A local news station in Charleston South Carolina is reporting that passengers aboard the Mercury cruise ship on the March 21st sailing are ill. The story is entitled "Five Cases of Norovirus on Celebrity Mercury Cruise Ship."
The article suggests that the information came from the cruise line, although I do not see a quote or a press release from Royal Caribbean / Celebrity. The article is rather vague, as I’m sure it’s more accurate to say that some passengers have norovirus-like symptoms. Stool samples have to be taken and analyzed ashore before anyone can conclude that norovirus exists. (There is still no official determination regarding the cause of the last round of sickness on the Mercury).
If this information is accurate, five cases of gastrointestinal sickness is not particularly significant. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) "Vessel Sanitation Program" does not require the data to be reported until at least 2% of the passengers are affected (around 37 passengers).
It is possible that all five passengers were infected before they boarded the cruise ship, because there are reports of norovirus ashore of course. It is also possible that they contracted a virus after they boarded.
We have received a number of calls and emails asking for information about the Mercury’s March 21st sailing. Here are some suggestions:
The Cruise Critic message board has a posting "People are Sick Again on the Mercury," where there is mention of a small number of passengers who may be ill. The cruise community message boards are sometimes a good source of information, particularly when the cruise lines are not forthcoming with information.
I have found that the CDC eventually responds to e-mails and telephone calls. The email for the CDC is firstname.lastname@example.org – be sure to include "Celebrity Mercury Cruise Ship – March 21st sailing" in the title of your email. The telephone number is 800-232-4636.
The PR person at Royal Caribbean who handles crisis management statements, including norovirus outbreaks, is Cynthia Martinez. Her email is CynthiaMartinez@rccl.com I would be interested if anyone receives a response.
We often hear from passengers directly from the cruise ships. If we hear something, we will update this article.
March 27, 2010 Update:
The Charleston Regional Business Journal reports that the Mercury has only 6 sick passengers -"Celebrity Mercury Sees Huge Dip in Sickness After Extra Cleaning Measures." Good news for Celebrity Cruises and the next round of passengers who will be sailing this Monday, March 29th.
Photograph Directory of Charleston