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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck!

Photo Credit: WBAL Baltimore

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Norovirus Aboard Crown Princess Sickens 66 Passengers & 17 Crew Members

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Vomiting & Diarrhea Bug Infects Passengers on Grandeur of the Seas

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 Photo Credit: Wikipedia / J. Glover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Royal Caribbean Cruise Explorer of the Seas Norovirus Chart 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Explorer of the Seas Norovirus

Photo Credit: Top - Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Puke Fest Aboard Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Emma Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another Celebrity Cruise Ship Flunks Health & Sanitation Inspection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo Credit: Celebrity Century Cruise Ship - Wikipedia / Emesbe

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

New Mutant Norovirus Strain to Wreak Havoc on Cruise Industry?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Septicemia Turns Dream Cruise Into Nightmare for Teenager

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

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

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

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

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

She will be recovering in the hospital for another month.

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

 

Photo credit: Facebook

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

Princess Cruises Ends Crown Princess Cruise Early, Citing Norovirus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


# # #

What is Norovirus?

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

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

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

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


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

 

Photo credit:  Wikimedia Commons (Cliff)
 

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

Norovirus Update on Celebrity's Mercury Cruise Ship - March 21st Sailing

A local news station in Charleston South Carolina is reporting that passengers aboard the Mercury cruise ship on the March 21st sailing are ill.  The story is entitled  "Five Cases of Norovirus on Celebrity Mercury Cruise Ship."

The article suggests that the information came from the cruise line, although I do not see a quote or a press release from Royal Caribbean / Celebrity.  The article is rather vague, as I'm sure it's more accurate to say that some passengers have norovirus-like symptoms.  Stool samples have to be taken and analyzed ashore before anyone can conclude that norovirus exists. (There is still no official determination regarding the cause of the last round of sickness on the Mercury).  

Mercury Cruise Ship - Celebrity Cruises - Norovirus?If this information is accurate, five cases of gastrointestinal sickness is not particularly significant.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) "Vessel Sanitation Program" does not require the data to be reported until at least 2% of the passengers are affected (around 37 passengers).

It is possible that all five passengers were infected before they boarded the cruise ship, because there are reports of norovirus ashore of course.  It is also possible that they contracted a virus after they boarded.

We have received a number of calls and emails asking for information about the Mercury's March 21st sailing.  Here are some suggestions:

The Cruise Critic message board has a posting "People are Sick Again on the Mercury," where there is mention of a small number of passengers who may be ill.  The cruise community message boards are sometimes a good source of information, particularly when the cruise lines are not forthcoming with information.

I have found that the CDC eventually responds to e-mails and telephone calls.  The email for the CDC is cdcinfo@cdc.gov - be sure to include "Celebrity Mercury Cruise Ship - March 21st sailing" in the title of your email.  The telephone number is 800-232-4636.

The PR person at Royal Caribbean who handles crisis management statements, including norovirus outbreaks, is Cynthia Martinez.  Her email is CynthiaMartinez@rccl.com  I would be interested if anyone receives a response. 

We often hear from passengers directly from the cruise ships.  If we hear something, we will update this article.

March 27, 2010 Update:

The Charleston Regional Business Journal reports that the Mercury has only 6 sick passengers -"Celebrity Mercury Sees Huge Dip in Sickness After Extra Cleaning Measures."  Good news for Celebrity Cruises and the next round of passengers who will be sailing this Monday, March 29th. 

 

Credits:

Photograph         Directory of Charleston

Celebrity's Mercury Cruise Ship - Free of Norovirus?

So far, no one is reporting an outbreak of sickness aboard Celebrity Cruises' Mercury cruise ship for its latest - March 21st - sailing.  This is good news after the last three disastrous cruises.

Today's South Carolina Post and Courier newspaper runs the headline "Mercury Appears Free of Norovirus" in which the newspaper reports: "after several days at sea, the Celebrity Mercury seems finally free of a stomach bug that afflicted nearly 1,000 passengers on its previous three voyages Norovirus - Cruise Ship - Contaminated Food, Water - Infected Food Handler? from Charleston." 

The Cruise Critic message boards for the Mercury also seem to suggest that there is not a problem with gastrointestinal sickness, yet.  

The question remains what was the cause of the last illness outbreak on the Mercury?  Was it norovirus?  Was it transmitted due to contaminated water or food?  An infected food handler?  

So far the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have not said.

Let's hope that the cruise ship passengers do not get sick for the remainder of the cruise.    

If you are on the cruise and know otherwise, let us hear from you.  Otherwise, enjoy your cruise! 

 

Credits:

Chart        Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, Virginia Tech

Celebrity's Mercury Cruise Ship - Ready to Sail?

At 8:00 p.m. this evening, Celebrity Cruises' Mercury cruise ship will sail for an eight day cruise to the Caribbean.

The Mercury has been called the "sickest sea at sea."  Even ABC's Good Morning America posed the question: Celebrity Mercury - Sickest Ship At Sea - Can Cruise Ship Be Cured? 

Local South Carolina ABC affiliate WCIV News - 4 is optimistic that the cruise ship has been thoroughly cleaned over the past 72 hours after the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a rare "no-sail" advisory.  The ABC affiliate reports that "officials are now confident the ship is safe."

Celebrity Mercury Cruise Ship - Norovirus? - Confined to CabinBut I would not be so sure.  Gastro-intestinal illnesses can be caused by contaminated food or water, from fecal-oral transmission from crew member to passenger, or from sick passengers who come aboard and infect others.

And the CDC has not determined the cause of the last sickness outbreak.  The CDC report for the Celebrity Mercury's March 8th -19th sailing indicates that the "causative" agent for the widespread illnesses is "unknown."

Not sure I would set sail on a "sick" cruise ship where the CDC can't exclude contaminated food or water or ill crew members as the causes. 

Let's cross our fingers and hope another round of passengers don't find themselves confined to their cabins.  

March 22, 2010 Update:

According to USA Today, only 1,076 passengers are cruising on the Mercury (which is about 60% full).  Around 800 passengers canceled and obtained what is described as a full refund.

Is Celebrity Cruises Under-Reporting Sicknesses to the CDC?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 406 of the 1829 passengers (22.1%) aboard Celebrity's Mercury cruise ship have reported fever, vomiting, and/or diarrhea.  These CDC statistics are based entirely on the information provided by the cruise line.

In the past week, we have received information from crew members that although they were sick, they were required to continue working.  This raises the issue whether the cruise line is not reporting all ill crew members to the CDC.

We just received the following comment from a passenger, who suggests that you can't trust the official CDC numbers:  

"We just got back from this cruise March 18th (one day early) and we were ready to come home. Don't believe the official count of sickness on this boat, I became ill on the second night out around 2 AM. At around 8 AM, my wife called for medical attention and was told they would be to see us in our cabin. We waited. At 5 PM, my wife called medical again and were told they had no record of our calling earlier but the medical crew was on its way around the ship and they would be to our cabin soon. As of today, March 19th., no one from medical has seen me yet unless they saw me passing in the hallways. I heard of many others who were sick and were not seen as well.

My suggestion if you decide to go, carry your own medication with you and be prepared to quarantine yourself to protect others while you are sick if you do get sick. Room service is good."
 

Celebrity's Mercury Returns to Charleston - Over 400 Sick - Centers for Disease Control Investigating

The Celebrity Mercury cruise ship returned to port in Charleston South Carolina today with over 400 sick passengers.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 406 of the 1829 passengers (22.1%) have reported fever, vomiting, and/or diarrhea.

Unlike the last two cruises where the CDC determined that norovirus caused the outbreak, the CDC has not yet determined the cause of the outbreak.  This is probably one of the reasons that the CDC issues a "no travel" advisory for the sick cruise ship.

The traveling public is faced with a cruise line who blames passengers for not washing their hands - the CDC who does not know what the pathogen is or where it's coming from - and the ugly likelihood that the vessel's food, water, crew or public surfaces could be contaminated.

We have been inundated with calls and emails from concerned Americans who are scheduled to travel on the Mercury over the course of the next several months.  We also have heard from crew members, including some crew members who complain that although they are sick they are required to keep working.  Some of the work includes changing linens, serving food and delivering ice.  Very disturbing information. 

There is a lot of pressure on crew members to keep outbreaks secret.  We recently ran across a blog from a former crew member who wrote:

I worked on a cruise ship at the beginning of 2001 and we had a lengthy norovirus outbreak - interestingly, the ship did not make the CDC list for that year. Perhaps because we were far away in South America? Or perhaps it was because we were instructed to deny, deny, deny when any passenger asked: No sir, you're mistaken - the dining rooms are all closed because all the guests are off on tour...not sick in their beds along with half the staff. (Yeah, I was never able to look anyone in the eye and say that.) I never got it, thank God .  .  . "

Here is a recent video from the AP: 

 

 

 

Were you on the last cruise?  Do you have photographs, video or information which may help explain what is happening on the Mercury?  

Let us hear from you.

 

Credits:

Video      AP

 

Celebrity Mercury - Sickest Ship At Sea - Can Cruise Ship Be Cured?

ABC's Good Morning America (GMA) discusses Celebrity Cruises' sick cruise ship, the Mercury, in this morning's program. 

The Mercury has been hit with three continuous outbreaks of sickness which has plagued hundreds of passengers.  We have covered the outbreaks in prior articles

GMA begins its show by describing the Mercury as the "cruise ship which just can't seem to be cleaned."

The video contains the caption - "Sickest Ship at Sea - Can Cruise Ship Be Cured?" and explains how norovirus can thrive on cruise ships.

The GMA video is below.  One passenger askes: "Why do you keep on letting people on this ship when people continuously get sick?"

 

 

ABC interviewed its senior health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser to explain the norovirus and how passengers are infected on cruise ships: 

"The norovirus is highly contagious and its symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps and chills, Besser said.

The illness typically lasts 12 to 72 hours and usually occurs in places where people are in close quarters, such as schools, hospitals, nursing homes and cruise ships, according to Besser. It is the leading cause of foodborne outbreaks of diarrheal disease, accounting for more than 50 percent of these outbreaks

It spreads through food, water, contaminated surfaces and person-to-person contact, Besser said. He added that the reason it could be so hard to get rid of on a cruise ship is because people can also bring it on board and it can live on surfaces for more than a week.

Cruise ships often visit places that have poor sanitation, so passengers can easily catch it from a restaurant they visited at a port, Besser explained.

Additionally, the infection dose of norovirus is very low, Besser said. It takes only 10 particles of the virus to make you stick, as opposed to the 100,000 particles of salmonella you would have to be exposed to in order to get sick."

The Mercury returns to Charleston tomorrow.  The CDC issued a "no sail" advisory for the sick ship.  It will undergo another round of "enhaced cleaning" - as the cruise line calls it. 

 

Credits:

Video              ABC Good Morning America

Centers for Disease Control: "Shut Mercury Cruise Ship Down!"

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued a rare no-sail advisory for Celebrity Cruises' Mercury cruise ship.  The CDC has instructed Celebrity not to sail the sick cruise ship until Sunday in order to permit its inspectors to investigate the ongoing outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness. 

Over the course of the last month, hundreds of passengers have become sick on the Mercury over the course of its last three sailings. 

Cruise Ship Norovirus - CDC - Centrers for Disease ControlAccording to CNN, members of the CDC's Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) boarded the cruise ship looking for causes of the latest wave of illness.

Although the CDC determined that norovirus was the cause of the outbreaks for the first two sailings, the CDC could not determine the type of pathogen for the latest outbreak on the Mercury.

A no-sail advisory is an extreme step.  Its like a city inspector shutting down a dirty restaurant for code violations which pose a health hazard to the city residents. 

The Mercury has been a sailing nightmare for the past month.  First, a half dozen crew members were sickened in what the cruise line thought was carbon monoxide poisoning -  Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Reported Aboard Celebrity's Mercury Cruise Ship - when the cruise ship returned to port in Baltimore.  After the ship was re-positioned to South Carolina, all cruises have been plagued by what many call "cruise ship sickness."

The Mercury is an old ship and Royal Caribbean / Celebrity will be selling it later this year. 

For a chronology of the diseased ship, read our blogs over the past month regarding the Mercury.

March 16, 2010 Update:

USA Today reports: "Celebrity to Offer Full Refunds to Passengers on Delayed Mercury Cruise"

Credits:

Cruise Cleaners              Telegraph.co.uk  "Cruises: Norovirus Questions & Answers

 

Celebrity's Mercury Hit By "Cruise Ship Sickness" Again

Celebrity Cruises' disastrous string of "diarrhea-cruises" out of South Carolina continues with the cruise line's decision to return the Mercury to port in Charleston a day early.

USA Today's Cruise Log reports that sickness has marred three straight voyages in "Celebrity to End Cruise Out of Charleston Early as Outbreak Continues."  Royal Caribbean indicates that 342 of the 1,829 passengers on the cruise ship became ill since the cruise began.  The article mentions that the cruise ship will skip its scheduled stop in Tortola British Virgin Islands and head straight back to the U.S.  The cruise ship will arrive in Charleston on Thursday.

Celebrity Mercury Cruise - Sick Ship?This is now the third cruise on the Mercury where passengers have become sickened with a gastrointestinal sickness.  

The USA Today article reads not unlike the typical cruise line press release - mentioning that norovirus is the most common cause of stomach illness in the U.S. and breaks out regularly in schools, nursing homes, and hospitals.  But the article does not inquire into the specific cause of this outbreak, nor question why three straight cruises have sickened passengers.

The report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on the Mercury's last cruise does not even contain a conclusion regarding the "causative agent" for the sickness and is a week out of date.  If the CDC can't pinpoint the type of virus or pathogen from last week's cruise - why does anyone think that another round of "top-to-bottom" cleaning will make a difference?  

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

What are the test results of the cruise ship's water supplies?  The Mercury is one of Celebrity's oldest cruise ships, and is scheduled to leave the Royal Caribbean - Celebrity fleet later this year. Is there something wrong with this ship?  Is this a sick ship?

 

For prior articles:

Stomach Bug Hits Celebrity's Mercury Cruise Ship Again

Will the Celebrity Mercury Infect Another Round of Passengers?

Celebrity Cruises Postpones Cruise From Charleston After Massive Norovirus Outbreak On Mercury Cruise Ship

Can Sick Cruise Ships Cause Norovirus Outbreaks in Ports?

Additional Passengers Sickened on Mercury Cruise Ship

Celebrity Cruises' Mercury Returns to Port with 182 Sick Passengers - Sailing Postponed

"Cruise Ship Sickness" - Is Norovirus In The Food and Water?

 

Here is a statement from Celebrity Cruises / Royal Caribbean issued today:

During Celebrity Mercury’s current sailing, a number of guests onboard experienced a gastrointestinal illness, thought to be a norovirus.  Over the course of the sailing, crew onboard has been conducting enhanced cleaning, to help prevent the spread of the illness. 

While there was a decline in the spread of the illness during the sailing, in an abundance of caution, and in order to prevent additional guests and crew from becoming ill, we have decided to bypass Celebrity Mercury’s port of call today to Tortola, British Virgin Islands, and return to Charleston a day earlier than originally scheduled.  Celebrity Mercury will now arrive in Charleston early Thursday morning.  The enhanced cleaning of the ship, all of which is being done in close coordination with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will continue until the ship arrives in Charleston.

“I would like to apologize for the inconvenience this modified itinerary will cause our guests currently on Celebrity Mercury,” said Daniel Hanrahan, president and chief executive officer of Celebrity Cruises.  “I have made this decision to delay the sailing because we want to maintain our high health standards onboard our ships, while providing our guests with the best cruise experience possible.  The extra time we are taking to sanitize the ship will help prevent any additional guests from becoming ill.”

March 15, 2010 Update:

Centers for Disease Control: "Shut Mercury Cruise Ship Down!"

Celebrity Cruises' Mercury Returns to Port with 182 Sick Passengers - Sailing Postponed

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that Celebrity Cruises' Mercury cruise ship has returned to Charleston, South Carolina with 182 ill passengers. 

According to its web page "Investigation Update on the Mercury,"  t'he CDC reports 182 of 1749 passengers (10.41%) are ill with diarrhea and vomiting, and 14 of the 850 crew (1.65%) are sick.

With the sick passengers disembarking, another 1,800 passengers are boarding.  (I wonder whether the cruise ine discloses to the new passengers which cabins had sick passengers in them?) 

Cruise Ship Norovirus

The Mercury has experienced more than its fair share of problems in the last month.  There was a report of carbon monoxide poisoning on February 13th when the cruise ship returned to Baltimore.  After the ship re-positioned to Charleston, its inaugural cruise from that port resulted in over 400 passengers coming down with the dreaded norovirus

The ship was delayed a day until February 26th for what the cruise line calls "enhanced cleaning," and we questioned "Will the Celebrity Mercury Infect Another Round of Passengers?"

Now close to 200 people another passengers and crew have fallen ill.   

The most troubling information is that the CDC reports that the "causative factor" (i.e., whats causing the sickness) is "unknown." 

Norovirus can be caused by sick passengers coming aboard, or sick crewmembers greeting the passengers or, more concerning, infected food and/or water supplies.  The cruise supporters always blame the passengers for not washing their hands - which may be the case.  But the issue whether there is a problem with the cruise ship cannot be excluded.  Many people refer to Cruise Ship Sickness - Norovirus - Ill Passengers - Sick Crew norovirus as the "cruise ship sickness."

If the potable water or food have norovirus particles, all of the external cleaning in the world is not going to make a difference.  It only takes a few fecal particles in the food, drinking water or shower.

USA Today reports that the Mercury's departure today is delayed for another round of "enhanced cleaning."  

But without determining the "causative factor" and determining whether the passengers, the crewmembers, or the food and water supplies are spreading the virus - it seems like the cruise line is shooting into the dark.

Stay tuned. 

 

Health Tips: @OrlandoChris has some helpful precautions to help prevent the spread of the infection.

 

Credits:

Cruise desserts     nbnpress.com

 

Can Sick Cruise Ships Cause Norovirus Outbreaks in Ports?

A headline in the NoroBlog intrigued me - "Cruise Ships Causing Norovirus Outbreaks in Ports?" - indicating that norovirus is "often associated with cruise ship sickness."  The article also raises the question whether cruise ships can infect the local port communities. 

The cruise industry's PR people have been fighting the connection between norovirus and "cruise ship sickness" for many years.

Sick Cruise Passengers - Norovirus - Sick Cruise Ships Last week the cruise industry's trade organization, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), wrote a letter to the Daytona Beach News Journal complaining that a writer made a connection between the virus and cruise ships and concluded that this is an illness that happens "often" on cruise ships.

CLIA's letter to the editor stated: "the overwhelming majority of norovirus outbreaks take place at land-based locations, such as schools, day care centers, hospitals and nursing homes."  The one comment to the letter, from a passenger on the norovirus infected Queen Victoria cruise ships, dismissed the letter as "more cover-up from the cruise spokes people."

CLIA has made the "its-a-lot-worse-ashore" argument before.  But arguing that it has a better record than day care centers and nursing homes seems counter-productive to the cruise line's image.  Of course day care centers with a million kids who have not mastered the art of going to the toilet and washing their hands and then wipe their runny noses all over the toys are going to be a hotbed of viruses.  And anyone entering a nursing home filled with incontinent geriatrics can instantly smell feces entering the facility.

The Food Poison Journal (affiliated with the Noroblog) reports that "outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness, and norovirus in particular, are not new to the cruise industry.  In fact, the phenomenon prompted the CDC to create and oversee a "vessel sanitation program (VSP)." 

Arguing against the label "cruise ship sickness" is a waste of time.  The real debate should be whether sick cruise ships pose a health hazard to the local port communities.

In the past six weeks, the United States considered blocking the arrival of the Queen Victoria because of a norovirus outbreak - U.S. to Block Arrival of Queen Victoria After Norovirus Outbreak?  - and a week earlier the U.K. considered impounding the Balmoral cruise ship because of a similar outbreak -  "Cursed Cruise Ship" Balmoral At Risk of Being Impounded As Hundreds More Suffer Vomiting Bug.

Norovirus - Sick Cruise Ships The South Carolina Post and Courier ran an interesting article "Norovirus Confirmed Aboard Mercury" which reported on the concern that the Celebrity Mercury cruise ship - with over 400 norovirus infected passengers - could infect people living in Charleston.  

The newspaper reports that Katie Zimmerman, a project manager with the Coastal Conservation League, received frantic calls and e-mails from residents concerned not only about infected passengers entering the city but also about trash from the ship entering local waters.

Cruise ships like the Mercury can dump completely untreated sewage 12 miles offshore.  Although the article concludes that waste from the Mercury poses no risk to marine life or people who eat local seafood, there is a risk of contaminated water infecting shellfish which filter-feed. 

In this day and age, it is barbaric to think that hundreds of CLIA cruise ships routinely dump human waste into the sea.  Cruise lines dump waste because they register their cruise ships outside of U.S. jurisdiction in places like Liberia and Panama which don't care what the cruise lines do. 

The thought of a cruise ship like the Mercury dumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of norovirus infected feces just 12 miles offshore South Carolina is particularly disgusting. 

Even the worst run child care facilities and nursing homes don't do that.

 

Credits:      

Sick cruise passenger           Bill Mahler's Food Poison Blog

Cruise Cleaners              Telegraph.co.uk  "Cruises: Norovirus Questions & Answers

Celebrity Cruises Postpones Cruise From Charleston After Massive Norovirus Outbreak On Mercury Cruise Ship

The departure of Celebrity Cruises' Mercury cruise ship, scheduled for today, has been delayed so that the cruise line can make a last ditch effort to try and kill the norovirus which sickened over 20% of the passengers and crew during its last cruise. 

Celebrity is offering vouchers to accommodate the passengers or staying overnight in Charleston.

Celebrity Cruises - Norovirus - Mercury Cruise Ship - Sick Ship?The ship is now scheduled to depart on Saturday at 5 PM.

A large number of newspapers and blogs are covering the plight of the sick cruise ship.  The highly respected Food Poison Blog by super-lawyer Bill Mahler covers the problem in an article "Over 400 Sickened with Norovirus on Cruise."  NPR (my favorite) has even gotten involved with a story entitled "Stomach Flu Hits Caribbean Cruise Ship."

Celebrity Cruises president Daniel Hanrahan issued a statement: "I would like to apologize for the inconvenience this delay will cause our guests on Celebrity Mercury's next sailing . . . the extra time we are taking to sanitize the ship will help prevent any illness from affecting the next cruise."

Let's hope so.

 

February 27, 2010 Update:

Passengers who live more than a 2 hour drive from Charleston arte staying in area hotels paid by the cruise line, and credited $50 for expenses incurred.  According to the Post and Courier, the cruise's itinerary was shortened by a day, with a call in Key West canceled. Passengers who sail today will be given on-board credit for two-days worth of their fare and a 25 percent discount on future Celebrity cruise bookings

 

Read other Cruise Law News articles regarding the sick Mercury cruise ship.

 

Interested in other cruise - norovirus articles?  consider reading:

Cruise Ship Norovirus - Clean the Damn Toilets! 

Cruise Ship Bathrooms, Norovirus and Medical Care

"Cursed Cruise Ship" Balmoral At Risk of Being Impounded As Hundreds More Suffer Vomiting Bug

U.S. to Block Arrival of Queen Victoria After Norovirus Outbreak?

 

 

Credits:

Mercury cruise ship and passengers             AP (Mic Smith) via Washington Post 

Will the Celebrity Mercury Infect Another Round of Passengers?

Around 450 passengers and crew are sick with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea aboard Celebrity's Mercury as the ill cruise ship completes its inaugural cruise to the Caribbean from the port of Charleston, South Carolina.  The cause of the illness is unknown.  The cruise ship will sail again from Charleston tomorrow, and many new passengers don't want to set foot on the ship.

This is not what the city of Charleston or the thousands of passengers who paid for a relaxing cruise to the Caribbean bargained for.  

The media is focusing on this nauseating story. The Baltimore Sun has an article "More Than 400 Sick Aboard Celebrity Mercury Cruise Ship" (the comments are brutal).  The Consumerist's headline says it all: "Caribbean Cruise Ship Turns Into Diarrhea Nightmare Vessel." 

Cruise Ship Sickness - Norovirus - Pepto Bismol?In ABC News' story "400-Plus Passengers Get Sick on Cruise," the cruise line's PR spokesperson, Cynthia Martinez, says that the ship doctors are giving passengers anti-nausea and diarrhea medication such as Pepto-Bismol . . . "   

Pepto-Bismol?  

The cruise line is in overdrive trying to clean the cruise ship. The web site of a local news station in Charleston carries the story "Mercury Crews Scramble to Clean Cruise Ship."  The ship's crewmembers are "conducting some 'enhanced cleaning,' according to Ms. Martinez. 

"Enhanced cleaning?"  What the heck does that mean?  And what exactly are they cleaning?

The cruise line has not even established the type of pathogen or virus involved and its source.  Large scale sickness like this on a cruise ship can come from numerous sources - such as a contaminated water supply, improperly prepared food, or norovirus in bathrooms. The Norovirus Blog reports that cruise ship norovirus outbreaks are linked to the ship's bathrooms, and we addressed this issue last year in our blog "Cruise Ship Norovirus - Clean the Damn Toilets!"

But so far, there is no indication that norovirus in the ship's bathrooms is the culprit.  If the ship's water supply is contaminated, all of the external cleaning in the world is not going to eradicate the problem.

And at this point, it does not look like the cruise line knows, or at least it is not disclosing the source of the problem to the public or the next 1,800 passengers who are boarding the cruise ship tomorrow.  Instead, the cruise line is implying that its the passengers who are the problem because they are not washing their hands, rather than the ship which is infecting the passengers.    

This week our office has received a number of inquiries from passengers who are frightened to sail on the Mercury tomorrow.  They wonder whether they can cancel their cruise and get their money back.  Unfortunately, the cruise line's lawyers have spent years crafting terms and Celebrity Cruises - Mercury - Sickness - Illnessconditions in the passenger tickets which protect the cruise line, not the consumer.  And if the passenger has travel insurance, the insurance company probably won't pay if the passengers cancel because they are not sick (yet) and the cruise ship will sail again tomorrow, come-hell-or-high-water.    

The cruise line is promising to give sick passengers a voucher "based on the number of days a guest is isolated divided by the total of cruise fare paid."  Huh?  These nice people are sitting on a crapper in their cabins, vomiting into a waste can on their lap.  All they get is a voucher for partial payment for another cruise?  That's a crappy deal, excuse the pun.

What a predicament for these folks.  Tomorrow, the cruise line will unload the 1,800 passengers from the Mercury and load another 1,8000 back on.  And the Mercury will set sail again, this time for a 10 day cruise to Mexico, Belize, the Bahamas, and Key West. 

We wish the passengers luck.

And don't forget to take a large bottle of Pepto-Bismol with you . . .

 

February 25, 2010 Update:

The Washington Post reports that the CDC is confirming the presence of norovirus on the cruise shp.  

Our prior article on the Mercury's history of shipboard illnesses: Stomach Bug Hits Celebrity's Mercury Cruise Ship Again

February 26, 2010 Update:

Celebrity Cruises Postpones Cruise From Charleston After Massive Norovirus Outbreak On Mercury Cruise Ship

March 4, 2010 Update:

The Baltimore Sun reports that "about 55 guests have been treated for gastro-like symptoms" on the Mercury cruise ship.

 

Credits:

Pepto Bismol     Shakespeare's Monkey (fark.com)

Itinerary                Celebrity Cruises  

Passenger Paid Settlement in Legionnaires' Disease Cruise Case

CruiseCritic reports that a passenger whose husband died after contracting Legionnaires' Disease during a cruise aboard Fred Olsen Lines' Black Watch (who would name a cruise ship, Black Watch?) received a settlement after three years of litigation.

Audrey Heath, from the U.K. sailed with her husband, Robert Heath, on the Fred Olsen cruise ship when a number of passengers were affected by the illness while onboard. The cruise line ended the cruise early, Mr. Heath went to see his local doctor, who performed no tests, and sent Mr. Heath Legionnaires' Disease - Cruise Deathhome with antibiotics. He died at home the next day.

An inquest ruled that the cruise line exposed Mr. Heath to Legionnaires' Disease, and his doctors failed to provide appropriate medical treatment or admit him to a hospital.  Following the decree relating his death to Legionnaires aboard the cruise ship - the cruise line and shoreside doctors agreed to a settlement. 

Ms. Heath received a £70k settlement (a little over $100,000), a small amount for wrongful death by U.S. standards. 

The Fred Olsen Lines are in the press quite a bit for many cases of norovirus, which also can be traced to improper cleaning protocols on the cruise ships.

We have written about Legionnaires' Disease in prior blogs:

Liberty of the Seas & Legionnaires' Disease - Disease of the Seas? 

Former Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Captain Dies of Legionnaire's Disease After Sailing on Liberty of the Seas
 

 

Credits:

Black Watch cruise ship photograph                   Milford Haven Port Authority website

Stomach Bug Hits Celebrity's Mercury Cruise Ship Again

Sick passengers - Celebrity Mercury Cruise Ship The Associated Press reports that hundreds of passengers have fallen ill with a stomach ailment aboard the cruise ship Mercury, operated by Celebrity Cruises, which is sailing in the Caribbean.

Over 300 of the 1,800 passengers are experiencing upset stomachs, vomiting and diarrhea. Another 25 or so crewmembers are also ill. The Mercury left Charleston, South Carolina on February 15th and this is the first cruise from Charleston.

The PR person for Celebrity / Royal Caribbean stated that the cruise ship's medical facilities were "overwhelmed" and another doctor and nurse boarded the Mercury in St. Kitts.

The cruise line did not report what virus or pathogen was involved, but the cruise ship dropped samples off in Puerto Rico for testing. The ship is scheduled to return to Charleston on Friday.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recorded two outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness on the Celebrity Mercury last year. The CDC investigated outbreaks on the Celebrity Mercury in  January and February 2009.

The CDC has a web page which tracks "Outbreak Updates for International Cruise Ships."

Celebrity's Mercury was in the news just last week when a Hazmat team and ambulances arrived at the port in Baltimore after 6 crewmembers became ill after inhaling fumes while welding on the cruise ship. The crewmembers may have poisoned due to carbon monoxide as reported in the press, although there was no carbon monoxide detected when the cruise ship arrived in port the following day. The cruise ship then repositioned to Charleston for this cruise.

We reported on the incident - Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Reported Aboard Celebrity's Mercury Cruise Ship.  There has been no follow up stories on the cause of the illnesses or the condition of the sick crewmembers.

February 24, 2010 Update:

Will the Celebrity Mercury Infect Another Round of Passengers?

 

Credits:

Artwork          Maxim magazine