The Sun Sentinel recently reported on a lawsuit filed against Holland America Line arising out of a stroke suffered by a 65 year old woman while aboard the M/S Zuiderdam in March of 2018.

Lila Graciela Kohn Gale reportedly suffered a hemorrhagic stroke shortly after the HAL cruise ship left Ft. Lauderdale at the start of a seven day Caribbean cruise. Although the medical emergency occurred less than five hours after the ship left Port Everglades, when the cruise ship was likely less than 100 miles from the South Florida coast, the ship did not contact the U.S. Coast Guard in order to request an emergency medical evacuation.

Mr. and Ms. Gales reportedly enjoyed traveling together on cruises.  Mr. Gale described his wife, prior to the cruise, as a vibrant, fun loving, bilingual therapist and counselor.

Ms. Gale lost consciousness around 8:30 p.m. on the first evening of the cruise; the ship’s doctor, Socrates Lopez, assessed Ms. Gale and quickly determined that she required a CT scan of her brain and an emergency consult with a neurologist or neurosurgeon. However, instead of calling the Coast Guard and requesting a medevac, the ship’s medical staff reportedly left Ms. Gales untreated despite her worsening condition. It then sent her via a tugboat to a hospital in Freeport, Bahamas, Rand Memorial Hospital, around 11:00 p.m., after giving her husband a medical bill for $3,500.  Ms. Gales arrived at the hospital in Freeport shortly after midnight, but the public hospital did not have a neurosurgeon, neurologist, or even a functioning CT scan.

According to the lawsuit (which you can read here), a doctor in the Bahamas made the decision to transfer Ms. Gale to Broward Health Medical Center, a comprehensive stroke center in Ft. Lauderdale, but the airport was also closed for the night.  The next morning, Ms. Gale arranged for an air ambulance (at an expenses to him of $15,000 which HAL refused to pay) to fly his wife from the Bahamas to Broward Health where she finally arrived more than 15 hours after her stroke on the cruise ship.  Ms. Gale required emergency surgery to relieve the pressure on her brain in order to try and minimize the extent of her cerebral injuries

The lawsuit alleges that the delay in treatment cause an excessive amount of Ms. Gale’s brain tissue to die, leaving her with “devastating physical, cognitive and neurological deficits which require extensive medical care and treatment around the clock.”  Her lawyer, Tom Scolaro of Leesfield Scolaro P.A. in Miami, (as quoted in the Sun Sentinel article) states that Ms. Gale is now  “severely disabled” requiring  “24-hour round-the-clock nursing care.” The Chicago Tribune, which also covered the tragic story in an article titled ‘I Want Justice’: Suburban Family Sues Cruise Ship Operator For Not Airlifting Woman Who Had Stroke On Board, further explained that Ms. Gale “cannot walk and struggles with language while her memory, perception and concentration skills have been impaired.” She now lives in pain at a nursing home and is not expected to recover enough to return home.

The irony of this sad case is is that HAL claims that it is an “industry leader in cruise medicine.” It advertises to its mostly elderly cruise customers that it can disembark them “via Coast Guard helicopter if medically appropriate and logistically possible in relation to the ship’s distance from land.”

Medically Appropriate?

Based on the facts presented, there appears to be no dispute that it was “medically appropriate,” if not absolutely necessary, to have arranged for Ms. Gale to receive comprehensive treatment at a stroke center as soon as possible.  The facts alleged are that her brain was “slowly dying;” sending her via a tugboat to an ill-equipped hospital in the Bahamas without qualified and experienced specialists appears to be an undeniably ill-conceived and callous decision under the circumstances.

Logistically Possible?

And there appears to be little dispute that it was “logistically possible” (in relation to the ship’s distance from land) for the U.S. Coast Guard to dispatch a helicopter to fly 100 miles to medevac Ms. Gale from the cruise ship.

We have written about over 150 medevacs of passengers and crew members by the Coast Guard from cruise ships since 2011 (our list is admittedly not complete).  In the last four years alone, there have been at least twenty  medevacs via helicopter where the Coast Guard flew in excess of 100 miles to the cruise ships to hoist ill passengers aboard and then fly them an equal distance to a land-based hospital in the U.S. with appropriate medical facilities and experts.

The last reported medevac, just five days ago, from a cruise ship involved a Coast Guard helicopter which flew 200 miles to the Norwegian Star west of San Diego in order to medically evacuate a passenger with a heart condition.

Shorty before Christmas last year, the Coast Guard flew a distance of 402 miles to rescue a passenger suffering from kidney failure from the Anthem of the Seas in the Atlantic so that he could receive emergency medical treatment in North Carolina.

Coast Guard Helicopters Fly Thousands of Miles a Year to Rescue Sick Passengers During Cruises

The Coast Guard also conducted the following medevacs in the last four years, each in excess of 100 miles:

These distances are to the cruise ship; the Coast Guard helicopters obviously have to fly an equal distance back to land. (There may be other emergency medical rescues via helicopter; this list is not exhaustive).

In addition to these medevacs by the U.S. Coast Guard, we have written about long distance emergency medical evacuations conducted by navy and air forces in Europe involving distances of several hundred miles, such as this case in 2017 involving the P&O Aurora where a Portuguese Air Force helicopter flew nearly 600 kilometers (photo above right) from the coast of Portugal to rescue an ill cruise passenger at sea.

Strokes Require FAST Medical Treatment – Not A Slow Boat to the Bahamas

All first year medical or nursing students know the “FAST” acronym regarding a stroke:  Facial drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulties and Time to call emergency services. It is universally recognized there is a limited time period in which to treat a stroke before a patient suffers irreversible, serious neurological deficits. Failures of the type alleged in this sad case typically appear to involve incompetent shipboard medical staff.

The Delayed Care of Christina Marie Ricci

We are aware of at least one other recent instance of delayed and substandard shipboard care and a refusal to request a Coast Guard medevac involving a young woman who sustained a stroke on a Carnival cruise ship.

In 2015, 24 year-old Christina Marie Ricci was a passenger aboard the Carnival Victory when she suffered a stroke just eight hours after the cruise left Miami. According to her mother’s account, instead of requesting a Coast Guard medevac, the Carnival cruise ship, which was off the coast of Florida, sailed on to Key West as her medical condition worsened. Once there, about six hours after her stroke, Christina was taken to a non-trauma care facility unit, where she was assessed and then eventually flown to Miami’s trauma hospital, Jackson Memorial. Her treating doctors at Jackson informed her family that they could have managed her medical care if the cruise line had timely requested a Coast Guard medevac from the ship.

Christina died 19 days later, without regaining consciousness.

That’s why most competent ship physicians will not hesitate to contact the nearest Coast Guard station and discuss a passenger’s symptoms with a Coast Guard flight surgeon in order to request a medevac.

I have never heard of the Coast Guard refusing to dispatch a helicopter to a cruise ship involving a victim of a stroke, heart attack or other serious medical emergency, particularly where the ship was less than 100 miles from a state-of-the-art stroke center in the U.S.

The Coast Guard Does Not Charge Cruise Passengers or Cruise Lines for Emergency Medical Care

The expenses of a Coast Guard medevac are never charged to the ill cruise passenger and are paid for 100% by the federal government. Cruise passengers do not have to have medical insurance in order to reimburse the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard also do not charge the cruise line for the medevac of their ill guests who require emergency care ashore, which makes the alleged failure of the medical staff aboard the M/S Zuiderdam even more inexplicable and troubling.

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Story credits: Sun Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, CBS 4 Miami (video).

Photo of M/S Zuiderdam – Copyright © 2008 K. Krallis, SV1XV – CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

Photos of Ms. Gale – via Chicago Tribune, CBS 4 Miami.

Photo of Christina Marie Ricci – Lisa Ricci.

Medevac Photo Top – U.S. Coast Guard via Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS).

Medevac Photo Bottom – Esquadra 751.

A cruise passenger on board Holland America Line’s Maasdam was killed on November 7th when she slipped and fell between a tender and the HAL cruise ship. At the time of the incident, the ship was in Rarotonga in the Cook Islands.

The source of the information is a passenger, wishing to remain anonymous, who stated that: . . . the seas were very rough and it was debatable whether we should have been tendering at all. She was traveling by herself. It would appear that this incident is being covered up. The safety on this ship is rather haphazard.”

The passenger later stated that “the tender service was definitely operated by HAL. The staff members were offered counseling by phone.  I am particularly surprised how unsafe it is on their tenders . . . This particular day was the roughest I have ever seen at sea.  It was definitely not safe and that poor lady paid the ultimate price.”

The Maasdam is currently sailing on a 28 night “Polynesian & South Seas Sampler” cruise.

Cruise lines have a legal duty to exercise a minimum of reasonable care while transferring passengers to and from their cruise ships. A passenger was killed three and one-half years ago when she fell between the tender and the Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth. Eight years ago, a passenger was seriously injured when she fell trying to exit from a tender ferrying passengers to Grand Cayman from a Carnival cruise ship. Seven and one-half years ago, a woman died when she was dropped during a transfer from the Ocean Countess operated by  Cruise and Maritime Voyages.

The case is likely to be governed by the Death on the High Seas Act (“DOHSA”), which limits the recovery only to “pecuniary” (i.e., financial) damages.  Any surviving family members, such as a spouse or children, are not entitled under the terms of DOHSA to recover emotional damages such as grief, bereavement and emotional distress. If the woman is retired and not a wage earner, her family will be limited to just burial expenses.

DOHSA is one of the most antiquated, cruelest and completely callous laws imaginable.

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

November 12, 2018 update: A passenger on the cruise left the following comment on our Facebook page: “We were on that cruise and witnessed how unsafe the tendering operation were conducted.The tragedy of this event is that the captain did cover the fatal accident from the passengers and did not properly informed us about what had happened. This gives people reason to gossip and speculate about the real cause of the accident. On that day in Rarotonga the sea was very rough and there were no extra activities from the crew to make sure that tendering operations went safer. The state of tenders on HAL was below criticism.”

November 13, 2018 a.m. update: Newsweek is reporting on the fatality.

November 13, 2018 p.m. update: The Maasdam returned to Rarotonga today, but the master announced that due to rough conditions the ship is unable to tender ashore. A passenger stated “funny, it’s a lot calmer than the other day” (when the passenger died). A photo of the weather conditions today:

The local newspaper (Cook Islands News) reported on the incident.

November 14, 2018 Update: HAL touts itself today in a press release for winning the best cruise line for  shore excursions in a reader’s choice award from Porthole magazine, just a week after a guest was killed during a shore excursion.

Photo credit: Top -M/S/ Maasdam via Holland America Line

Middle and bottom – Maasdam tender – anonymous.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issued air quality violations to eight cruise ships and water quality violations to nine cruise ships last week, according to the Juneau Empire.

In an article by Kevin Gullufsen, the newspaper reported that four Holland America Line (HAL) cruise ships, two Princess Cruises ships, and one cruise ship operated by Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) and one ship operated by Royal Caribbean violated Alaska’s air quality standards throughout the cruise season’s summer months (June-August).

Alaska’s DEC cited HAL’s Eurodam, Westerdam, Amsterdam, and Nieuw Amsterdam; Princess’ Emerald Princess and Golden Princess; NCL’s Norwegian Jewel; and Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas (which was cited twice).

Last year, the DEC determined that NCL’s Norwegian Jewel and HAL’s Amsterdam violated Alaska’s air standards.

The violations reportedly could result in fines as high as $46,192 per cruise ship.

The manager of Alaska’s cruise ship emissions monitoring program told the Juneau Empire that: “opacity is an indicator for overall air quality. So there are things that could be in the emissions. Things like nitrogen oxides or particulates. Things that can be breathed in and can potentially cause some health effects.”

Just last week in another article by Kevin Gullufsen, the Juneau Empire reported that “exhaust emissions poured from the Norwegian Pearl’s exhaust stack” as the NCL cruise ship was docking in Alaksa. The DEC has not yet announced whether the Norwegian Pearl violated Alaska’s air quality standards.

A few days later, a Canadian resident filmed the same NCL cruise ship spewing emissions in Victoria and posted the film on Twitter, which you can see below.

The DEC also found that nine cruise ships violated Alaska’s water quality standards this summer, according to the Juneau Empire.

Five Princess cruise ships violated water quality standards, including the Emerald Princess, Island Princess, Golden Princess, Ruby Princess and Star Princess.  The Star Princess and the Emerald Princess violated the water standards twice.

The DEC also issued wastewater discharge violations to HAL’s Eurodam, Noordam, and Voledam, as well as Seabourn Cruise Line’s Sojourn.

A month ago, we reported that Princess Cruises’ Star Princess recently discharged sludge from its exhaust system scrubbers in the port of Ketchikan, according to the city of Ketchikan. The discharge was originally reported by KRBD Community Radio. KRBD reported the Star Princess’ discharge and a similar discharge from the Golden Princess while the ship was in Ketchikan.

As shown by photographs (above and on our Facebook page, courtesy of the city of Ketchikan), the sludge polluted the waters of Ketchikan and fouled the port facilities where the Princess cruise ship were berthed. The DEC has not yet announced that these particular discharges violated Alaska’s water standards.

Princess denied the reports, claiming that “our experts believe what was viewed and photographed is most likely sea foam discolored by natural microorganisms such as algae in the seawater, which is commonly experienced in northern climates in the summer season.”

Alaska cited two cruise ships operated by Princess Cruises for violating both air and water standards – the Emerald Princess and Golden Princess.

The air violations by HAL, Princess and Royal Caribbean and the water violations by HAL and Princess all involved pollution by cruise lines which have pleaded guilty to environmental violations and lying to the U.S Coast Guard. Princess was the latest cruise line to have pleaded guilty to such crimes and lying to federal agencies, resulting in a fine of $40,000,000.  Federal prosecutors found that the Star Princess and the Golden Princess were in the middle of Princess’ widespread, ongoing schemes to pollute and lie about it.

Princess appears to be in direct violation of the guilty plea agreement (where it promised not to commit further violations of international, federal, state, or local environmental laws) which it entered into with the federal government in December of 2016. Whether the federal government does anything about Princess’ continuing pattern of pollution is another matter.

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

September 13, 2018 Update: Alaska’s Department of Environmental Conservation stated today that the DEC issued wastewater citations to HAL for “unauthorized discharge of untreated graywater” from the Noordam. It cited Princess Cruises for “unauthorized discharge of treated graywater” from the Star  Princess.  The DEC’s notices of violations issued for water standards were all related to unauthorized untreated graywater or treated mixed graywater and sewage, in violations of Alaska’s wastewater discharge permit. These are not for scrubber washwater discharges.

Photo credits: Top – Norwegian Pearl in Juneau / Photo credit Tim Olson / KTOO Public Radio; middle – city of Ketchikan via KRBD Community Radio.

Rowan Moore, a journalist for The Guardian newspaper in London, used the words “misery machines” in describing giant cruise ships in an opinion piece last Sunday. He writes:

Giant cruise ships look to me like misery machines. They don’t make residents happy in the places they visit. They don’t make their crews happy, if you are to believe the recurring allegations of mistreatment of staff . . .”

I posted the article on Facebook and Twitter. The push back from cruise passengers was instant. “Cruise lines enjoy 93+% customer satisfaction. That’s better than chocolate companies!!” posted a Facebook follower, echoing the common view of cruising from the perspective of cruise fans.

That’s the common reaction on social media whenever I write about the harsh employment conditions which crew members face on cruise ships. Many cruise passengers who read this blog could not care less.

Unfortunately, the same seems to be true when it comes to members of the U.S. Congress. If the problem does not involve a local constituent, most members of Congress will not give you the time of day. The nativist / anti-immigrant mentality promoted by the current administration has made it more difficult to defend the rights of “foreign” (i.e., non-U.S.) crew members who comprise the overwhelming majority of cruise ship employees.

I’ve attended hearings in Washington D.C. regarding the issue of cruise safety where the cruise industry has testified that that 95% of people who cruise have a positive experience. No doubt. Pampered by cabin attendants, waiters and bartenders, cruise guests enjoy the unrealistically inexpensive cruise fares offered by a cruise industry which pays no taxes and escapes U.S. wages and labor regulations by registering their businesses and ships in places like Liberia, Panama and the Bahamas.

As long as the cruise leaves and returns on time and doesn’t break down in between, most cruise guests are not concerned about what happens behind the scenes, whether it is overworked, underpaid and stressed-out crew members or sludge illegally dumped at sea.

No one cares to take a satisfaction survey of crew members.

Life on board a foreign flagged behemoth is no box of chocolates for the crew, despite the high guest satisfaction rating. The Guardian’s “misery machines” expression was the first thing I thought of earlier this week when I read the articles which several readers of this blog sent me about the death of a twenty-two year old Serbian man on the Carnival Fascination.

The man was described as a 22 year-old Serbian man named Nikola Arnautovic.

How unbelievably sad that a young man of only 22 years, just one year younger and one year older than my own two boys, would end his life at such an age.

But anyone who follows the cruise industry knows that suicides of crew members are hardly rare.

A British chef was found hanging in his cabin aboard the Crystal Serenity cruise ship several years ago.  Two weeks earlier, a safety officer on the Disney Dream committed suicide in a similar manner. And the day before that, a woman in Carnival’s entertainment department was found hanging in an officer’s quarters on the Carnival Sensation.

The popular Crew Center website, which first indicated that the recent death on the Carnival Fascination involved a crew member, reported that an Indian dishwasher on the Costa Magica was found hanging in his cabin in February 2017. A galley worker also committed suicide a few years earlier on the Island Princess by hanging.  He reportedly died in the first month of his first contract on the Princess Cruises’ ship. The Crew Center reported that, according to some crew members, he committed suicide because of the “enormous stress and pressure by his supervisors.”

Of course, most crew members do not end their lives by hanging themselves. Most ship employees who choose to end their lives do so by jumping overboard.  During a period of less than three years between December 2009 and October 2012, at least twelve crew members jumped overboard or simply disappeared from cruise ships operated by Royal Caribbean/Celebrity Cruises. I wrote about the problem in an article titled “Is Royal Caribbean Working Its Crew Members to Death?”  The grueling schedule and long hours crew members are required to work 7 days a week, 30 days a month with no days off over the course of a 6 to 10 month contract, for far less than the U.S. minimum wage, often leave ship employees, who are already isolated from their families, exhausted and demoralized.

In the past decade, many dozens of crew members have jumped into the sea. The common reaction by guests is pointlessly “you can’t fall from a cruise ship” as if casting blame on the dead crew member will somehow solve the problem.

Mental health services for cruise ship employees are non-existent. And the  emotional well being of crew members is not a topic that is discussed in the U.S. Few Americans seem concerned with the working conditions on cruise ships faced by citizens of the greater world community. Most U.S. citizens respond to the exploitation of crew members from India or Jamaica with the rationalization that whatever pittance the “foreign” crew members receive is more than the workers can receive back home. “If they don’t like the work, they can quit” is the common saying.

For a U.S. based cruise industry whose mantra is the “safety of our passengers and crew is our highest priority,” there seems to be little genuine expression of such a sentiment when a crew member disappears at sea.

In the last week, yet another crew member disappeared from another cruise ship. He was a Filipino, by the name of  Rezan Monteroso from the M/S Amsterdam. Mr. Monteroso had been aboard the Amsterdam for just 5 days when he went overboard, leaving behind a wife and family with young children.

There are no news articles anywhere mentioning Mr. Monterosa’s name (or the names of dozens of other crew members who have gone overboard before him), or explaining the circumstances surrounding his last days or hours.

Mr. Monterosa’s disappearance seems altogether too familiar – the ship had no automatic man overboard system and the notification to the Coast Guard and ensuing search were unreasonably delayed; there were no discussions about the need for mental health counselling or support from the cruise line following the soon-to-be-forgotten story; HAL reportedly shut off the feeds to the monitors on the ship when the ship finally realized that Ms. Monterosa went overboard, leaving the passengers in the dark as to what happened to the crew member; there seemed to be more guests asking about compensation for the “inconvenience” of a delayed arrival at the next port than any inquiry regarding why the Filipino employee went overboard in the first place. And no one seems to be making any efforts to even discuss making changes to reduce the likelihood of losing additional crew members at sea like this.

As matters now stand, crew members from around the world, from places like Serbia and the Philippines, have little support from the cruise industry and none from the U.S. government. It seems that when crew members jump overboard or hang themselves, the cruise lines couldn’t care less either, as long as it doesn’t affect their customer’s satisfaction rating.

Rest in Peace Mr. Monterosa and Mr. Arnautovic and prayers to your surviving families and friends.

Join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

Photo credit: M/S Amsterdam – Crew Center

A crew member is reported missing from a Holland America Line cruise ship in Alaskan waters, according to the Alaska Anchorage News.

 

The 35-year-old crew member went overboard from the Holland America Line’s Amsterdam yesterday evening.

The male crew member was reportedly last seen on the cruise ship around 6 P.M. on Thursday.  The ship’s master was eventually notified after the crew member did not show up for a work shift.

The Coast Guard stated that “the Amsterdam crew made extensive searches of the vessel, and turned the vessel around toward its last known position to search the water . . ”

Ship officials did not notify the Coast Guard of the missing  crew member until  9 P.M. and the Coast Guard did not deploy a helicopter until 1 A.M. The helicopter crew began searching in the Sitka Sound early this morning.

The Coast Guard suspended its search this afternoon (Friday), according to Coast Guard press release.  The Amsterdam has since continued its voyage toward Victoria, British Columbia,” according to a Coast Guard press release.

According to cruise expert Professor Ross Klein, there have been 319 people who have gone overboard from cruise ships since 2000.

The last person who went overboard from a HAL cruise ship was a passenger who went overboard from the Westerdam two and one-half weeks ago.

There is no indication that the Amsterdam was equipped with an automatic man overboard system, nor is there any indication that any closed circuit television cameras (CCTV) on the ship captured images of the man going into the water.

Join the discussion on our Facebook page.

August 7, 2018 Update:  The crew member is Rezan Monteroso. He had been on the Amsterdam for just five days, and left behind a wife and children in the Philippines. Rest in Peace Mr. Monterosa.

Photo credit: 663highland – CC BY 2.5, commons / wikimedia.

A passenger from a Holland America Line (HAL) cruise ship has gone overboard in the Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska, according to the National Parks Traveler nonprofit media organization.

The Park Service issued a press release Saturday night that it had suspended its search for the missing passenger who reportedly disappeared from the HAL Westerdam cruise ship late Friday afternoon.  According to the press release, the sixty-nine year-old man was reported missing at 3:50 p.m. on Friday when he did not appear for a medical appointment on board the ship, a park release said. It is unclear when the passenger actually went overboard. KTUU reports that the man went overboard sometime on Friday morning.

The Park Service was notified 7:30 Friday evening after a ship-wide search confirmed that the HAL Westerdampassenger was missing from the cruise ship.

The Park Service and the U.S. Coast Guard conducted searches via vessels and/or aircraft.

There is no information regarding exactly when or where along the 65-mile Glacier Bay the man went overboard.

This appears to be another situation where the cruise ship was not equipped with an automatic man overboard system that would immediately notify the bridge when a person went over the rails and then track the person in the water via radar and thermal imaging. The officers on the HAL cruise ship apparently had to order a search of the ship to look for the passenger. HAL has not released any public information regarding whether CCTV captured images of the man going overboard.

According to Canadian Professor Ross Klein, there have been 316 people who have gone overboard from cruise ships since 2000. 15 people have gone overboard during the first six and one-half months of this year. Nine people have gone overboard from HAL cruise ships in the last eight and one-half years.

Join the discussion on our Facebook page.

July 17, 2018 Update: The National Parks Traveler writes that the passenger went overboard around 6:45 AM, according to HAL PR executive Sally Andrews. This means that there was a delay of nearly 13 hours between the passenger going overboard and the cruise line finally notifying the park service (around 7:30 PM), which is another compelling reason why cruise ships should have automatic man overboard systems installed. I previously mentioned Ms. Andrews in an article many years ago titled “Suicide” – One of the Cruise Lines’ Favorite Excuses When a Passenger Disappears at Sea.

Photo credit: Roger Wollstadt CC BY-SA 2.0, commons / wikimedia.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 73 people have reported sick, with symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea, on Holland America’s Zaandam during a cruise through Alaska.

58 of all passengers (3.94% of 1,472) and 15 of all crew members (2.54% of 591) have reported ill to the ship infirmary during the cruise which started on June 18, 2018.  The HAL cruise ship stopped in Juneau yesterday and plans on additional stops in Alaska before returning to Seattle on July 2nd.

Several newspapers report that the outbreak is due to norovirus, although the CDC indicates that the HAL Zaandamcausative agent is currently “unknown.”

Holland America Line experienced 19 cases of GI sicknesses reported to the CDC since 2010. Only Princess Cruises suffered more norovirus/GI cases which were reported to the CDC during this time period. Last year, HAL suffered norovirus outbreaks on the Nieuw Amsterdam, and two outbreaks each on the Volendam and the Noordam.

Cruise ships on non-U.S. itineraries do not have to report GI outbreaks. We have previously mentioned gastrointestinal outbreaks during cruises which do not include a U.S. port, including an outbreak on the Veendam which sailed to a port in Greece last November.

Update: This afternoon I received the following email from a passenger:

“Your latest article about Holland America caught my attention.

I must admit that I am shocked that here on board there is nothing being done regarding standard sanitation before eating. On Princess there is always someone present to give you a plate after you wash your hands or use the sanitation lotion. Here on the Westerdam there is nothing being done.

I don’t see any passengers using any cleaning methods before eating. Therefore your article doesn’t surprise me. Carnival needs to use Princess as an example and get Holland America to improve. I hope this information helps and maybe something can change.

On another note, last week we were sailing in glacier Bay and all paper napkins and straws should be prohibited as they do on Princess but I caught Holland America using them and I quickly reported this to a ranger on board who was shocked.

From my point of view Holland America is lowering their standards and it’s a shame.”

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

Photo credit: Barek – commons / wikimedia.

The U.S. Coast Guard medevaced a passenger from the Holland America Line Veendam on Thursday.

The medevac involved a 65-year-old woman who was suffering from leg pain. The HAL cruise ship was approximately 50 miles east of Charleston when it contacted the Coast Guard. 

The Coast Guard station in Charleston flew a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew to the cruise ship during the evening of April 26, 2018. The helicopter arrived at the ship around 7:30 P.M. p.m., hoisted the passenger and transported her to the Medical University of South Carolina Hospital.

The Coast Guard station in Clearwater, Florida dispatched a HC-130 Hercules aircraft to support communications coverage.

Video credit: The U.S. Coast Guard via the News & Observer.

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HAL VeendamA passenger sailing on a Holland America Line (HAL) cruise ship near Greece contacted me today, stating that a number of guests are experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms:

"I’m currently on MS Veendam. Left Fort Lauderdale on October 20th and due to return to Fort Lauderdale on December 8th. Currently docked in Souda, Greece. Leaving at 5:00 pm less than an hour from now. Souda port terminal has WiFi.

Noro started about four days ago. We did pick up passengers in Barcelona and some of them are sick now and seem to have gotten sick shortly after boarding from what I understand. One day there were 29 passengers and two crew sick . . .  Yesterday …  only four new cases and no crew sick anymore. 

Ship is cleaning, isolating and taking precautions including not allowing passengers to handle food which is good."

It is currently unknown whether the gastrointestinal outbreak is in fact due to norovirus (or-coli or some other more exotic virus) because there will be no testing of the affected passenger’s stools. 

In the last week, we have written about GI outbreaks which included the Crown Princess, which called on a U.S. port and had to report the outbreak to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Anthem of the Seas was experienced a similar outbreak affected many dozens of guests (around 100 people). The Anthem did not meet the percentage of guests who reported their symptoms to the ship infirmary, and therefore there is no official CDC report.  The Celebrity Solstice was also reportedly hit with an aggressive GI outbreak while sailing around Australia, according to news accounts. 

Holland America Line experienced 18 cases of GI sicknesses reported to the CDC since 2010. Only Princess Cruises suffered more norovirus/GI cases which were reported to the CDC during this time period. HAL suffered norovirus outbreaks on the Nieuw Amsterdam, and two outbreaks each on the Volendam and the Noordam this year.

Cruise ships on non-U.S. itineraries do not have to report GI outbreaks. 

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

Photo credit: Fletcher6 – CC BY 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

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 iCrown Princess Princess Cruises Norovirusts 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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Read: Why Do the Cruise Lines Always Blame the Passengers When Norovirus Breaks Out?

Oceania Crew Members Pay the Price When Norovirus Hits.

Photo credit: WPTV (2012 noro outbreak); Royal Caribbean crew members (anonymous crew member).