The first norovirus outbreak on a cruise ship calling on a U.S. port this year has been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And, no surprise to anyone that follows cruise ship outbreaks, it involved a Princess Cruises cruise ship.
The Crown Princess just returned to Los Angeles following a two week cruise from January 3 – 18, 2016. 180 of the 3,060 passengers (5,88 %) aboard the cruise ship were sick with symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea. 24 of 1,168 crew members (2.05%) became ill with gastrointestinal symptoms which the CDC confirmed were due to norovirus. You can read the CDC report here.
During the six year period from 2010 to the current date, Princess Cruises experienced the most norovirus outbreaks on its cruise ships calling on a U.S. port, according to the CDC. Princess reported nineteen (19) cases to the CDC during this time period. Carnival cruise lines reported just two (2) cases during the same time period.
Celebrity Cruises reported 15 cases (and Royal Caribbean reported 9). HAL also reported a high nummber (12) during the 2010 to 2016 time period.
Cunard reported 4; NCL -3; Oceania – 3; and Crystal – 2.
The Crown Princess alone has suffered through five (5) norovirus outbreaks since 2010 to the present. Before the current outbreak, the last outbreak on the Crown Princess was from October 18 to November 16, 2014. Prior to that, it was February 5 to 12, 2014. It also experienced back-to-back outbreaks from January 29 to February 4, 2012 and February 4 to February 9, 2012 (photo above).
The Crown Princess alone experienced two and one-half time more norovirus outbreaks that the entire fleet of Carnival cruise lines from 2010 to the present!
So why is Princess Cruises far more prone to norovirus outbreaks than Carnival cruise lines, for example?
The cruise industry always blames the passengers for bringing the virus aboard, rather than its food handlers, or contaminated food or water. So are Princess Cruises customers the sickest and the least hygienic cruisers around? Do they wash their hands the least of any cruisers? That seems like a absurd argument to make.
Is there a correlation between the age of the cruise ships and gastrointestinal outbreaks? Are different food sources and food handling techniques a more reasonable explanation? How about different sanitation procedures? I’m not sure. The CDC doesn’t have time to determine the source of the norovirus outbreak (sick food handlers versus contaminated food or water or a sick passenger) so it is of no help.
But blaming the passengers when one cruise line (and one cruise ship in particular) has far more gastrointestinal outbreaks than its competitors is certainly not the answer.