Ocean PrincessThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that there is a gastrointestinal outbreak on the Ocean Princess cruise ship, with 43 of 603 (7.13%) of passengers ill during the cruise and 5 of 387 (1.29%) crew members sick.

The Princess cruise ship is currently sailing on a February 13 – March 7, 2016 itinerary. The cruise ship is scheduled to go into dry dock on March 7th.

Princess has 50% of the four cruise ship norovirus that meet the CDC’s criteria so far this year. This should be no surprise to anyone who follows gastrointestinal outbreaks on cruise ships.

As I pointed out in my last article about a gastrointestinal outbreak on a Princess cruise ship (the Crown Princess), 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. Including this most recent outbreak, Princess has reported twenty (20) cases to the CDC during this time period.

In contrast, 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 number (12) during the 2010 to 2016 time period. Cunard reported 4; NCL -3; Oceania – 3; and Crystal – 2.

Anyone have an explanation why there have been 10 times as many CDC-reported GI outbreaks on Princess cruise ships compared to Carnival cruise line ships?

Photo Credit: Pjotr Mahhonin – CC0, Wikipedia

  • Kenny

    These are rather interesting statistics, regarding both Princess and HAL. Now, we are frequent cruisers on both lines but over the last 15 months have been on five Princess cruises for a total of over 100 days. Here is the pertinent comment in my critiques that I have been posting on Princess reviews over that period of time:

    “Not certain why Princess has significantly reduced the number of hand sanitizer stations once found abundantly throughout their ships. Are they going back to the era of mass epidemics or do they know something we don’t about sanitizing? Certainly hope it is not a cost saving ploy. For what it’s worth though, this voyage was “bug free”. I.e.,no hacking and coughing all around in theatres etc. late in the voyage. Hurray.”

    So, we just got off our last Princess cruise a little over two weeks ago. On that cruise the C.C. group had a session where the Cruise Director spoke to us. This very topic on health came up. The Director gave a very positive assessment of the Princess hygienic practices on board, maybe even to the point of being a little over assertive. For instance, he said, “how can you argue with success?”

    Okay, define “success” Mr. Princess Line Cruise Director. At least in the face of these latest public numbers do that. But wait, HAL is a close second to the worst in the industry, Princess. That in itself creates a problem, since Princess and HAL are joined at the hip now. The Holland America Group, started by Carnival Corp about two years ago, has Stein Kruse at the helm, Kruse himself is answerable to none other than the head of Carnival Corp himself. So we have Kruse, who has managed to get HAL ships recognized as the “Ash Trays of the Seas” and now we learn he has taken both lines into recognition as the “Virus of the Seas”.

    My gosh, Stein Kruse leads the parade as the head of the two most dangerous lines going, to catch a virus on.

  • Tore Eliassen

    Hi Jim, and thank’s for your exellent Cruise Law News. Great help both for any future cruise passenger, but also for the cruise industry itself to help them getting better.

    I might have an answer to your question;
    Anyone have an explanation why there have been 10 times as many CDC-reported GI outbreaks on Princess cruise ships compared to Carnival cruise line ships?

    1.Princess are sailing with many more eldry people, while Carnival’s passengers are mostly younger?!

    Health care facilities, including nursing homes and hospitals, are the most commonly reported settings for norovirus outbreaks in the United States and other industrialized countries. Over half of all norovirus outbreaks reported in the United States occur in long-term care facilities.

    2.Carnival’s cruise intineraries are mostly scheduled in tropical climat, while many other cruise liners are sailing from/to cooler climat?!

    Norovirus infections and outbreaks are usually more common in cooler weather, winter months. About half of all cases occur from December through February in countries above the equator (center line of the earth) and June through August in countries below the equator.

    3. Maybe Princess need to look into their entire food handler operation?!

    Infected food workers are frequently the source of the outbreaks, often by touching ready-to-eat foods, such as raw fruits and vegetables, with their bare hands before serving them. However, any food served raw or handled after beint cooked mitt Get infected.
    Norovirus outbreaks can occur from water or foods, such as oysters, fruits, and vegetables, that are contaminated at their source.

    Why noroviruses are associated with cruise ships?
    Health officials track illness on cruise ships.
    So outbreaks are found and reported more quickly on a cruise ship than on land.
    People joining the ship may bring the virus to other passengers and crew.
    Close living quarters may increase the amount of group contact.
    Norovirus can be especially challenging to control on cruises ships because of the close living quarters, shared dining areas, and rapid turnover of passengers. When the ship docks, norovirus can be brought on board in contaminated food or water or by passengers who were infected while ashore.
    Norovirus can spread quickly in closed places like daycare centers, nursing homes, and cruise ships. Most norovirus outbreaks happen from November to April in the United States.

    Norovirus is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis in the United States. Each year, it causes 19-21 million illnesses and contributes to 56,000-71,000 hospitalizations and 570-800 deaths. Norovirus is also the most common cause of foodborne-disease outbreaks in the United States.

    Anyone can get infected with norovirus and you can get it more than once. It is estimated that a person will get norovirus about 5 times during their lifetime. Many people usually get sick with norovirus in cooler months, especially from November to April.

    Happy sailing!

  • marilyn jones

    I would just like to point out that the CDC VSP is currently stating that the causative agent on the Ocean Princess is “unknown”. See link below:

    http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/vsp/surv/outbreak/2016/february13_ocean_princess.htm

  • Kristi Aliaga

    I have to agree with every one of Tore Eliassen’s points. Prior to reading them, I was thinking more “mom” and not as scientifically as Tore, please pardon my lay person style.

    I wonder if it is possible that Princess might not use a strong enough anti-bacterial cleaner. It looks like the virus can stay on surfaces even in the carpets. Since they do carry older guests and go to colder climates maybe they need to invest in a more stringent cleaning model.

    I love cruises and I think the stewards do an excellent job getting cabins prepared for the next cruise. That being said, I have also found items left in the cabin from previous passengers. Maybe Princess should give stewards a bit more time to really disinfect cabins before the next passengers arrive.

  • kazz

    I have only sailed on about 4 different lines and I have to say I have never seen a cruise line clean their ships like MSC. Always staff cleaning hand rails on stairways and the toilets in public areas must be cleaned about 50 times a day or at least as soon as they are used. I think this constant cleaning helps keep infections down.

  • tinikini

    My personal thought is this. When Chipotle had their outbreak the CEO went on national television in front of millions of people and claimed he would investigate from “farm to fork” to get the outbreak contained.

    I can’t help but think that in these ports there are certain suppliers who supply the majority of the ships. There are no little guys supplying the ships because they can’t compete with the big guys. Maybe it is time for the cruise lines to investigate their suppliers from “farm to fork”. At least Chipotle said they were going to investigate and they did shut down their stores for enhanced cleaning and training. The cruise lines never say a thing about what they are doing to investigate or cure the problem. People boycotted Chipotle anyway and their stock crashed. Why would it not be the same for the cruise industry?

    Ships also take on food and water from various countries while sailing. How safe is all of that and how is that treated, handled and inspected??? If you are on the right side of the ship when in port you can see them move items and stock the ship. Things are out in the hot sun or might sit on the deck for hours, and the process of contamination begins. They are not held to American health code.

    I will agree that older people are not the best hand washers in the world or the cleanest at some times, but you have to remember as well that children and older people do not have the immune system that the younger and middle aged people have. So yes, if they are exposed they get ill and the outbreak begins. If you cater to older people or children you need to put counter measures in place to avoid an outbreak.

    I can not imagine what it is like to keep just one of those big ships clean and manage all of the food and water that runs through it, much less an entire fleet. It is a huge responsibility to serve the public and keep them safe from illness. If I ever made someone sick at my restaurant I would feel horrible. I give it my all to make sure we are doing things properly and taking no short cuts. I agree that more port time is required to get the proper cleaning and sanitizing done. Better pay, better food, better medical care, better perks, days off, and working environment for the crew would also help, when you feel appreciated and respected you do a better job and are happier while doing that job.

    With that being said, we sailed with HAL twice during their high outbreak times and never were sick. However we are hand washers and we did use hand sanitizer. Also being in the food business we do pay attention to things that most don’t. In addition, the staff was fantastic and we saw them cleaning constantly. We also tip those who work hard for us and pay the automatic tip on the bill at check out. One night we saw wall washing going on at 2:00 a.m. I felt sorry for them, but knew it had to be done. It was the next to the last night of our cruise, and we always take bags of candy to give out no matter where we go, so my husband and I walked our deck and passed out the candy until it was gone to make the wall washing more bearable. The smiles on all of their faces…I will never forget. (:

  • Kenny

    After considering these numbers, it is apparent they can be somewhat misleading. If all fleet sizes were equal these statistics would be meaningful, but they are not.

    More accurately, the size of the fleet should be factored in. Since one of these epidemics strikes an entire ship, the number of ships in a given fleet should be considered. Doing so on a per-passenger guest & crew number basis wouldn’t make much sense.

    Therefore, on a per-ship cases basis, Carnival does have the lowest rate @ .0833, followed by Norwegian Cruise Line @ .230, then Princess @ 1.111, then HAL @ 1.25,then RCI @ 1.28, then Cunard @ 1.33, then Celebrity @ 1.5.

    My guess is that the reason Carnival and NCL numbers are so low compared to the rest is that the majority of their cruises are of such short duration, both lines have lots of week cruises and cruises of even shorter lengths, therefore the bugs have less chance to manifest into epidemics before the passengers again. Of course, it would seem that RCI would do better then since they are heavy on the booze cruise short duration cruises as well.

    In summary, Princess is one of the best, not the worst.