all swallowed a large dose of the norovirus (yuck).

About two-thirds of those who got the placebo vaccine developed gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting.  However, only a third of the participants who received the real vaccine developed  symptoms.

The researcher behind the experiment, Dr. Robert Atmar, a professor of medicine and molecular virology at the Baylor College of Medicine, said that the results are very promising, but it will be a few more years of research before the vaccine can be offered to the public.

Although commonly referred to as the "cruise ship virus," the virus also affects nursing homes, hospitals and restaurants.   Over the years, the cruise industry's trade organization, Cruise Lines Cruise Ship Norovirus - Virus SicknessInternational Association ("CLIA"), has tried to disassociate itself from this nasty virus.  It often writes to newspapers complaining when norovirus is described in such nautical terms.

When nororvirus breaks out on a cruise ship, you will usually hear the cruise lines and pro-cruise line publications stating that the cruise ship has been subjected to "enhanced cleaning,' whatever that means.  Cruise Critic ran an article earlier this year with a title "Norovirus is NOT a 'Cruise Ship' Virus."   The article showed a couple of photographs of crewmembers spraying down tables, chairs and even the roulette wheel.  Many topical solutions sprayed like this are not effective in killing the virus.  If a towel is contaminated, the wiping down of everything in sight spreads the virus everywhere. 

You will never hear the cruise lines or industry publications mention that the norovirus may not be spread from person-to-person, but  have been transmitted by contaminated food or water.   

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), whereas "person to person" transmission of norovirus has been documented, "norwalk gastroenteritis is transmitted by the fecal-oral route via contaminated water and foods."  The FDA indicates that contaminated water is one of the most likely causes of norovirus.  The FDA reports that "water is the most common source of outbreaks and may include water from municipal supplies, well, recreational lakes, swimming pools, and water stored aboard cruise ships.

Cruise Ship Virus - NorovirusWhatever the source of the virus on cruise ships, it is encouraging that there are doctors researching a vaccine against this dreaded sickness. 

For other articles about noro virus on cruise ships, consider reading: 

Cruise Ship Norovirus - Clean the Damn Toilets!

Cruise Ship Norovirus - Something in the Water? 

Centers for Disease Control: "Shut Mercury Cruise Ship Down!"

100 Norovirus Victims On Sapphire Princess Cruise Ship - Princess Cruises Blames Passengers

  

 

Photo credits:

Top:  Reuters via Mail Online

Middle & Bottom:  CruiseCritic

HAL's Veendam: 1 Dead, 80 Sick

Multiple news sources are reporting that an U.S passenger died aboard Holland America Line's Veendam cruise ship that arrived in Rio de Janeiro yesterday.

HAL's Veendam is also the same cruise ship on which approximated 80 passengers fell ill, according to the state-run Brazilian news agency, Agencia Brasil.  The agency refers to the cruise passengers as suffering from "gastro-enteritis."  It is unknown whether there is a norovirus outbreak. 

Forensic doctors are investigating the death of the American passenger.  A CNN article reports that the cruise ship doctors told police that the woman was "elderly and suffered from diabetes and hypertension."  (So much for the confidentiality of a patient's medical information.) 

The Veendam left New York 36 days ago for a South America cruise. The Veendam had stopped earlier in the cruise at ports in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay before reaching Rio de Janeiro.

November 23, 2011 Update: 

HAL claims that the death and the illness of some 80 passengers are unrelated.  HAL issued a statement to Noticias de Cruceros that the passenger died due to a heart condition which had nothing to do with the  gastrointestinal ilnesses.  It's amazing how cruise line PR people suddenly become epidemiologists when someone dies on their cruise ship. 

HAL Veendam - Cruise Cruise Norovirus?But a local newspaper in Brazil, Clarin, has the following account (translated):

An American, 61, died of a suspected food poisoning on a luxury cruise ship which arrived in Rio de Janeiro, from Chile, Argentina and Uruguay, in which 86 other passengers had symptoms such as cramps and vomiting, reported Brazilian authorities, in what is thought to be an outbreak of gastroenteritis due to consumption of bad food and poor hygiene.

The Holland America liner MS Veendam, carrying 1259 passengers, arrived in Rio de Janeiro and was quarantined to be subjected to investigations by the Brazilian Federal Police and the National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA) .

Tourism Secretary de Janeiro, Ronald Azaro, said that 79 people have contracted some sort of infection on the trip. When the November 6 cruise departed from Valparaiso, Chile, ANVISA received a warning symptoms of some passengers.  He went to Argentina and Uruguay, having started the journey in New York, USA, with stops in Panama and Colombia, according to the Brazilian press.

The official said the Brazilian Federal Police took over the investigation into the death of the American, identified as Dorothy Philips, age 61, occurred on board as the ship was in the Maua Pier in the city of Rio. 

Sources told the Brazilian media crew that the crew issued a red alert three days ago to take care with hygiene and some food. For now, the pool and the library of the cruise were closed. 

According to the NASS report released last month, 27% of cruise ships passing through the Brazilian coast have health problems than those permitted by the rules in Brazil. Among the problems, according to an official report collection are inadequate food and lack of water conditions offered to passengers. 

ANVISA recalled thatpassengers on the same boat, in March this year, experienced gastroenteritis cruising to  Brazil. At least 43 passengers had symptoms in Belem, capital of Amazon state of Pará.

 

Photo credit:  Michael Penn / Juneau Empire 

Norovirus on Celebrity Eclipse Cruise Ship Sickens Passengers

Celebrity Cruises Eclipse - NorovirusThe Southern Daily Echo newspaper in Southampton England is reporting that the Celebrity Eclipse cruise ship was delayed for “enhanced sanitation” after dozens of passengers returning to Southampton from a 11 night eastern Mediterranean cruise had been struck down by norovirus.

Sick passengers disembarking the cruise ship at the city's terminal reported seeing “people walking around in Ghostbusters suits” ready to disinfect the vessel and the terminal.

Cruise ship norovirus cases often take several sailings before the virus runs its course.  Perhaps the Eclipse needs a major cleaning and spray down.  But "enhanced cleaning" may or may not help, depending on whether the virus is passed hand-to-hand between crew and passengers or passenger to passenger - or is contained in contaminated food or water. 

If you were on the Eclipse, please leave a comment below about how the cruise line handled the situation.  We would be interested in hearing from passengers on the ship now whether additional passengers have been sickened or whether everyone is well and enjoying the cruise.

 

Photo credit:  UK Telegraph

Norovirus Aboard Celebrity Solstice Kills Father of Eight

Courthouse News Service reports that a lawsuit has been filed against Celebrity Cruises for the death of a father of eight after he died from incompetent medical care for norovirus he contracted during a vacation cruise aboard the Celebrity Solstice

The lawsuit alleges that Joseph Gavigan Jr., from Orleans, Massachusetts, embarked the Solstice cruise ship in January of this year in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  During the cruise, a norovirus outbreak occurred and Mr. Gavigan contracted the illness.

The lawsuit alleges that Celebrity failed to take adequate precautions to screen passengers and crewmembers, failed to sanitize and disinfect the cruise ship and disinfect plates, cups, food trays, Joseph Gavigan Jr. - Norovirus - Celebrity Solstice Death utensils, ice machines and drinking fountains, failed to quarantine infected passengers and crewmembers and failed to warn Mr. Gavigan about the virus. 

The lawsuit also alleges that Celebrity provided negligent medical care to Mr. Gavigan, and negligently selected the cruise ship medical staff who held themselves out as agents of the cruise line.

A copy of the lawsuit is available on line and can be viewed here.  The lawsuit was filed by attorney Keith Brais, a very experienced maritime lawyer who used to be a defense lawyer for Celebrity Cruises and other cruise lines.  

The Centers for Decease Control and Prevention reports that 118 cruise passengers and 10 crewmembers reported ill during the voyage.  You can read more about the CDC's report for this voyage aboard the Solstice here.  

The popular on line community Cruise Critic contains Celebrity's official press statement about the norovirus outbreaks (which preceded Mr. Gavigan's cruise) as well as the accounts of unhappy cruisers some of whom felt that the medical staff was incompetent and the cruise line was trying to cover-up and down-play the outbreaks. 

An on line obituary indicates that Mr. Gavigan, nicknamed "Junior," is survived by 21 grandchildren and 17 great grandchildren in addition to his 8 children and companion.

 

Photo credit:  Dockray & Thomas Funeral Home

New Study Reveals Little New About Norovirus on Cruise Ships

The medical journal "Clinical Infectious Diseases" published an article entitled "Disease Transmission and Passenger Behaviors During a High Morbidity Norovirus Outbreak on a Cruise Ship, January 2009."

Of some 1842 passengers on the cruise ship, 1532 (83%) returned questionnaires provided by the researchers.  236 (15%) met the norovirus definition.  

Cruise Ship Norovirus This particular cruise had a passenger vomit in a public area during boarding, as well as 7 other incidents where passengers vomited in public.  The Centers for Disease Control ("CDC") investigators concluded that some sick passengers may have been infected by the vomit (through aerosolized vomit or by touching contaminated surfaces) or they were infected by person-to-person contact, particularly by an ill cabin mate. 

The CDC investigators also concluded that some of the public toilets on the cruise ship were out of hand soap and paper towels and dish washing machines did not do an adequate job sanitizing eating utensils.  These shortcomings might have contributed to the outbreak.

Nothing new with these conclusions.

The two interesting points in my opinion revealed in the study:

Of the 236 ill passengers, 95 (40%) did not report to the infirmary.  We have been told by many passengers on cruises plagued by norovirus that the actual number of sick passengers reported by the cruise lines to the CDC was far less than the actual number of passengers with norovirus.  Cruise lines report only the number of passengers who report to the ship infirmary.  This is a problem we have discussed before - Is Celebrity Cruises Under-Reporting Sicknesses to the CDC?

Perhaps the most interesting statistic is that 62% of ill passengers did not decrease their participation in public activities.  Over 200 passengers ill with norovirus walking around the ship?  Yuck.  This undoubtedly led to the spread of the outbreak.

But most outbreaks of norovirus on cruise ships are no so clear cut.  There appears to be no effort to scientifically determine the source of norovirus outbreaks.  

As we have reported in prior blogs,  the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concludes that whereas "person to person" transmission of norovirus has been documented, "norwalk gastroenteritis is transmitted by the fecal-oral route via contaminated water and foods."  The FDA reports that "water is the most common source of outbreaks and may include .  .  . water stored aboard cruise ships."

When will the CDC conduct a recent study analyzing the potable water and food products after an outbreak?  Compare this study with a study by the CDC in 2002 which the CDC "suspected that initial infection among passengers on cruise 1 originated from a common food or water source and then continued to spread from person to person" and "we identified that eating breakfast at restaurant A on day 2 of the cruise was associated with illness . . ."  Or consider "Characterization of a variant strain of Norwalk virus from a food-borne outbreak of gastroenteritis on a cruise ship in Hawaii" (pin-pointing fruit at a buffet as the likely culprit).
 

Read some of our other articles about cruise ship norovirus:

Cruise Ship Norovirus - Clean the Damn Toilets!

"Cruise Ship Sickness" - Is Norovirus In The Food and Water?

Cruise Ship Norovirus - Something in the Water?

March 24, 2011 Update:  USA Today's CruiseLog has a story today about this study, indicating that the study involved Celebrity Cruises' Mercury cruise ship in January 2009.  As we pointed out in an earlier blog, the CDC investigated outbreaks on the Celebrity Mercury in  January and February 2009. 

The interesting thing about the Mercury was that it experienced four cruises a year later, in 2010, with repeated outbreaks of norovirus until the CDC took the unprecedented step of issuing a no sail order, an event we covered last March: Centers for Disease Control: "Shut Mercury Cruise Ship Down!"   It would have been interesting for the CDC to have studied the cause of the norovirus on this cruise ship for months in early 2010.  Why did this particular cruise ship experience so many problems with norovirus?  Certainly it was not just because a passenger puked on embarkation in January 2009?

Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas - First Sick Cruise Ship of 2011

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has listed Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas as the first cruise ship in 2011 to suffer gastrointestinal illness affecting more than 2% of the vessel's passengers.

The CDC's Vessel Sanitation Program website has indicated that 150 of 2336 (6.42%) of the Royal Caribbean passengers reported being ill during the cruise on the Radiance from January 3 - 8, 2011.  The CDC information on the Radiance can be seen here

Radiance of the Seas - Norovirus? - Tampa Local 13-News station has the headline "Sick Cruise Ship Docked at Tampa Port," indicating that vacationers on board suffered from vomiting and diarrhea. The illnesses will delay the ship from returning to sea later today. The station indicates that the cruise ship's departure will be delayed approximately five hours, until 9:30 p.m., "so crews can sanitize the vessel."

The cruise line is advising cruise passengers who have recently experienced gastrointestinal illness should reschedule their cruise.  The CDC is reporting that the cruise line's response to the outbreak is "increased cleaning and disinfection procedures." 

The CDC at this point has not determined whether norovirus is causing the outbreak, nor the source of the "causative factor."  If norovirus is involved, most outbreaks of norovirus are from food and water, not by person to person contact as the cruise lines claim. 

As we have reported in prior blogs,  the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concludes that whereas "person to person" transmission of norovirus has been documented, "norwalk gastroenteritis is transmitted by the fecal-oral route via contaminated water and foods."  The FDA reports that "water is the most common source of outbreaks and may include water from municipal supplies, well, recreational lakes, swimming pools, and water stored aboard cruise ships."

When stories like this occur, the cruise lines blame the passengers and tell them to wash their hands. The cruise ships then spray cleaning fluids everywhere.  But no one ever reveals whether the ship's food and water have been tested and the results of the tests.

The Radiance of the Seas had norovirus outbreaks before.  One passenger took this video of nasty looking tap water on the Radiance on a prior cruise.  An equally disgusting video of brown water on a Carnival cruise ship is here.  

But the winner of the gross-cruise-tap-water award goes to Carnival and is shown here.

Does anyone have video for this cruise?

Were you on the cruise?  How did Royal Caribbean handle the situation?

January 8, 2010 Update:

Passengers on the cruise arre beginning to leave comments, below, that the ice may have been contaminated, that this was a "vacation from hell," and there were way more than 150 passenger  sick.  A few passengers say they still had a great time . . .  

 

 

Photo credit:   Tampa's 13-News Station

Video credit:  ABC News

Cruise Line Shills, Norovirus, and Murder on the NCL Jade?

This has been another exciting week in the strange world of the cruise industry.  I thought that I would spend this Friday recapping some of the interesting cruise stories this week.   

Cruise Shills?

CLIA - Cruise Line International Association - Cruise Shill The week started with the travel site Tnooz picking up our article Cruise Crime and the Indifference of Travel Writers and asking Are Travel Writers Shills For The Cruise Lines? 

A number of prominent travel writers, including Pauline Frommer of the Frommer Travel fame, left comments.  Ms. Frommer was right on point in discussing the provisions of the new cruise safety law, which will be signed by President Obama next week.  And she was gracious in thanking the International Cruise Victims for pushing the new cruise law forward over intense opposition by the cruise industry and its shill organization, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).  Other travel writers joined the debate, including a few cruise travel writers who could not help taking a cheap shot against our blog.

Royal Caribbean Norovirus

Readers of Cruise Law News continue to comment that Royal Caribbean is struggling with norovirus aboard its cruise ships.  There are 50 comments to our article Norovirus On Royal Caribbean's Jewel Of The Seas?  The last comment today reports that the Celebrity Constellation continues to have Cruise Ship Norovirus - Passenger Sicknessnorovirus on board, following the usual ill-fated last minute "additional sanitizing."

Stay tuned.  You will continue to hear stories of sick passengers - followed by "enhanced cleaning" - and then more sick passengers.  When will this cruise line release the test results of the potable water on its ships?  Tired of this cruise line always blaming passengers for not washing their hands?  Consider reading Cruise Ship Norovirus - Something in the Water?   

Murder on NCL's Jade? 

Several sources are reporting that a passenger was murdered aboard Norwegian Cruise Line's Jade cruise ship earlier this week.

Canadian sociologist and cruise crime expert Dr. Ross Klein and the ever gossipy Cruise Critic community published passenger accounts that a passenger murdered his wife on the Jade.   

Did it happen?  I don't know.  I hope not.  But NCL will never say.

NCL Jade - Norwegian Cruise Ship JadeThis is one of the classic problems with the cruise lines.  They are terrified of bad press so they sweep the bad news under the rug.  But when the truth comes out, they look like they are hiding the ball.  The new cruise law will address this issue.  Cruise lines will be required to report crimes at sea and also provide a link on their web sites to the crime data. 

When the new cruise law takes effect, the public can cut through the gossip and finally take an an accurate account of cruise ship crime.   

 

Were you aboard the NCL Jade?  Do you have information to share about the alleged murder? 

Were you aboard the Royal Caribbean Jewel of the Seas or the Celebrity Constellation?  How is the cruise line handling the latest bouts of norovirus? 

If you have some information to wish to share, please leave a comment below.

Cruise Ship Norovirus - Something in the Water?

For those of you who read Cruise Law News know that I report regularly on the numerous norovirus cases which plague the cruise industry.  I am rather fascinated by the cruise lines' PR departments which always blame norovirus outbreaks on the passengers for bringing the virus aboard, rather than contaminated food and water which infect the passengers.

Norovirus - Cruise Ship - Contaminated Water - Pig - VeraAccording to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), whereas "person to person" transmission of norovirus has been documented, "norwalk gastroenteritis is transmitted by the fecal-oral route via contaminated water and foods."  The FDA indicates that contaminated water is one of the most likely causes of norovirus.  The FDA reports that "water is the most common source of outbreaks and may include water from municipal supplies, well, recreational lakes, swimming pools, and water stored aboard cruise ships.

The question I have always wondered is how does the water become infected with norovirus?

So I was rather exciting after receiving an email yesterday from a kindred spirit from Britain, Mr. Pat Gardiner, who combines a maritime background with a keen interest in zoonotic disease.  Mr. Gardiner referred me to a recent study from Swedish researchers finding a direct correlation between pig effluent and water sources contaminated with norovirus.  Mr. Gardiner agreed to be a guest blogger, and for that my little blog is richer. 

Be sure to read Mr. Gardiner's rather fascinating background at the end of the article.    

Norovirus - Something in the Water - By Pat Gardiner:  

The constant outbreaks of Norovirus on cruise ships are bringing a powerful industry to its knees, quite aside from the distress and risk to the passengers.  Yet, new evidence yesterday suggests the problem may be ashore and entering the ship with the water supply.

Eureka moments do not come from thin air.  They come from relevant, sometimes diverse experience in the right place at the right time.  Few people can have had the delights of a career in Britain’s most successful seaports, retiring early to raise livestock in an area plagued by constant animal epidemics.

The writer has had a ten-year battle with the British authorities over the appalling handling of Pig - Water - Cruise Ship Norovirusanimal disease spreading to the human population.  Years ago, he noticed an apparent link between the locations of severe animal disease and the schedules of cruise ships. The ships were calling at ports worldwide in areas where pig disease was rife.

Norovirus is a disease shared between humans and pigs.

Few passengers, once on board, give a thought to the source of the water they use to wash and brush their teeth.  Every cruise ship fills with water, before, during and after every voyage at pretty well every port of call. That water comes from the public supply.

So a ship leaving the UK for a cruise to the Norwegian Fjords would take water from the same country as the passengers embarking – Harwich for example. Vessels calling at Harwich were some of the first to encounter norovirus at the same time as the pigs in the area were getting ill. Now, even ferries from the Scottish mainland to the Scottish islands are becoming infected.

For years, the mechanism by which the norovirus reached the ship baffled the writer.

Smuggling of live pigs and bacon sandwiches on board seemed unlikely for passengers bent on a holiday of glamour and luxury.

Then yesterday the ultra clean Swedes provided the missing link. They found norovirus in the sludge intrinsic to their public water system.

Pat Gardiner - Pigs - Pathogens - Water - Cruise ShipsWe know that pig effluent can contaminate the surface water and the water supply. Incidents are frequent despite the best efforts of everyone. We know that pigs can carry norovirus.  

We also know that, like everyone else, the Swedes have had outbreaks of various pig diseases.

If the water authority do not look for norovirus or do not detect it, the pathogen will be pumped straight into the cruise ship: directly into the ideal environment for spread to a usually elderly population in an enclosed area.

Any vessel calling at, or sailing via, ports in pig farming country is at risk.

It would be grand to think that the writer has repaid the debt of a satisfying career in shipping by helping to solve one of the most damaging problems imaginable, both to shipping and their customers.

Testing the water is cheap and easy, and the ship owners can do it tomorrow.

 

About Pat Gardiner:

Mr. Gardiner was too modest to provide me with a biography, but I managed to piece together his background from newspapers and information on line. 

Mr Gardiner started out in the maritime shipping business in the 1960's, working for Blue Star Line in Britain.  He rose to the top of the ship and line agencies in Britain's premier port of Felixstowe.  Pat Gardiner - Maritime Shipping  He has enjoyed a long standing relationship with the U.S., which includes working with what is now the U.S. Sealift Command. He managed his own companies (which acted as agent for U.S. Line among others).  He is a well known figure in the U.K. port and shipping business, and also wrote for newspapers about the shipping and port business.  He twice sold his group of successful shipping and freight businesses, and retired from the maritime freight business while he was still in his forties.   

After his retirement, Mr. Gardiner developed an interest in animal health and zoonotic disease.  In the process, he developed an appropriate distrust of the U.K. veterinary services.

He is the author of two blogs - Animal-Epidemics and  Go Self Sufficient.

Mr. Gardiner is a pancreatic cancer survivor.  He also survived a unsuccessful campaign to ruin his reputation by members of the pig farming and vet industries. 

In 2005, Mr. Gardiner drove across the U.S. in 2005 with his wife.  They are pictured above at my favorite vacation destination, a U.S. national park (Grand Canyon).  Mr. Gardiner can be reached at: patgardiner@btinternet.com 

 

Additional information:

The "Gardiner Hypothesis:"  Mutated Circovirus in pigs, the consequences of being treated with heavy use of antibiotics, is followed by MRSA in pigs and then MRSA and C.Diff epidemics take off in humans. A circovirus mutation in Britain in 1999 was covered up. The resulting epidemics spread first around the UK, then to Canada and from there, most recently, to the United States.

Learn a new word:

"Zoonotic diseases" - diseases caused by infectious agents that can be transmitted between, or are shared by, animals and humans.

Read Other Cruise Law News Blogs About Cruise Ship Norovirus:

Norovirus On Royal Caribbean's Jewel Of The Seas?   

Centers for Disease Control: "Shut Mercury Cruise Ship Down!"

"Cruise Ship Sickness" - Is Norovirus In The Food and Water?

U.S. to Block Arrival of Queen Victoria After Norovirus Outbreak?

Cruise Ship Norovirus - Clean the Damn Toilets!

Best in Law Blogs: 

Mr. Gardiner's article won a top 10 award for Best in Law Blogs today as part of Lexblog's 3,000 blogs.

Thanks Pat!  

 

 Credits:

Photographs          Pat Gardiner

Diagram            Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, Virginia Tech

Jewel of the Seas Remains Contaminated with Norovirus

A reader of our blog informs us that Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas continues to infect cruise passengers with norovirus. 

The reader referred us to the Harwich and Manningtree Standard and Daily Gazette newspapers in Norwich U.K. which report that Royal Caribbean passengers continue to be struck by a highly-contagious virus for the second time in a month. The cruise line again delayed the departure a few hours yesterday so that they crew could try some extra cleaning to deal with the problem.

The reader commented:

"Obviously the last attempt didn't work, so why should this? I would have expected that by now, the source and specific nature of the virus would have been found, thus allowing effective Cruise Ship Norovirus - Royal Caribbeantreatment to be carried out before the ship sails. However, since I have not heard otherwise, I assume it has sailed again last evening, with a new set of unsuspecting guests . . .  How can the port authority in Harwich allow this to happen?"

Royal Caribbean's PR people crafted the following statement: "At Royal Caribbean International, we have high health standards for all our guests and crew."

We reported on the last norovirus outbreak on the Jewel of the SeasNorovirus On Royal Caribbean's Jewel Of The Seas?   45 passengers commented on the story and described poor food handling, cleaning, and medical procedures on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship.  

Have you sailed on the Jewel of the Seas recently?  How is the cruise line handling the situation? 

Please leave a comment below.  

Norovirus On Royal Caribbean's Jewel Of The Seas?

Cruises.co.uk reports today that norovirus has broken out aboard Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas cruise ship. 

The website reports that passengers due to sail on June 12,  2010 have been informed to arrive late as embarkation will start to take place from 4:30pm.  The cruise ship will apparently undergo what the cruise line calls an "enhanced sanitizing" on Saturday.

Cruise Ship Norovirus The Jewel of the Seas had widespread sickness (diarrhea and vomiting) last March, but the Center for Disease Control (CDC) could not determine the type of pathogen.  You can read the CDC analysis here.

The CDC database for cruise ship norovirus outbreaks is here.

For prior blog articles about cruise ship norovirus, read them here

Royal Caribbean's cruise ship, the Constellation, operated by its subsidiary Celebrity Cruises also sickened passengers and crew just two weeks ago.  164 passengers and 29 crewmembers developed a norovirus infection, according to Cruise.co.uk.  You will not find this officially reported to the CDC because cruise ships are not required to report outbreaks of sicknesses when the cruise ship does not call on a U.S. port. 

Royal Caribbean's PR crisis manager Cynthia Martinez issued a statement that the Constellation would be delayed so that the ship would undergo a "thorough cleaning and sanitizing." 

This sounds good but what does this mean?   As we mentioned in prior blogs, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concludes that whereas "person to person" transmission of norovirus has been documented, "norwalk gastroenteritis is transmitted by the fecal-oral route via contaminated water and foods." 

So how does a cruise ship go about a "thorough cleaning" when the cruise lines has not determined whether the source of the norovirus is infected food or water?  How do you perform an "enhanced sanitizing" of food or water?

Royal Caribbean's PR department refused to respond to a request for a statement or a comment on the latest sicknesses to Cruise Law News (CLN). 

If you are disembarking from the Jewel of the Seas or the Constellation, please leave a note below and provide us with your thoughts on how the cruise line handled the outbreak.  

June 12th Update:

Newspapers in Harwich are reporting that 398 passengers and 30 crew fell ill with norovirus while on board the Jewel of the Seas.  A company PR release states that boarding today will be delayed until 3:00 p.m. for what the cruise line states is "extensive," "thorough" and "enhanced" sanitizing.  But health officials have not identified the source of the norovirus as either contaminated food or water, unsanitary crew members, or infected passengers.  So what will additional cleaning for 2 or 3 hours accomplish?

Passengers are beginning to leave interesting comments below, pointing out that the method of serving passengers is likely causing the norovirus to spread . . .   

June 26, 2010 Update:

Royal Caribbean is violating U.K. law by sailing without completely sanitizing the contaminated cruise ship.  Some very astute readers are leaving insightful comments below, regarding the potential causes of the virus and the cruise line's shortcommings.  Be sure to read the comments at the bottom. 

 

Royal Caribbean - Jewel of the Seas - Norovirus?

 

June 25, 2010 Update:

The norovirus continues:  Jewel of the Seas Remains Contaminated with Norovirus

 

Credits:

Photograph of cleaner                telegraph.co.uk 

Photograph Jewel of the Seas                 w:User:Dave souza at Wikipedia

100 Norovirus Victims On Sapphire Princess Cruise Ship - Princess Cruises Blames Passengers

A Seattle news station King5.com reports today that norovirus sickened 100 people on Princess Cruises' Sapphire Princess cruise ship based in Seattle. 

As we have reported in prior blogs,  the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concludes that whereas "person to person" transmission of norovirus has been documented, "norwalk gastroenteritis is transmitted by the fecal-oral route via contaminated water and foods."  The FDA reports that "water is the most common source of outbreaks and may include water from Julie Benson - PR - Public Relations - Princess Cruises - Norovirus - Sapphire Princess municipal supplies, well, recreational lakes, swimming pools, and water stored aboard cruise ships."

But Julie Benson (right), the PR person for Princess Cruises, blamed passengers for probably carrying Norovirus on board the cruise ship.

Of course, there is no proof of this.  Ms. Benson is just a PR person and a script reader - not a doctor, scientist or epidemiologist.  It is part of the cruise industry's play book to always blame the passengers for bringing norovirus aboard.  It is far more likely - according to the FDA - that there is contaminated food or water on the cruise ship.  How did Ms. Benson figure out that the passengers brought the virus aboard, rather than poor hygiene by the crew or infected food or water?  The outbreak has not even been investigated by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

The CDC database for cruise ship norovirus outbreaks is here

Blame-the-passengers is just the script that poor Ms. Benson has to read.

Passengers suffered through norovirus on several cruises on the the Grand Princess just last month.  You can read about those cases here and here.  One of the problems with Princess is that the cruise line charges passengers around a $100 just for a nurse to come to the cabin when a passenger is infected with norovirus.  Some passengers didn't report their illnesses to avoid the excessive charges for "medical treatment."  At the same time, Princess didn't  try to sanitize cabins where no one reported an illness, as reported by this passenger.  This may have led to additional outbreaks on the next cruise.  

The passenger also thought that the public toilets on the cruise ships may be a problem.  Disease experts have inspected toilets on cruise ships in the past, with disgusting results: Cruise Ship Norovirus - Clean the Damn Toilets!  

Lawyers in the U.K. are suing the cruise line for improper cleaning procedures aboard the Grand Princess.  The litigation is being handled by U.K. lawyers, Irwin Mitchell which specializes in travel law in England.  The firm is demanding that passengers are informed of health risks on the cruise ship in advance of it sailing and given the choice of continuing their holiday, choosing an alternative or getting their money back.  According to the Guardian newspaper, the Irwin Mitchell lawyers criticized that Princess is only devoting two hours for "extra cleaning:"

"The fact that this liner has been allowed to set sail again so quickly is astounding given the reports of such widespread illness on the preceding cruise .  .  .  For maximum effect this would normally have taken at least two days. I struggle to see how a fully effective deep-clean of such a large ship could be achieved in a few short hours."

For other articles about the cruise ship sickness, norovirus, in general read here.    

Were you aboard the Sapphire Princess or Grand Princess during these recent norovirus outbreaks?  Were more passengers and crew infected than reported?  How did the cruise line handle the problem?  Please leave your comments below. 

Don't forget to watch the video below:  

 

 

June 8, 2010 Update:

AOL Travel published an article "Sick Ship in Europe and Alaska" about the Sapphire Princess as well as Celebrity's Constellation, where norovirus infected at least 204 passengers and 34 crew members.  A comment by one reader: "What they don't tell you is Norovirus is often a food-borne illness. Food is cruise line's stock and trade. They don't want you to know that it may be coming from the kitchen!"

 

Credits:

Video          King5.com

 Julie Benson              Twitter.com

Norovirus Update on Celebrity's Mercury Cruise Ship - March 21st Sailing

A local news station in Charleston South Carolina is reporting that passengers aboard the Mercury cruise ship on the March 21st sailing are ill.  The story is entitled  "Five Cases of Norovirus on Celebrity Mercury Cruise Ship."

The article suggests that the information came from the cruise line, although I do not see a quote or a press release from Royal Caribbean / Celebrity.  The article is rather vague, as I'm sure it's more accurate to say that some passengers have norovirus-like symptoms.  Stool samples have to be taken and analyzed ashore before anyone can conclude that norovirus exists. (There is still no official determination regarding the cause of the last round of sickness on the Mercury).  

Mercury Cruise Ship - Celebrity Cruises - Norovirus?If this information is accurate, five cases of gastrointestinal sickness is not particularly significant.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) "Vessel Sanitation Program" does not require the data to be reported until at least 2% of the passengers are affected (around 37 passengers).

It is possible that all five passengers were infected before they boarded the cruise ship, because there are reports of norovirus ashore of course.  It is also possible that they contracted a virus after they boarded.

We have received a number of calls and emails asking for information about the Mercury's March 21st sailing.  Here are some suggestions:

The Cruise Critic message board has a posting "People are Sick Again on the Mercury," where there is mention of a small number of passengers who may be ill.  The cruise community message boards are sometimes a good source of information, particularly when the cruise lines are not forthcoming with information.

I have found that the CDC eventually responds to e-mails and telephone calls.  The email for the CDC is cdcinfo@cdc.gov - be sure to include "Celebrity Mercury Cruise Ship - March 21st sailing" in the title of your email.  The telephone number is 800-232-4636.

The PR person at Royal Caribbean who handles crisis management statements, including norovirus outbreaks, is Cynthia Martinez.  Her email is CynthiaMartinez@rccl.com  I would be interested if anyone receives a response. 

We often hear from passengers directly from the cruise ships.  If we hear something, we will update this article.

March 27, 2010 Update:

The Charleston Regional Business Journal reports that the Mercury has only 6 sick passengers -"Celebrity Mercury Sees Huge Dip in Sickness After Extra Cleaning Measures."  Good news for Celebrity Cruises and the next round of passengers who will be sailing this Monday, March 29th. 

 

Credits:

Photograph         Directory of Charleston

Celebrity's Mercury Cruise Ship - Free of Norovirus?

So far, no one is reporting an outbreak of sickness aboard Celebrity Cruises' Mercury cruise ship for its latest - March 21st - sailing.  This is good news after the last three disastrous cruises.

Today's South Carolina Post and Courier newspaper runs the headline "Mercury Appears Free of Norovirus" in which the newspaper reports: "after several days at sea, the Celebrity Mercury seems finally free of a stomach bug that afflicted nearly 1,000 passengers on its previous three voyages Norovirus - Cruise Ship - Contaminated Food, Water - Infected Food Handler? from Charleston." 

The Cruise Critic message boards for the Mercury also seem to suggest that there is not a problem with gastrointestinal sickness, yet.  

The question remains what was the cause of the last illness outbreak on the Mercury?  Was it norovirus?  Was it transmitted due to contaminated water or food?  An infected food handler?  

So far the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have not said.

Let's hope that the cruise ship passengers do not get sick for the remainder of the cruise.    

If you are on the cruise and know otherwise, let us hear from you.  Otherwise, enjoy your cruise! 

 

Credits:

Chart        Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, Virginia Tech

Celebrity's Mercury Cruise Ship - Ready to Sail?

At 8:00 p.m. this evening, Celebrity Cruises' Mercury cruise ship will sail for an eight day cruise to the Caribbean.

The Mercury has been called the "sickest sea at sea."  Even ABC's Good Morning America posed the question: Celebrity Mercury - Sickest Ship At Sea - Can Cruise Ship Be Cured? 

Local South Carolina ABC affiliate WCIV News - 4 is optimistic that the cruise ship has been thoroughly cleaned over the past 72 hours after the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a rare "no-sail" advisory.  The ABC affiliate reports that "officials are now confident the ship is safe."

Celebrity Mercury Cruise Ship - Norovirus? - Confined to CabinBut I would not be so sure.  Gastro-intestinal illnesses can be caused by contaminated food or water, from fecal-oral transmission from crew member to passenger, or from sick passengers who come aboard and infect others.

And the CDC has not determined the cause of the last sickness outbreak.  The CDC report for the Celebrity Mercury's March 8th -19th sailing indicates that the "causative" agent for the widespread illnesses is "unknown."

Not sure I would set sail on a "sick" cruise ship where the CDC can't exclude contaminated food or water or ill crew members as the causes. 

Let's cross our fingers and hope another round of passengers don't find themselves confined to their cabins.  

March 22, 2010 Update:

According to USA Today, only 1,076 passengers are cruising on the Mercury (which is about 60% full).  Around 800 passengers canceled and obtained what is described as a full refund.

Is Celebrity Cruises Under-Reporting Sicknesses to the CDC?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 406 of the 1829 passengers (22.1%) aboard Celebrity's Mercury cruise ship have reported fever, vomiting, and/or diarrhea.  These CDC statistics are based entirely on the information provided by the cruise line.

In the past week, we have received information from crew members that although they were sick, they were required to continue working.  This raises the issue whether the cruise line is not reporting all ill crew members to the CDC.

We just received the following comment from a passenger, who suggests that you can't trust the official CDC numbers:  

"We just got back from this cruise March 18th (one day early) and we were ready to come home. Don't believe the official count of sickness on this boat, I became ill on the second night out around 2 AM. At around 8 AM, my wife called for medical attention and was told they would be to see us in our cabin. We waited. At 5 PM, my wife called medical again and were told they had no record of our calling earlier but the medical crew was on its way around the ship and they would be to our cabin soon. As of today, March 19th., no one from medical has seen me yet unless they saw me passing in the hallways. I heard of many others who were sick and were not seen as well.

My suggestion if you decide to go, carry your own medication with you and be prepared to quarantine yourself to protect others while you are sick if you do get sick. Room service is good."
 

Celebrity's Mercury Returns to Charleston - Over 400 Sick - Centers for Disease Control Investigating

The Celebrity Mercury cruise ship returned to port in Charleston South Carolina today with over 400 sick passengers.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 406 of the 1829 passengers (22.1%) have reported fever, vomiting, and/or diarrhea.

Unlike the last two cruises where the CDC determined that norovirus caused the outbreak, the CDC has not yet determined the cause of the outbreak.  This is probably one of the reasons that the CDC issues a "no travel" advisory for the sick cruise ship.

The traveling public is faced with a cruise line who blames passengers for not washing their hands - the CDC who does not know what the pathogen is or where it's coming from - and the ugly likelihood that the vessel's food, water, crew or public surfaces could be contaminated.

We have been inundated with calls and emails from concerned Americans who are scheduled to travel on the Mercury over the course of the next several months.  We also have heard from crew members, including some crew members who complain that although they are sick they are required to keep working.  Some of the work includes changing linens, serving food and delivering ice.  Very disturbing information. 

There is a lot of pressure on crew members to keep outbreaks secret.  We recently ran across a blog from a former crew member who wrote:

I worked on a cruise ship at the beginning of 2001 and we had a lengthy norovirus outbreak - interestingly, the ship did not make the CDC list for that year. Perhaps because we were far away in South America? Or perhaps it was because we were instructed to deny, deny, deny when any passenger asked: No sir, you're mistaken - the dining rooms are all closed because all the guests are off on tour...not sick in their beds along with half the staff. (Yeah, I was never able to look anyone in the eye and say that.) I never got it, thank God .  .  . "

Here is a recent video from the AP: 

 

 

 

Were you on the last cruise?  Do you have photographs, video or information which may help explain what is happening on the Mercury?  

Let us hear from you.

 

Credits:

Video      AP

 

Celebrity Mercury - Sickest Ship At Sea - Can Cruise Ship Be Cured?

ABC's Good Morning America (GMA) discusses Celebrity Cruises' sick cruise ship, the Mercury, in this morning's program. 

The Mercury has been hit with three continuous outbreaks of sickness which has plagued hundreds of passengers.  We have covered the outbreaks in prior articles

GMA begins its show by describing the Mercury as the "cruise ship which just can't seem to be cleaned."

The video contains the caption - "Sickest Ship at Sea - Can Cruise Ship Be Cured?" and explains how norovirus can thrive on cruise ships.

The GMA video is below.  One passenger askes: "Why do you keep on letting people on this ship when people continuously get sick?"

 

 

ABC interviewed its senior health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser to explain the norovirus and how passengers are infected on cruise ships: 

"The norovirus is highly contagious and its symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps and chills, Besser said.

The illness typically lasts 12 to 72 hours and usually occurs in places where people are in close quarters, such as schools, hospitals, nursing homes and cruise ships, according to Besser. It is the leading cause of foodborne outbreaks of diarrheal disease, accounting for more than 50 percent of these outbreaks

It spreads through food, water, contaminated surfaces and person-to-person contact, Besser said. He added that the reason it could be so hard to get rid of on a cruise ship is because people can also bring it on board and it can live on surfaces for more than a week.

Cruise ships often visit places that have poor sanitation, so passengers can easily catch it from a restaurant they visited at a port, Besser explained.

Additionally, the infection dose of norovirus is very low, Besser said. It takes only 10 particles of the virus to make you stick, as opposed to the 100,000 particles of salmonella you would have to be exposed to in order to get sick."

The Mercury returns to Charleston tomorrow.  The CDC issued a "no sail" advisory for the sick ship.  It will undergo another round of "enhaced cleaning" - as the cruise line calls it. 

 

Credits:

Video              ABC Good Morning America

Centers for Disease Control: "Shut Mercury Cruise Ship Down!"

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued a rare no-sail advisory for Celebrity Cruises' Mercury cruise ship.  The CDC has instructed Celebrity not to sail the sick cruise ship until Sunday in order to permit its inspectors to investigate the ongoing outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness. 

Over the course of the last month, hundreds of passengers have become sick on the Mercury over the course of its last three sailings. 

Cruise Ship Norovirus - CDC - Centrers for Disease ControlAccording to CNN, members of the CDC's Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) boarded the cruise ship looking for causes of the latest wave of illness.

Although the CDC determined that norovirus was the cause of the outbreaks for the first two sailings, the CDC could not determine the type of pathogen for the latest outbreak on the Mercury.

A no-sail advisory is an extreme step.  Its like a city inspector shutting down a dirty restaurant for code violations which pose a health hazard to the city residents. 

The Mercury has been a sailing nightmare for the past month.  First, a half dozen crew members were sickened in what the cruise line thought was carbon monoxide poisoning -  Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Reported Aboard Celebrity's Mercury Cruise Ship - when the cruise ship returned to port in Baltimore.  After the ship was re-positioned to South Carolina, all cruises have been plagued by what many call "cruise ship sickness."

The Mercury is an old ship and Royal Caribbean / Celebrity will be selling it later this year. 

For a chronology of the diseased ship, read our blogs over the past month regarding the Mercury.

March 16, 2010 Update:

USA Today reports: "Celebrity to Offer Full Refunds to Passengers on Delayed Mercury Cruise"

Credits:

Cruise Cleaners              Telegraph.co.uk  "Cruises: Norovirus Questions & Answers

 

Celebrity's Mercury Hit By "Cruise Ship Sickness" Again

Celebrity Cruises' disastrous string of "diarrhea-cruises" out of South Carolina continues with the cruise line's decision to return the Mercury to port in Charleston a day early.

USA Today's Cruise Log reports that sickness has marred three straight voyages in "Celebrity to End Cruise Out of Charleston Early as Outbreak Continues."  Royal Caribbean indicates that 342 of the 1,829 passengers on the cruise ship became ill since the cruise began.  The article mentions that the cruise ship will skip its scheduled stop in Tortola British Virgin Islands and head straight back to the U.S.  The cruise ship will arrive in Charleston on Thursday.

Celebrity Mercury Cruise - Sick Ship?This is now the third cruise on the Mercury where passengers have become sickened with a gastrointestinal sickness.  

The USA Today article reads not unlike the typical cruise line press release - mentioning that norovirus is the most common cause of stomach illness in the U.S. and breaks out regularly in schools, nursing homes, and hospitals.  But the article does not inquire into the specific cause of this outbreak, nor question why three straight cruises have sickened passengers.

The report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on the Mercury's last cruise does not even contain a conclusion regarding the "causative agent" for the sickness and is a week out of date.  If the CDC can't pinpoint the type of virus or pathogen from last week's cruise - why does anyone think that another round of "top-to-bottom" cleaning will make a difference?  

As we have reported in prior blogs,  the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concludes that whereas "person to person" transmission of norovirus has been documented, "norwalk gastroenteritis is transmitted by the fecal-oral route via contaminated water and foods."  The FDA reports that "water is the most common source of outbreaks and may include water from municipal supplies, well, recreational lakes, swimming pools, and water stored aboard cruise ships."

What are the test results of the cruise ship's water supplies?  The Mercury is one of Celebrity's oldest cruise ships, and is scheduled to leave the Royal Caribbean - Celebrity fleet later this year. Is there something wrong with this ship?  Is this a sick ship?

 

For prior articles:

Stomach Bug Hits Celebrity's Mercury Cruise Ship Again

Will the Celebrity Mercury Infect Another Round of Passengers?

Celebrity Cruises Postpones Cruise From Charleston After Massive Norovirus Outbreak On Mercury Cruise Ship

Can Sick Cruise Ships Cause Norovirus Outbreaks in Ports?

Additional Passengers Sickened on Mercury Cruise Ship

Celebrity Cruises' Mercury Returns to Port with 182 Sick Passengers - Sailing Postponed

"Cruise Ship Sickness" - Is Norovirus In The Food and Water?

 

Here is a statement from Celebrity Cruises / Royal Caribbean issued today:

During Celebrity Mercury’s current sailing, a number of guests onboard experienced a gastrointestinal illness, thought to be a norovirus.  Over the course of the sailing, crew onboard has been conducting enhanced cleaning, to help prevent the spread of the illness. 

While there was a decline in the spread of the illness during the sailing, in an abundance of caution, and in order to prevent additional guests and crew from becoming ill, we have decided to bypass Celebrity Mercury’s port of call today to Tortola, British Virgin Islands, and return to Charleston a day earlier than originally scheduled.  Celebrity Mercury will now arrive in Charleston early Thursday morning.  The enhanced cleaning of the ship, all of which is being done in close coordination with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will continue until the ship arrives in Charleston.

“I would like to apologize for the inconvenience this modified itinerary will cause our guests currently on Celebrity Mercury,” said Daniel Hanrahan, president and chief executive officer of Celebrity Cruises.  “I have made this decision to delay the sailing because we want to maintain our high health standards onboard our ships, while providing our guests with the best cruise experience possible.  The extra time we are taking to sanitize the ship will help prevent any additional guests from becoming ill.”

March 15, 2010 Update:

Centers for Disease Control: "Shut Mercury Cruise Ship Down!"

"Cruise Ship Sickness" - Is Norovirus In The Food and Water?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports numerous outbreaks of norovirus on cruise ships operated by Celebrity Cruises, Cunard, Holland American Lines, and Royal Caribbean. 

Every time there is an outbreak, the cruise lines blame the passengers who board the cruise ships.  The media picks up in this theme and often reports that the problem is not with the cruise ships but the passengers who board the ships already infected with norovirus.  For example, in a recent article in the New York Times Travel Section "Stomach Bug Hits Cruise Ships," respected journalist Michelle Higgins writes " . . . the contaminated ships have since been disinfected  . . .  but Norovirus - Cruise Ship - Contaminated Water?such measures can’t prevent a sick passenger from coming aboard and infecting others."  Ms. Higgins suggests that " the best defense is simple: wash your hands."

Unfortunately, the issue is not so simple.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), whereas "person to person" transmission of norovirus has been documented, "norwalk gastroenteritis is transmitted by the fecal-oral route via contaminated water and foods."

Contaminated Water Supplies On Cruise Ships?

The FDA indicates that contaminated water is one of the most likely causes of norovirus.  The FDA reports that "water is the most common source of outbreaks and may include water from municipal supplies, well, recreational lakes, swimming pools, and water stored aboard cruise ships.

So whereas you always hear reports of extra cleaning of the bathrooms and cabins on infected cruise ships, there is never a mention of whether the potable water is tested and the results of the testing.

Contaminated Food Supplies On Cruise Ships?

In addition to water supplies on cruise ships being a potential source of the virus, food supplies on cruise ships can also sicken the passengers.

The FDA reports that "shellfish and salad ingredients are the foods most often implicated in norwalk outbreaks. Ingestion of raw or insufficiently steamed clams and oysters poses a high risk for infection with Norwalk virus. Foods other than shellfish are contaminated by ill food handlers."

It would be interesting to determine the job positions of the crew members infected with norovirus.  For example, the CDC reports that sixty-nine crew members were reported ill on Celebrity's Mercury and Millennium cruise ships during recent cruises.  How many of these crewmembers were cooks, waiters or food handlers?  

Norovirus - Cruise Ship - Contaminated Food?The issue of eating oysters and other shellfish on cruise ships presents a double whammy.  Cruise ships dump sewage 12 miles from shore, and the fecal material can contaminate shellfish which filter-feed.  Both cruise passengers and people ashore can then be infected by eating contaminated shellfish. 

Uncertainty Regarding Cause of Virus and Transmitting Agent

Although the CDC tries to determine the "causative agent" of the outbreak, this means that they are trying to determine the nature of the pathogen (i.e., whether it is norovirus or some other virus).  But the CDC does not report whether the virus came from a person boarding the cruise ship or, the more likely scenario if the FDA is correct, from contaminated food and water on the cruise ship.

The issue arises where do the cruise lines obtain their potable water?  From U.S. based vendors or from the Caribbean islands?  What testing is done at the ports before the water is brought aboard?  Where do the food products come from?  Is any of the food inspected by the FDA before it is loaded on the cruise ships?  

The CDC reports that around 600 passengers became ill on Celebrity's Mercury cruise ship on the last two cruises alone.  Are we to believe that all 600 people simply failed to wash their hands?  Or is there something in the food and water? 

Cruise lines should be required to publicly report the test results of the cruise ship's water samples, so that the U.S. public can determine the true cause of cruise ship illnesses.

If contaminated water is the culprit, all of the external cleaning of cruise ship surfaces is not going to solve the problem.   

Additional Information: 

Passengers can track the reported outbreaks on the CDC web page which tracks "Outbreak Updates for International Cruise Ships."  Not all norovirus outbreaks are required to be reported to the CDC and the CDC website is incomplete. 

A good source for additional information is found on "Illness Outbreaks on Cruise ships."  We have reported on numerous cases of cruise line illnesses in prior articles

Celebrity Cruises' Mercury Returns to Port with 182 Sick Passengers - Sailing Postponed

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that Celebrity Cruises' Mercury cruise ship has returned to Charleston, South Carolina with 182 ill passengers. 

According to its web page "Investigation Update on the Mercury,"  t'he CDC reports 182 of 1749 passengers (10.41%) are ill with diarrhea and vomiting, and 14 of the 850 crew (1.65%) are sick.

With the sick passengers disembarking, another 1,800 passengers are boarding.  (I wonder whether the cruise ine discloses to the new passengers which cabins had sick passengers in them?) 

Cruise Ship Norovirus

The Mercury has experienced more than its fair share of problems in the last month.  There was a report of carbon monoxide poisoning on February 13th when the cruise ship returned to Baltimore.  After the ship re-positioned to Charleston, its inaugural cruise from that port resulted in over 400 passengers coming down with the dreaded norovirus

The ship was delayed a day until February 26th for what the cruise line calls "enhanced cleaning," and we questioned "Will the Celebrity Mercury Infect Another Round of Passengers?"

Now close to 200 people another passengers and crew have fallen ill.   

The most troubling information is that the CDC reports that the "causative factor" (i.e., whats causing the sickness) is "unknown." 

Norovirus can be caused by sick passengers coming aboard, or sick crewmembers greeting the passengers or, more concerning, infected food and/or water supplies.  The cruise supporters always blame the passengers for not washing their hands - which may be the case.  But the issue whether there is a problem with the cruise ship cannot be excluded.  Many people refer to Cruise Ship Sickness - Norovirus - Ill Passengers - Sick Crew norovirus as the "cruise ship sickness."

If the potable water or food have norovirus particles, all of the external cleaning in the world is not going to make a difference.  It only takes a few fecal particles in the food, drinking water or shower.

USA Today reports that the Mercury's departure today is delayed for another round of "enhanced cleaning."  

But without determining the "causative factor" and determining whether the passengers, the crewmembers, or the food and water supplies are spreading the virus - it seems like the cruise line is shooting into the dark.

Stay tuned. 

 

Health Tips: @OrlandoChris has some helpful precautions to help prevent the spread of the infection.

 

Credits:

Cruise desserts     nbnpress.com

 

Additional Passengers Sickened on Mercury Cruise Ship

Celebrity Cruises is again reporting that at least 55 passengers have fallen ill on its Mercury cruise ship with norovirus-like symptoms. 

In a prior article we questioned: Will the Celebrity Mercury Infect Another Round of Passengers?

Here We Go Again

A local news source in South Carolina, the Palmetto Scoop, reports on the latest cruise Cruise Ship Norovirus - Sick Passengersship sickness in an article entitled "Sickness Again Plagues Charleston Cruise Ship:" 

The crew of the Celebrity Cruises “Mercury” ship, which docks in Charleston, thought they had thoroughly sanitized the vessel after nearly one-quarter of the 1,800 travelers came down with a norovirus-like illness on their last voyage. 

Turns out they didn’t do a very good job.

The Mercury ship set sail from Charleston on Saturday and within days, dozens of passengers became sick.  As of Friday, 55 of the 1,880 travelers had fallen ill with the norovirus stomach bug.

Norovirus is a disease common to cruise ships because it is highly contagious and affects confined communities. The unpleasant disease usually runs its course after a day or two and spreads through food, water, or person-to-person contact.

Celebrity Cruises has based the Mercury in Charleston, South Carolina where officials have reported twice as many cases of norovirus as normal this winter. The Associated Press reports that the virus may have come aboard the cruise ship by passengers, crewmembers or infected supplies.

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrity Cruises is owned by Royal Caribbean Cruises whose cruise ships have experienced a large number of norovirus cases this season. 

Other Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships Experiencing Widespread Illness

The Huffington Post reports that at least 310 passengers were sickened aboard Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas. A spokeswoman for the Brazil's National Agency for Sanitary Vigilance stated that the sickness was caused by "some kind of food poisoning aboard"  the cruise ship.  Earlier this week, Brazil ordered all 1,987 passengers and 765 crew members to remain on the ship anchored near Rio de Janeiro.  The passengers were just recently permitted to leave the ship. 

Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas and Celebrity Cruises' Millennium cruise ships have also reported of a large number of ill cruise passengers. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) 102 passengers and 14 crewmembers suffered gastrointestinal illness on the Jewel of the Seas, and 157 passengers and 23 crewmembers became ill on the Millennium

You can track cruise norovirus cases via the CDC has a web page which tracks "Outbreak Updates for International Cruise Ships," although not all cruise illnesses are required to be reported to the CDC.  For example, the recent outbreak of illness on the Vision of the Seas was not reported to the CDC. 

For other information about norovirus on cruise ships, consider reading Cruise Ship Norovirus - Clean the Damn Toilets!

 

Video:          WCSC (AP)

Can Sick Cruise Ships Cause Norovirus Outbreaks in Ports?

A headline in the NoroBlog intrigued me - "Cruise Ships Causing Norovirus Outbreaks in Ports?" - indicating that norovirus is "often associated with cruise ship sickness."  The article also raises the question whether cruise ships can infect the local port communities. 

The cruise industry's PR people have been fighting the connection between norovirus and "cruise ship sickness" for many years.

Sick Cruise Passengers - Norovirus - Sick Cruise Ships Last week the cruise industry's trade organization, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), wrote a letter to the Daytona Beach News Journal complaining that a writer made a connection between the virus and cruise ships and concluded that this is an illness that happens "often" on cruise ships.

CLIA's letter to the editor stated: "the overwhelming majority of norovirus outbreaks take place at land-based locations, such as schools, day care centers, hospitals and nursing homes."  The one comment to the letter, from a passenger on the norovirus infected Queen Victoria cruise ships, dismissed the letter as "more cover-up from the cruise spokes people."

CLIA has made the "its-a-lot-worse-ashore" argument before.  But arguing that it has a better record than day care centers and nursing homes seems counter-productive to the cruise line's image.  Of course day care centers with a million kids who have not mastered the art of going to the toilet and washing their hands and then wipe their runny noses all over the toys are going to be a hotbed of viruses.  And anyone entering a nursing home filled with incontinent geriatrics can instantly smell feces entering the facility.

The Food Poison Journal (affiliated with the Noroblog) reports that "outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness, and norovirus in particular, are not new to the cruise industry.  In fact, the phenomenon prompted the CDC to create and oversee a "vessel sanitation program (VSP)." 

Arguing against the label "cruise ship sickness" is a waste of time.  The real debate should be whether sick cruise ships pose a health hazard to the local port communities.

In the past six weeks, the United States considered blocking the arrival of the Queen Victoria because of a norovirus outbreak - U.S. to Block Arrival of Queen Victoria After Norovirus Outbreak?  - and a week earlier the U.K. considered impounding the Balmoral cruise ship because of a similar outbreak -  "Cursed Cruise Ship" Balmoral At Risk of Being Impounded As Hundreds More Suffer Vomiting Bug.

Norovirus - Sick Cruise Ships The South Carolina Post and Courier ran an interesting article "Norovirus Confirmed Aboard Mercury" which reported on the concern that the Celebrity Mercury cruise ship - with over 400 norovirus infected passengers - could infect people living in Charleston.  

The newspaper reports that Katie Zimmerman, a project manager with the Coastal Conservation League, received frantic calls and e-mails from residents concerned not only about infected passengers entering the city but also about trash from the ship entering local waters.

Cruise ships like the Mercury can dump completely untreated sewage 12 miles offshore.  Although the article concludes that waste from the Mercury poses no risk to marine life or people who eat local seafood, there is a risk of contaminated water infecting shellfish which filter-feed. 

In this day and age, it is barbaric to think that hundreds of CLIA cruise ships routinely dump human waste into the sea.  Cruise lines dump waste because they register their cruise ships outside of U.S. jurisdiction in places like Liberia and Panama which don't care what the cruise lines do. 

The thought of a cruise ship like the Mercury dumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of norovirus infected feces just 12 miles offshore South Carolina is particularly disgusting. 

Even the worst run child care facilities and nursing homes don't do that.

 

Credits:      

Sick cruise passenger           Bill Mahler's Food Poison Blog

Cruise Cleaners              Telegraph.co.uk  "Cruises: Norovirus Questions & Answers

Celebrity Cruises Postpones Cruise From Charleston After Massive Norovirus Outbreak On Mercury Cruise Ship

The departure of Celebrity Cruises' Mercury cruise ship, scheduled for today, has been delayed so that the cruise line can make a last ditch effort to try and kill the norovirus which sickened over 20% of the passengers and crew during its last cruise. 

Celebrity is offering vouchers to accommodate the passengers or staying overnight in Charleston.

Celebrity Cruises - Norovirus - Mercury Cruise Ship - Sick Ship?The ship is now scheduled to depart on Saturday at 5 PM.

A large number of newspapers and blogs are covering the plight of the sick cruise ship.  The highly respected Food Poison Blog by super-lawyer Bill Mahler covers the problem in an article "Over 400 Sickened with Norovirus on Cruise."  NPR (my favorite) has even gotten involved with a story entitled "Stomach Flu Hits Caribbean Cruise Ship."

Celebrity Cruises president Daniel Hanrahan issued a statement: "I would like to apologize for the inconvenience this delay will cause our guests on Celebrity Mercury's next sailing . . . the extra time we are taking to sanitize the ship will help prevent any illness from affecting the next cruise."

Let's hope so.

 

February 27, 2010 Update:

Passengers who live more than a 2 hour drive from Charleston arte staying in area hotels paid by the cruise line, and credited $50 for expenses incurred.  According to the Post and Courier, the cruise's itinerary was shortened by a day, with a call in Key West canceled. Passengers who sail today will be given on-board credit for two-days worth of their fare and a 25 percent discount on future Celebrity cruise bookings

 

Read other Cruise Law News articles regarding the sick Mercury cruise ship.

 

Interested in other cruise - norovirus articles?  consider reading:

Cruise Ship Norovirus - Clean the Damn Toilets! 

Cruise Ship Bathrooms, Norovirus and Medical Care

"Cursed Cruise Ship" Balmoral At Risk of Being Impounded As Hundreds More Suffer Vomiting Bug

U.S. to Block Arrival of Queen Victoria After Norovirus Outbreak?

 

 

Credits:

Mercury cruise ship and passengers             AP (Mic Smith) via Washington Post 

Will the Celebrity Mercury Infect Another Round of Passengers?

Around 450 passengers and crew are sick with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea aboard Celebrity's Mercury as the ill cruise ship completes its inaugural cruise to the Caribbean from the port of Charleston, South Carolina.  The cause of the illness is unknown.  The cruise ship will sail again from Charleston tomorrow, and many new passengers don't want to set foot on the ship.

This is not what the city of Charleston or the thousands of passengers who paid for a relaxing cruise to the Caribbean bargained for.  

The media is focusing on this nauseating story. The Baltimore Sun has an article "More Than 400 Sick Aboard Celebrity Mercury Cruise Ship" (the comments are brutal).  The Consumerist's headline says it all: "Caribbean Cruise Ship Turns Into Diarrhea Nightmare Vessel." 

Cruise Ship Sickness - Norovirus - Pepto Bismol?In ABC News' story "400-Plus Passengers Get Sick on Cruise," the cruise line's PR spokesperson, Cynthia Martinez, says that the ship doctors are giving passengers anti-nausea and diarrhea medication such as Pepto-Bismol . . . "   

Pepto-Bismol?  

The cruise line is in overdrive trying to clean the cruise ship. The web site of a local news station in Charleston carries the story "Mercury Crews Scramble to Clean Cruise Ship."  The ship's crewmembers are "conducting some 'enhanced cleaning,' according to Ms. Martinez. 

"Enhanced cleaning?"  What the heck does that mean?  And what exactly are they cleaning?

The cruise line has not even established the type of pathogen or virus involved and its source.  Large scale sickness like this on a cruise ship can come from numerous sources - such as a contaminated water supply, improperly prepared food, or norovirus in bathrooms. The Norovirus Blog reports that cruise ship norovirus outbreaks are linked to the ship's bathrooms, and we addressed this issue last year in our blog "Cruise Ship Norovirus - Clean the Damn Toilets!"

But so far, there is no indication that norovirus in the ship's bathrooms is the culprit.  If the ship's water supply is contaminated, all of the external cleaning in the world is not going to eradicate the problem.

And at this point, it does not look like the cruise line knows, or at least it is not disclosing the source of the problem to the public or the next 1,800 passengers who are boarding the cruise ship tomorrow.  Instead, the cruise line is implying that its the passengers who are the problem because they are not washing their hands, rather than the ship which is infecting the passengers.    

This week our office has received a number of inquiries from passengers who are frightened to sail on the Mercury tomorrow.  They wonder whether they can cancel their cruise and get their money back.  Unfortunately, the cruise line's lawyers have spent years crafting terms and Celebrity Cruises - Mercury - Sickness - Illnessconditions in the passenger tickets which protect the cruise line, not the consumer.  And if the passenger has travel insurance, the insurance company probably won't pay if the passengers cancel because they are not sick (yet) and the cruise ship will sail again tomorrow, come-hell-or-high-water.    

The cruise line is promising to give sick passengers a voucher "based on the number of days a guest is isolated divided by the total of cruise fare paid."  Huh?  These nice people are sitting on a crapper in their cabins, vomiting into a waste can on their lap.  All they get is a voucher for partial payment for another cruise?  That's a crappy deal, excuse the pun.

What a predicament for these folks.  Tomorrow, the cruise line will unload the 1,800 passengers from the Mercury and load another 1,8000 back on.  And the Mercury will set sail again, this time for a 10 day cruise to Mexico, Belize, the Bahamas, and Key West. 

We wish the passengers luck.

And don't forget to take a large bottle of Pepto-Bismol with you . . .

 

February 25, 2010 Update:

The Washington Post reports that the CDC is confirming the presence of norovirus on the cruise shp.  

Our prior article on the Mercury's history of shipboard illnesses: Stomach Bug Hits Celebrity's Mercury Cruise Ship Again

February 26, 2010 Update:

Celebrity Cruises Postpones Cruise From Charleston After Massive Norovirus Outbreak On Mercury Cruise Ship

March 4, 2010 Update:

The Baltimore Sun reports that "about 55 guests have been treated for gastro-like symptoms" on the Mercury cruise ship.

 

Credits:

Pepto Bismol     Shakespeare's Monkey (fark.com)

Itinerary                Celebrity Cruises  

Stomach Bug Hits Celebrity's Mercury Cruise Ship Again

Sick passengers - Celebrity Mercury Cruise Ship The Associated Press reports that hundreds of passengers have fallen ill with a stomach ailment aboard the cruise ship Mercury, operated by Celebrity Cruises, which is sailing in the Caribbean.

Over 300 of the 1,800 passengers are experiencing upset stomachs, vomiting and diarrhea. Another 25 or so crewmembers are also ill. The Mercury left Charleston, South Carolina on February 15th and this is the first cruise from Charleston.

The PR person for Celebrity / Royal Caribbean stated that the cruise ship's medical facilities were "overwhelmed" and another doctor and nurse boarded the Mercury in St. Kitts.

The cruise line did not report what virus or pathogen was involved, but the cruise ship dropped samples off in Puerto Rico for testing. The ship is scheduled to return to Charleston on Friday.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recorded two outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness on the Celebrity Mercury last year. The CDC investigated outbreaks on the Celebrity Mercury in  January and February 2009.

The CDC has a web page which tracks "Outbreak Updates for International Cruise Ships."

Celebrity's Mercury was in the news just last week when a Hazmat team and ambulances arrived at the port in Baltimore after 6 crewmembers became ill after inhaling fumes while welding on the cruise ship. The crewmembers may have poisoned due to carbon monoxide as reported in the press, although there was no carbon monoxide detected when the cruise ship arrived in port the following day. The cruise ship then repositioned to Charleston for this cruise.

We reported on the incident - Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Reported Aboard Celebrity's Mercury Cruise Ship.  There has been no follow up stories on the cause of the illnesses or the condition of the sick crewmembers.

February 24, 2010 Update:

Will the Celebrity Mercury Infect Another Round of Passengers?

 

Credits:

Artwork          Maxim magazine

U.S. to Block Arrival of Queen Victoria After Norovirus Outbreak?

Cruise Ship Norovirus - Vomiting Bug - Sick PassengersiU.K.'s Mail Online reports that passengers aboard the Queen Victoria cruise ship could be refused entry into the U.S. after an outbreak of viral gastroenteritis - a/k/a the "vomiting bug."

A spokesman for Cunard Line said that the passengers' clinical symptoms are consistent with norovirus, "which had been confirmed by sample analysis."

The newspaper reports that the Queen Victoria will not be allowed to dock if the virus reaches an epidemic rate, where 15 per cent of those onboard are affected, authorities warn.  

It appears premature to talk about preventing the cruise ship to dock because, so far, only 30 passengers are sick. 

The Master of the cruise ship has reportedly ordered a major cleaning effort to protect the Quenn Victoria - Norovirus - Duchess of Cornwall - Cursed?remaining 2,000 or so passengers and crew.

The Queen Victoria was in the news exactly two years ago when 78 passengers got sick with the norovirus bug during the cruise ship's maiden voyage. The British press labeled the cruise ship "cursed" when Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, failed to smash a bottle of champagne against the bow during the naming ceremony in Southampton, U.K. - a traditional omen of bad luck. 

Several days later stories emerged regarding a "cruise from hell," according to the U.K.'s Daily Mail, where passengers began puking. Other passengers complained about "appalling" service, stopped-up toilets, and a woman collapsing in the ship's dining room.

A Fox News article reported that passengers can bring the bug on board. Similar outbreaks on past cruises were linked to poor hygiene by the cruise lines' food handlers, the Fox News story reports.  Business Week says that cruise ships can be an ideal place to spread germs because passengers are confined in a rather small space.  It refers to suggestions to help avoid getting sick -- or spreading disease -- on your next cruise vacation.

A few days ago we reported on the Balmoral cruise ship which has been hit by three norovirus outbreaks this year.

The popular online cruise community CruiseCritic.com reports that the norovirus bug recently found its way aboard HAL's Noordam and even Royal Caribbean's new giant cruise ship Oasis of the Seas.  CruiseCritic also mentions that Fred Olsen's Boudicca and Balmoral cruise ships were plagued by the virus during recent Christmas and New Year's sailings. Quenn Victoria - Norovirus

 

Credits:

Cruise Cleaners              Telegraph.co.uk  "Cruises: Norovirus Questions & Answers

Queen Victoria cruise ship and the Duchess of Cornwall      USAToday CruiseLog "Curse of Camilla hits Cunard's new Queen Victoria"

Queen Victoria cruise ship              sydney-australia.net.au

"Cursed Cruise Ship" Balmoral At Risk of Being Impounded As Hundreds More Suffer Vomiting Bug

Noro Virus - Balmoral Cruise Ship The U.K.'s Daily Mail reports that the Balmoral cruise ship - dubbed the "Cursed Cruise Ship of the High Seas" - is facing the prospect of being impounded after it was hit by a vomiting bug for the third time in less than a year.

The Australian newspaper also reports that the Balmoral could be detained after 250 passengers fell ill with the dreaded norovirus.  In an article entitled "Cursed Cruise Ship Balmoral to be Investigated," the newspaper reports that the sick cruise ship is currently making its way from the Canary Islands to Dover, England.

Health official have threatened to detain the cruise ship.  Sandra Westacott, chief executive of the Association of Port Health Authorities, confirmed the cruise ship could be detained by Maritime and Coastguard Agency staff on the advice of health officials:

"It is one of the sanctions available to us - detaining the ship in port so that it cannot do any Balmoral - Noro Virus - Fred Olsen Linefurther harm."

We reported that earlier this year that the Balmoral was attacked by pirates.

The Australian newspaper also reports that in 2009 the cruise ship suffered multiple injuries in storm force gales and was infected with two previous bouts of the vomiting bug.

 

 

Credits:

Drawing   Maxim Magazine

Cruise Ship Bathrooms, Norovirus and Medical Care

The New York Times just published two articles regarding outbreaks of norovirus on cruise ships and the unsanitary condition of cruise ship bathrooms. The article are entitled "Study Ties Restrooms to Illnesses on Cruises" and "When Illness Spoils the Cruise Vacation."

Cruise Ship NorovirusThe Times is finally reporting on a study reported in the Clinical Infectious Disease Journal over a month ago regarding why norovirus infection outbreaks occur frequently on cruise ships.  I wrote  on the topic first in a blog " Cruise Ship Norovirus - Clean the Damn Toilets!"  

The Times is the first major newspaper to write about this study, which contradicts the cruise industry's PR campaign which portrays their cruise ships as super clean.  The hand-sanitizers the cruise ship use are not going to prevent the outbreak of norovirus. 

One of the authors of the study, Dr. Philip C. Carling, explains that norovirus can survive for weeks on surfaces at room temperature, and it is difficult to kill. “It’s a tough virus. It isn’t killed by alcohol hand rubs. Chlorine bleach is the only thing that works.”

Cruise Ship Medical CareCruise ships have been called "floating biological islands," a phrase coined by Emory University's Dr. Phyllis Kozarsky who is a specialist in infectious diseases and travel medicine. The outbreak of infectious disease is not uncommon if you have several thousand passengers spending a week together, using the same buffet utensils and handling the same bathroom doorknobs.

If you get sick on a cruise ship, don't expect great medical care.  A decade ago, the New York Times published a well researched report on the problems with cruise ship medical treatment.  Authored by Douglas Franz, the article is entitled " Sovereign Islands - A Special Report - Getting Sick on the High Seas: A Question of Accountability."

Voyager of the Seas - Swine FluThe article explains the same problems which exist today. 

Contracting an infectious disease and needing urgent medical care on a cruise ship is doubly hazardous to your health.  

November 18, 2009 Update: 

A number of other news organizations are finally addressing the expert report by the researchers at the Infectious Disease Journal.  ABC, MSNBC and Rueters all released articles.  Reuter's article is entilted "Beware of Cruise Ships' Public Restrooms."  It shows a photograph of Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas which had dozens of passengers with swine flu among its 5,000 passengers and crewmembers in July of this year.

November 11, 2014 Update: Breaking News! Cruise passengers are now permitted to sue the cruise lines for medical negligence. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that cruise lines are no longer permitted to assert an "immunity defense" when their ship doctors and nurses commit medical malpractice. Read: 11th Circuit Rejects Cruise Lines' Immunity Defense to Medical Malpractice Claims. Contact us for further information.

 

Cartoon drawing       Maxim magazine

Voyager of the Seas          Eric Gaillard / Reuters

 

Cruise Ship Norovirus - Clean the Damn Toilets!

The Clinical Infectious Disease Journal issued a report yesterday after studying why norovirus infection outbreaks occur frequently on cruise ships. 

The results were quite telling. Cruise lines always blame the passengers whenever a norovirus outbreak sickens a cruise ship. Some cruise lines know when they have a "sick ship" on their hands. Yet, the cruise line's PR department or sales team will issue a report, exculpating the vessel and crew, but blaming some poor bastard who had the misfortune of buying a cruise ticket and sitting on a dirty toilet seat on the cruise ship.

Well finally we have a credible report.  Not some pile of propaganda from the PR people at the Cruise Line International Association, whose "facts" are usually dubious, but from highly trained health care professionals. The medical and hygiene experts covertly evaluated the thoroughness of disinfection cleaning on fifty-six (56) cruise ships over the last three years

The professionals (Philip C. Carling, Lou Ann Bruno‐Murtha, and Jeffrey K. Griffiths) are tops in their fields.  They are from highly respected universities, including Boston University School of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and Tufts University Schools of Medicine, Nutrition, and Engineering.

These experts secretly tested whether objects with high potential for fecal contamination, such as toilet seats in cruise ship public restrooms, could be a cause of norovirus breakouts.

The experts' objective tests revealed that only 37% of selected toilet area objects on cruise ships were cleaned on a daily basis. Such low scores may explain why certain cruise ships are prone to infect passengers with norovirus. 

The experts' recommendation?  "Enhanced public restroom cleaning." 

Let's keep it simple, stop blaming the passengers - and clean the damn toilets!