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. 

 


 

"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.

Emergency Medevac of Sick Passenger from Crown Princess?

Coast Guard Rescue Crown Princess Cruise ShipI am being told by a reliable source that the U.S. Coast Guard is about to conduct an emergency medevac of an ill passenger from the Crown Princess cruise ship which is heading to Galveston and will arrive tomorrow.

It is less than clear whether there is any connection to the norovirus outbreak on the cruise ship.  The cruise has been under red level disease alert throughout the crossing from Europe.

The ship is facing heavy swells and the helicopter is facing strong winds.

The last medevac from the Crown Princess was in March.  You can see the video here.

Does anyone have information to confirm this latest story?

December 21, 2012 Update:  There's an update to this story we reported this morning:

The incident involves a 68 year old woman who was suffering from internal bleeding and had to be medevaced by a Coast Guard MH-65 helicopter which flew 140 miles south of the Mississippi River's Southwest Pass to the Princess cruise ship. The Times Picaynue states that the cruise ship alerted the Coast Guard station in New Orleans about 2 AM this morning, reporting that the woman had received blood transfusions on the ship. At the time, the ship was about 200 miles offshore. 

 

Photo and video credit: U.S. Coast Guard

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

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

Rescued Passenger Kisses and Waves Goodbye to Cruise Ship

One of the stories I never tire of reporting is when a Coast Guard helicopter plucks a sick cruise passenger from the deck of a cruise ship and takes the passenger ashore for emergency medical treatment.

The skill of the U.S. Coast Guard in rescuing people from cruise ships is rather remarkable. The Coast Guard can fly 200 miles out to sea to medevac ill and injured passengers and crew.  Other than England, Canada and perhaps a few other countries, you will not see anyone performing life saving heroic missions to rescue the needy on the high seas other than the U.S. Coast Guard.     

Below is a video of a Coast Guard helicopter hoisting a young woman from the deck of the Explorer cruise ship as the ship returned from a Caribbean cruise.  The helicopter took the passenger to a hospital in Key West.

At the end of the video, you can see the young lady in the rescue basket waving to the cruise ship, and kissing goodbye perhaps to a loved one below.

 

 

Video credit:  U.S. Coast Guard

Coast Guard Medevacs Sick NCL Cruise Passenger

A number of news sources are reporting that yesterday the U.S. Coast Guard medevaced an ill cruise passengerman from a cruise ship to a North Carolina hospital for treatment.

The ship doctor on the Norwegian Cruise ine's Gem cruise ship notified the Coast Guard that  a 38-year-old man was going into shock. The cruise ship was reportedly about 75 miles east of Wilmington at the time.

A helicopter from the Coast Guard Air Station in Elizabeth City North Carolina then flew the man from the cruise ship to New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington.

The Coast Guard says the man was in stable condition. His name was not released.

 

Dramatic Rescue of Critically Ill, Wheelchair Bound Cruise Passenger from Independence of the Seas

BBC News is reporting today on the dramatic rescue of a critically ill passenger from Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas.

The U.K. Coast Guard was notified by the captain of the Independence of the Seas on Saturday night that a passenger was very ill and needed to be evacuated from the cruise ship.  A helicopter was dispatched from Portland, which is in southern England on the Dorset coast, 23 miles out to the cruise ship.  

Medevac - Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship - Medical EmergencyThe BBC reports that the helicopter was too heavy for the cruise ship's landing pad.  The vessel's crew had to lift the passenger, in her wheelchair, up and into the helicopter as it hovering above them. 

A Maritime and Coastguard Agency spokeswoman is quoted stating "in a supreme example of skill, the coastguard helicopter pilot touched the wheels of the aircraft on to the moving deck of the Independence of the Seas, keeping the rotors powered-up so that no weight was taken by the relatively fragile landing pad."

The helicopter then flew the ill woman and her husband to Dorset County Hospital in Dorchester.

The BBC did not comment on the nature of the cruise passenger's critical illness.

We have received comments from crew and passengers that the Independence of the Seas has been experiencing Norovirus outbreaks for much of this year, although it is unknown what ailed this particular passenger.

The Independence of the Seas was last in the news when an oil tanker exploded while the cruise ship was docked at the port in Gibraltar.   

 

Photo credit:  Petty Officer 2nd Class Richard Fertig via Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System (image is of U.S. Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter responding to a medical emergency aboard the Explorer of the Seas 230 miles east of Cape Henry Virginia on March 11, 2011.)