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

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

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

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

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 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 

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.

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 

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

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. 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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."   

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).

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.

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

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 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

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