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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Bahnfrend Creative Commons

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

Read about cruise norovirus cases from Barfblog.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck!

Photo Credit: WBAL Baltimore

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

Norovirus Aboard Crown Princess Sickens 66 Passengers & 17 Crew Members

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Vomiting & Diarrhea Bug Infects Passengers on Grandeur of the Seas

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 Photo Credit: Wikipedia / J. Glover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The following violation was typical:

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read the CDC report here.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Andrew J Bryson

Passengers Report Gastrointestinal Outbreak Aboard the HAL Maasdam

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

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

Today one passenger reported: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Andrew J Bryson

Norovirus Breaks Out On P&O Cruises' Oriana

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo Credit:  Wikipedia / Pjotr Mahhonin

Disease Outbreak on HAL Veendam

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

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

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

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

The story was first mentioned by the Cruise Fever blog.

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Djheini

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Norovirus on Explorer of the Seas: More Sick than Reported

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

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

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

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

Watch the video below. 

Photo Credit: Roberto Schmidt / AFP / Getty

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo BCredit: Mayra Beltran/Houston Chronicle

Norovirus Outbreak on Caribbean Princess Cruise Ship

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

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

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

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

A Houston newspaper said the virus was norovirus.

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

Yeah, right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Yankeesman312

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Royal Caribbean Cruise Explorer of the Seas Norovirus Chart 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Explorer of the Seas Norovirus

Photo Credit: Top - Getty Images

Time Magazine: The Top 13 Cruise Ship Norovirus Outbreaks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What, exactly, is Princess saying about refunds?

How did the cruise line handle the outbreak?

 

Photo Credit:  Wikipedia / Barrylb

Noro Virus on the Sun Princess?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Lemeki Lenoa

Norovirus on the Oasis of the Seas?

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo credit: Wikipedia / Baldwin040

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This trip was from hell!

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

Norovirus Outbreak Aboard the Celebrity Constellation

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

A passenger informed us:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo Credit: Getty Images 

Norovirus on the Celebrity Summit: A Reader's View

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo Credit: News 12 New Jersey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Black Death Plague" Claims New Cruise Victims

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

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

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

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

According to the Daily Record, one poor passenger said: 

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

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

My thoughts?

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

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

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Ra Boe 

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

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

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

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

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

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

130 out of 778 guests became ill.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrity Millennium Puke Cruise Arrives in Alaska

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Wikimedia / Captain-Tucker

Celebrity Millennium Cruise Ship Norovirus

 

Viral Outbreak Delays Departure of Cruise Ship From Liverpool

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

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

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

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

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

As usual, the cruise company also blamed the passengers: 

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

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

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

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

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / yeldark

Volendam Norovirus Outbreak Sickens HAL Cruise Passengers

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

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

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

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

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

Yesterday we reported on another HAL disease outbreak on the Veendam

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

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Barek

Carnival Fascination Cruise Ship Flunks Health and Sanitation Inspection

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

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

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

Five other cruise ships have failed CDC inspections this year.

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

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

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

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Jonathan Schilling

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

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

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

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

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

So what happened?  I don't know. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Photo Credit: Celebrity Infinity  - Wikipedia / Yankeesman312

Another Celebrity Cruise Ship Flunks Health & Sanitation Inspection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo Credit: Celebrity Century Cruise Ship - Wikipedia / Emesbe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

New Mutant Norovirus Strain to Wreak Havoc on Cruise Industry?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 26, 2012 Update: The Global Dispatch states:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Norovirus is spread person to person particularly in crowded, closed places. Norovirus is typically spread through contaminated food andwater, touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus and then putting your hand or fingers in your mouth and close contact with someone who is vomiting or has diarrhea.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia (Holger.Ellgaard)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo Credit: Centers for Disease Control

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo credit:

Top: AP via Fox News

Middle: WPTV

Bottom: Princess Cruises

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo Credit: News Tank

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cruise Puke Fest: Norovirus Strikes Celebrity Constellation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How did the cruise line handle this latest outbreak? 

 

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons (Megadri).

Did the Carnival Glory Sicken Canadians Ashore With Norovirus?

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

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

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

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

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

Another Princess Cruise Ship Stricken With Norovirus?

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

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

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

There are 1,970 passengers aboard the Island Princess

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

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

Norovirus Hits Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas

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

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

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

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

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

Please leave a comment below.

March 7, 2012 Update:

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

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

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

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

 

Photo credit:  Daily Echo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 5, 2012 Update:

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

 

Photo credit:  Getty

Princess Cruises Ends Crown Princess Cruise Early, Citing Norovirus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


# # #

What is Norovirus?

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

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

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

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


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

 

Photo credit:  Wikimedia Commons (Cliff)
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Two Princess Cruise Ships Sicken Passengers with Norovirus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 5 2012 Update:

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

Meanwhie, in New Orleans:

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

 

Photo Credit:   CBS-12

CruiseLog's Article on Cruise Ship Sickness Misses the Boat

The popular cruise blog written by Gene Sloan for the USA Today newspaper published an article yesterday entitled "Outbreaks of Illness on Cruise Ships at Multiyear Low."

CruiseLog cites statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control ("CDC") of 11 outbreaks of illnesses so far in 2011, down from 14 in 2010 and 15 in 2009.  It concludes that this reflects a "downward trend that began several years ago as the industry increased prevention efforts."

But looking at the data at the CDC website, you can see that the "trend" is actually flat, with 14 to 15  outbreaks reported to the CDC for each the past 3 years (2008, 2009 and 2010).  This year will probably end up with the same number of reported incidents.

There has been an additional outbreak reported to the CDC just since the CruiseLog article was published yesterday.  HAL's Ryndam cruise ship has reported that more than 5% of its passengers reported to the ship's infirmary complaining of vomiting and diarrhea. You can read Cruise Ship Sicknessabout this latest outbreak here.  The cruise ship is returning to Tampa tomorrow.

Unfortunately, there seems to be an outbreak or two over the Christmas and New Year sailing somewhere each year, so we should reasonably expect there to be the usual number (14 to 15) this year as in past years.

My real criticism of the CruiseLog article is not whether the number is actually 15 versus 11.  It is that the article really doesn't explain that the cruise ship outbreaks reported to the CDC are probably less than 50% of the actual number of incidents which occur around the world each year.  Remember that cruise lines do not report sickness outbreaks to the CDC if the cruise does not call on a U.S. port.  This is significant because many cruise lines re-positioned a greater number of their cruise ships to Europe and Asia in recent years compared to five years ago

Although it is difficult to track the incidents outside of the U.S., we have reported on a number of incidents this year. 

For example, in September, norovirus broke out on Celebrity's Eclipse sailing out of Southampton, England. Royal Caribbean's cruise ships sailing out of this U.K. port remained on heightened alert for months.  You will find no mention of this is in the official CDC database.  The cruise lines certainly will never voluntarily disclose this.

In November, we reported on one death and 80 sick passengers on HAL's Veendam which Holland America Line Veendam Cruise Ship Norovirus?experienced a sickness outbreak as the cruise reached in Rio de Janeiro.  

The other issue that the CruiseLog does not explain is the cruise lines report disease outbreaks only when 3% of passengers are afflicted based on the number of ill passengers who appear in the ship infirmary.  This is significantly less than the true number of those afflicted with viral illnesses.  Many sick passengers know that they will be quarantined in their cabins or they simply do not want to wait in the long lines outside of the ship infirmary. 

The Clinical Infectious Disease Journal reported earlier this year that 40% of passengers with a viral infection did not report being sick to the ship medical staff.  If these passengers were included in the sickness count, then the number of CDC reportable cases would surely increase.   

CruiseLog also points to Carnival as not reporting a single outbreak this year.  Does that mean that Carnival has a vaccine against the cruise ship bug?  Hardly.  Consider the following comments by cruise passengers on the CruiseJunkie website about the Carnival Conquest last week:

"From a passenger: There was an outbreak of something vomiting and diarrhea starting on Tuesday of the cruise (4-11 Dec). My husband got sick on Thursday morning and was asked to stay in cabin on isolation. On Friday I came down with vomiting and diarrhea. We were told there were lots of people sick.

Another passenger writes: On our final day at sea suddenly all the crew was wearing gloves and none of the passengers were allowed to get their own plate or food at the buffet.  Everything had to Cruise Ship Norovirusbe served by the staff and they were constantly wiping down everything and making announcements about hygiene.  We asked if something was going on and we were told no however by that night 3 of the seven people in our party were very sick and once we walked in on an employee in the bathroom vomiting very badly.  A casino employee told us that night many of the crew and passengers were very sick. 

When we were getting off the boat Sunday we saw stacks and stacks of mattresses in plastic they were loading on the ship.  We still have people from our group sick and I wish we had been told something.  We received no information and since I was traveling with two children and my seventy year old father I continue to be concerned." 

Families intending to cruise and worried about norovirus should read news sources like CruiseLog with a grain of salt.  There is no empirical evidence that norovirus and other cruise ship sicknesses are on the decline. 

Regarding cruises not calling on a U.S. port, the best sources of information are anecdotal, like cruise community forums and websites not beholden to the cruise lines like Professor Ross Klein's CruiseJunkie.

Celebrity Solstice Hit By Cruise Ship Virus?

The Centers for Disease Control ("CDC") report that 118 of the 2,730 passengers aboard the Celebrity Solstice cruise ship have reported to the ship's medical facility with vomiting, diarrhea and other symptoms of gastrointestinal illness.

The Solstice is currently on a 14 day cruise and will return to Fort Lauderdale on December 11, 2011.

Pursuant to the CDC Vessel Sanitation Program, environmental health officers and an epidemiologist will board the cruise ship, once it returns to Fort Lauderdale tomorrow, in order assess the outbreak and the cruise line's response activities.

It has been our experience over the years that the "official" CDC numbers of ill passengers and crewmembers is usually less than the true number of those afflicted with viral illnesses.  This is because many sick passengers know that they will be quarantined in their cabins or they simply do not want to wait in the long lines outside of the ship infirmary.  Often, sick crewmembers are Celebrity Solstice - Cruise Ship Sicknesspressed to work notwithstanding their sicknesses.  

We wrote about the problem of under reporting last year when the Celebrity Mercury experienced a prolonged outbreak of norovirus: Is Celebrity Cruises Under-Reporting Sicknesses to the CDC?

This is not the first time the Solstice has experienced an outbreak this year.  In January and February, there were norovirus outbreaks on the Solstice with one passenger dying due to exposure to the virus. 

Celebrity Cruises has experienced other bouts of widespread illnesses in 2011.  Over 100 passengers became sick on the Millennium in May of this year. 

Not all gastrointestinal outbreaks are documented with the CDC.  The cruise lines do not have to report the outbreaks when the cruise ship does not call on a U.S. port.  In September, norovirus broke out on Celebrity's Eclipse sailing out of Southampton, England.  You will find no mention of it in the official CDC database.

Earlier this week, we discussed Is there a Cure for the Cruise Ship Virus?

If you were on the Solstice and have something to add to this story, please leave a comment below.  Was the sickness more widespread than reported?  How did the cruise line handle the situation?   

 

Photo credit:  Examiner

Is there a Cure for the Cruise Ship Virus?

Afraid of your cruise vacation ruined by a nasty bout of diarrhea and vomiting?

There may be hope for you.   

Cruise Ship Virus - Norovirus - Passenger SicknessWebMD and a few other medical journals report that there have been promising results from the tests of an experimental vaccine designed to prevent infection and symptoms associated with  norovirus.

WebMD explains that researchers sprayed the experimental vaccine in the noses of 47 volunteers. They also sprayed a "placebo vaccine in the noses of 43 other volunteers."  The study participants all swallowed a large dose of the norovirus (yuck).

About two-thirds of those who got the placebo vaccine developed gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting.  However, only a third of the participants who received the real vaccine developed  symptoms.

The researcher behind the experiment, Dr. Robert Atmar, a professor of medicine and molecular virology at the Baylor College of Medicine, said that the results are very promising, but it will be a few more years of research before the vaccine can be offered to the public.

Although commonly referred to as the "cruise ship virus," the virus also affects nursing homes, hospitals and restaurants.   Over the years, the cruise industry's trade organization, Cruise Lines Cruise Ship Norovirus - Virus SicknessInternational Association ("CLIA"), has tried to disassociate itself from this nasty virus.  It often writes to newspapers complaining when norovirus is described in such nautical terms.

When nororvirus breaks out on a cruise ship, you will usually hear the cruise lines and pro-cruise line publications stating that the cruise ship has been subjected to "enhanced cleaning,' whatever that means.  Cruise Critic ran an article earlier this year with a title "Norovirus is NOT a 'Cruise Ship' Virus."   The article showed a couple of photographs of crewmembers spraying down tables, chairs and even the roulette wheel.  Many topical solutions sprayed like this are not effective in killing the virus.  If a towel is contaminated, the wiping down of everything in sight spreads the virus everywhere. 

You will never hear the cruise lines or industry publications mention that the norovirus may not be spread from person-to-person, but  have been transmitted by contaminated food or water.   

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

Cruise Ship Virus - NorovirusWhatever the source of the virus on cruise ships, it is encouraging that there are doctors researching a vaccine against this dreaded sickness. 

For other articles about noro virus on cruise ships, consider reading: 

Cruise Ship Norovirus - Clean the Damn Toilets!

Cruise Ship Norovirus - Something in the Water? 

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

100 Norovirus Victims On Sapphire Princess Cruise Ship - Princess Cruises Blames Passengers

  

 

Photo credits:

Top:  Reuters via Mail Online

Middle & Bottom:  CruiseCritic