There have been a few news stories about a cruise ship "passenger' dying of Legionnaire's disease after sailing on Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas.
The Miami Herald and the South Florida Business Review ("Legionnaire's May Be Linked to Ship") published articles last week about Mr. Tore Myhra - described as an "English tourist" - who died November 1st at Jackson Memorial Hospital after sailing for a week on the Liberty of the Seas. I commented on the story - Liberty of the Seas & Legionnaires' Disease - Disease of the Seas?
The Miami medical examiner's office reported that Mr. Myhra became sick on the cruise ship and suffered "nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory difficulty and dry cough.'' His symptoms worsened and he died of "Legionella pneumophila pneumonia" the day after he departed the cruise ship.
The popular on-line cruise community CruiseCritic.com also reported on the story in an article entitled "Cruise Passenger Among Recent Legionnaire's Victims." Cruise Critic tried to interview Royal Caribbean who refused to disclose the name of its "passenger."
Instead of discussing the death of the passenger, Royal Caribbean crisis management spokesperson, Cynthia Martinez, released a statement which is posted on the Cruise Critic site as follows:
"Although we do not know the source of the guest's legionellosis, we have taken more than 90 different water samples from the ship over the past few months as part of our routine water testing program, and all those tests have come back negative regarding the bacteria that can cause the illness.
Nevertheless, we are taking some precautionary steps onboard, which are being done in an abundance of caution, to maintain our high health standards, and as recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These include special sanitizing of key areas onboard, including whirlpools and the H2O Zone. Like our guests, we take all health issues seriously."
This is a disturbing statement.
Only 90 water samples over the course of several months? If a "passenger" became diseased and the routine tests results are negative, this could mean that the cruise line simply did not test a sufficient number of locations.
The Liberty of the Seas is a huge cruise ship. 90 samples is a grossly insufficient number of water samples over the course of many months. There are thousands of water faucets, drinking fountains, shower heads, whirlpools, saunas, flo-riders, spas, H2O zones, and other water sources on a ship this large. It is widely known that Royal Caribbean is making financial cutbacks throughout its fleet. Testing water samples is expensive.
Has Royal Caribbean cut back on the number of water samples to save money?
The cruise line should be taking several hundreds of samples a month on a routine basis, with repeat testing. And the samples should be tested at national laboratories whose reputations are beyond reproach. After a death like this, there should be literally over a thousand tests conducted to test every possible source of this disease.
What is also disturbing is that Royal Caribbean failed to mention that Mr. Myhra was not only a "passenger" but was the former Captain (i.e., Master) of several Royal Caribbean cruise ships. Captain Myhra was the Master of the Monarch of the Seas and one of the cruise line's very first cruise ships, Song of America.
Captain Myhra is of Norwegian descent. He lived in England after he retired from Royal Caribbean. By all accounts, Captain Myhra was an a good guy and an accomplished mariner. He was well liked by the crew of the cruise ships on which he served as Master.
In 1998, he ran into a bit of bad luck when the Monarch of the Seas ran into a reef after entering the harbor in St. Maarten in the middle of the night to bring a sick passenger ashore for emergency medical treatment. The incident occurred on December 15, 1998, when the cruise ship grounded on Proselyte Reef, in Great Bay, Philipsburg, St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles. The vessel sustained heavy damage to the hull and began to take on water, requiring Captain Myhra to ground the ship to keep it from sinking. The passengers were taken from the beached cruise ship via tenders.
There are a number of interesting reports of this incident, including a detailed marine casualty report from the U.S. Coast Guard and Norwegian maritime investigators (which contains Royal Caribbean Safety Management System - SMS - documents available on line).
In 1999, shortly after this debacle, Captain Myhra resigned from Royal Caribbean. Even though he was not at the helm when the ship hit the reef, he took responsibility.
Word has it that after retirement from the cruise business, he began a highly successful camping business called Rose Farm Touring & Camping Park in England with his wife, Susan, and their children.
Captain Myhra ended his career with Royal Caribbean trying to help a sick passenger in the middle of the night by diverting the cruise into port for emergency medical care.
It is beyond irony that "passenger" Myhra's life was cut short when he became ill and Royal Caribbean kept him on the Liberty of the Seas until the end of the cruise, only to die in a public hospital in Miami the next day.
September 26, 2009 Update: The story gets worse. "Royal Caribbean Delivers Cruel Blow to Widow of Beloved Captain Tore Myhra."
Liberty of the Seas BobDarling1956 Webshots
Legionella cells Scienceblogs.com
Liberty of the Seas H2O Zone The Travel Advocate
Monarch of the Seas CaptainsVoyage