The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that there was a gastrointestinal outbreak on the Crown Princess during its recent cruise, from October 25th to November 8, 2017. The Princess cruise ship departed Quebec, Canada on October 25th for a two-week cruise to Canadian and U.S. ports. The cruise ship arrived in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on November 8th and will begin its Caribbean season.
According to the CDC report, 184 passengers and 12 crew members became ill with gastro-like symptoms which included diarrhea.
During the period from 2010 to the current date, Princess Cruises experienced the most outbreaks on its cruise ships calling on U.S. ports, according to the CDC. Princess reported twenty-one (21) cases to the CDC during this time period.
The Crown Princess alone has suffered through six (6) norovirus outbreaks since 2010 to the present. Before the current GI outbreak, the last norovirus outbreak on the Crown Princess was from January 3 – 18, 2016 and, before that, from October 18 to November 16, 2014. Earlier, there was a norovirus and e-coli outbreak from February 5 to 12, 2014. It also experienced back-to-back norovirus outbreaks from January 29 to February 4, 2012 and February 4 to February 9, 2012 (photo right).
The cruise line with the second most outbreaks is Holland America Line with 18 cases of GI sicknesses reported to the CDC since 2010. HAL suffered norovirus outbreaks on the Nieuw Amsterdam, and two outbreaks each on the Volendam and the Noordam this year.
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? Are guests of HAL the second most unhygienic cruisers? Do they wash their hands the least of any cruisers? This seems like absurd arguments 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?
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. The CDC has not even determined the type of virus involved in the most recent outbreak on the Crown Princess.
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.
Whoever is to blame, the crew members, of course, always pay the price, by having to wipe and scrub and spray everything in sight for long 16+ hour days to try to disinfect a ship longer than three football fields.
Irrespective of the blame-game, don’t call us if you get sick on a cruise. Proving where the virus came from, or that the cruise line was negligent, is virtually impossible to prove, especially since the CDC conducts no epidemiological analysis and sometimes can’t even figure out whether the outbreak is due to norovirus, e-coli or something as exotic as shigella sonnei or cyclospora cayetanensis.
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Photo credit: WPTV (2012 noro outbreak); Royal Caribbean crew members (anonymous crew member).