The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has documented passengers sailing on Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas out of Baltimore have been sickened on two consecutive cruises. 

The CDC website reflects that 97 passengers and 8 crew members on the Grandeur of the Seas became ill with vomiting and diarrhea. It left April 5 for a seven-day cruise and returns to Baltimore today.

Royal Caribbean Cruises notified passengers who will be boarding today to arrive late at the port Grandeur of the Seas - Baltimore - Noro Virusbecause the cruise ship will undergo another round of the so-called "enhanced cleaning."

The Associated Press indicates that Royal Caribbean believes norovirus to be the cause.

As is the situation with virtually all gastrointestinal outbreaks on cruise ships, the CDC has not announced an explanation how the outbreak took place. Contaminated food? Contaminated water? Sick crew members working while ill in the galley or dining rooms? Cruise passengers not washing their hands? (the cruise lines’ usual excuse). Your guess is as good as mine.  

This is the second consecutive cruise on the Grandeur with a illness outbreak, The CDC reported that 111  passengers and 6 crew members became ill with norovirus on the Grandeur during its cruise from March 28 to April 5. You can read our report here.

The CDC has documented a total of 8 gastrointestinal illness outbreaks on cruises returning to a U.S. ports so far this year. (There was also a norovirus outbreak aboard the P&O Oriana recently). There were just 9 outbreaks in all of last year. Norovirus is cited as one of the reasons the public has less confidence in the safety and reliability of cruising, especially from people who have never cruised before.

This week we were contacted by many cruise passengers asking whether they could cancel the cruise which leaves today because of the ongoing outbreak. Unfortunately the cruise lines hold all of the cards in cases like this.  Fear of becoming sick is not a legally recognized reason to cancel a cruise and expect a refund. However, it all depends on the goodwill of the cruise line. A FOX News report indicates that the spokesperson for Royal Caribbean, Cynthia Martinez, said "if passengers don’t want to take Saturday’s cruise, Royal Caribbean staff will help them reschedule." 

You can contact Ms. Martinez on Twitter – @CrisisCommChick / telephone (305) 982-2458 / email cynthiamartinez@rccl.com

Suing a cruise line for compensation when exposed to a gastrointestinal virus is a losing proposition because the CDC does such a poor job trying to determine the cause of the outbreak. In this most recent case the CDC has not determined the type of virus much less how the virus came on the cruise ship.

The last message we received was last night: "I will be traveling on the Grandeur this Saturday as well and our check in time was delayed 4 hours! I will be bringing my own bleach wipes on board. Wish us luck!"

Good luck!

Photo Credit: WBAL Baltimore

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

Multiple news sources are reporting that an outbreak of a gastrointestinal illness has stricken "at least 66 passengers and 17 crew members" aboard Princess Cruises’ Crown Princess.

A spokesperson for Princess Cruises says that the nasty digestive bug is likely norovirus. 

There have been 6 prior gastrointestinal outbreaks on cruise ships calling on U.S. ports this year. There were just 9 in all of last year.

We have been contacted by passengers complaining that passengers were sick and there was a strong smell of vomit in the hallways.

Norovirus has plagued the image of the cruise line. There was a massive outbreak aboard Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas in January. A recent Harris Poll revealed that norovirus was one reason why the public does not perceive cruising as safe or reliable.  

We previously reported on a norovirus case involving the Crown Princess – Here We Go Again: Norovirus Sickens 100 Passengers on Crown Princess Sailing to Galveston

April 10 2014 Update:  The infected count is now at 104 passengers and 25 crew members on the Crown Princess. 

 

http://edition.cnn.com/video/api/embed.html#/video/health/2014/04/10/mxp-norovirus-princess-cruise-ship-california-coast.hln

 

The first official norovirus outbreak on a cruise ship this year involved the Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) Norwegian Star.

The outbreak occurred during a cruise from January 5-19, 2014. The virus sickened 130 of 2318 cruise passenger (5.61%) and 12 of 1039 crew members (1.15%).  You can read the CDC report here.

The CDC concluded that the virus in question which sickened the 142 or so people was norovirus. This was the “causative factor” in CDC parlance. The CDC can usually figure out the “causative factor” and NCL Norwegian Starmost of the time norovirus is the culprit. But I have never seen a CDC report in the last 10 or 15 years where the CDC figured out how the norovirus came aboard the cruise ship.

The cruise lines always blame the passengers. Sometimes the blame is direct with a cruise line public relations representative pointing the finger at their guests. Sometimes it is more subtle with no blame assessment but in the form of “passengers-need-to-wash-their-hands” type of admonishment.

Determining the cause of a norovirus outbreak is a scientific process to be made by epidemiologists and doctors, not cruise line PR people.

The CDC is severely limited by the few inspectors and epidemiologists who are assigned to the cruise ships. The cruise lines are also eager to re-load their cruise ships and begin another cruise as soon as possible. Our federal government and the cruise lines work together to keep the cruise industry moving. No one wants to inconvenience the next round of passengers and hold a ship in port. Unfortunately, no one is advocating a more comprehensive (and slower) methodical analysis of data.

My suggestion is that any time there is an outbreak, the CDC should automatically conduct a sanitation inspection as soon as the ship returns to port pursuant to its vessel sanitation program (VSP). The inspectors should determine whether the cruise ship’s food or water supplies are contaminated. Medical literature indicates that many outbreaks are due to noro-laden food or water. Particular attention should be focused on the crew members’ medical records, particularly the logs indicating whether food handlers (cooks and waiters) have reported to the ship infirmary with acute Cruise Ship Norovirusgastrointestinal symptoms of cramping, diarrhea and nausea.

Yes, it will take greater resources from the CDC to accomplish this but it is worth it. The “enhanced cleaning” that takes place after an outbreak is “hit or miss.” No one figures out what caused the outbreak. The ship is just pressing everyone to work overtime and spray and wipe everything in sight.

There was no CDC sanitation inspection on January 19th when the Norwegian Star returned to port. I would have liked to see the food handler’s medical logs for the preceding two weeks in order to determine whether there were complaints of nausea, diarrhea, cramps, fever and headaches.  How did the cruise line handle the illnesses? Did they log all of the complaints and quarantine the sick crew members?  Did they interview the crew members’ cabin mates to determine whether they were ill too?

The Norwegian Star underwent a CDC sanitation inspection on February 16th. The results were disgusting. Many crew members worked while suffering from acute gastrointestinal illnesses, threatening the health of passengers, and then appeared in the ship infirmary after working. The cruise line failed to properly document and log many of the sicknesses and report them to the CDC.  For the January 19th to February 2nd 2014 cruise, the number of sick passengers reached over 2% but the cruise ship did not notify the CDC. Many of the cabin mates of the sick crew members were not interviewed by the ship’s medical staff, as required by the CDC protocols.

The following violation was typical:

“Violation: On 28 January, the medical notes indicated a food worker had an illness onset at 0600 with Cruise Ship Food Handlers - Norovirusfour episodes of diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and a headache, but the AGE surveillance log indicated these symptoms started on 28 January at 1315. On the same day at 1315, this person had their last AGE symptom. There was no documentation indicating how long this person was isolated. This individual had four roommates, but there was no documentation the 48 hour interviews were conducted for three of the four roommates.”

The CDC flunked the ship with a score of 82. You can read the CDC report here. In addition to the problems with the sick crew members, parts of the galleys and restaurants were filthy.

Does the CDC employ epidemiologists to study the results of vessel sanitation reports to look for trends to explain why gastrointestinal outbreaks occur?  Correlating the medical records of sick food handlers and their cabin mates with outbreaks may be a good idea. A scientific analysis of medical records and logs of crew members with GI problems would certainly be a better use of time than having to listen to the cruise line always blame the passengers for not not washing their hands.

 

Photo Credit: Top: Wikipedia / Pjotr Mahhonin; bottom: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

Several cruise passengers have informed us that there is a gastrointestinal outbreak on the Holland America Line (HAL) Maasdam which is currently sailing routes in South America.

Passengers are stating that numerous people are sick with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and other noro virus like symptoms. The number of sick passengers and crew has not been released to the people we have communicated with. 

Today one passenger reported: 

"MS Maasdam has been fighting NOROVIRUS pretty much most of the cruise from Rio to Ft Lauderdale. RED ALERT."

HAL MaasdamAnother passenger reported that he is ill and is tired of being blamed by the ship’s captain for the disease:

"I am on the sick Holland America Maasdam which has had Noro virus ever since the departing Rio and won’t be scheduled to be back in Fort Lauderdale until the end of the month. I’m getting tired of hearing the Captain blame the passengers for the spread of the disease. As a physician, I’ve clearly noted that the disease is passed by vectors such as cruise cards, bar staff and wait staff never washing their hands, and the tables and chairs being cleaned with the same rag. Captain it’s not the passengers its your staff." 

The Maasdam is on a 26 day cruise, which started in Rio de Janeiro on March 2nd and will be ending in Fort Lauderdale on March 28th. 

We reached out to HAL and parent company Carnival this morning about this reported outbreak but have not yet received a response. Neither HAL nor Carnival responded. 

Are there other passengers or crew members with information about this alleged outbreak?  Please leave us a message or join the discussion on our Facebook page

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Andrew J Bryson

Diamond Princess NorovirusA newspaper in New Zealand is reporting that 60 cruise passengers aboard a Princess cruise ship which sailed from Australia have been infected with the dreaded norovirus. They have been suffering from vomiting, nausea and diarrhea. 

The newspaper is stating that cleaners are working to sanitize the Diamond Princess before the next group of passengers board. 

Check-in has been delayed as the extra cleaning has been taking place. 

One passenger expressed serious reservations about the upcoming cruise. The thousands-of-dollars cruise vacation can’t be cancelled because there was no chance of a refund, he said.

The newspaper correctly points out that norovirus can be transmitted through infected food or water, person-to-person contact, and surface contact.

If you were on the cruise, is the estimate of 60 ill passengers accurate?

What, exactly, is Princess saying about refunds?

How did the cruise line handle the outbreak?

 

Photo Credit:  Wikipedia / Barrylb

This evening we received an email from a passenger on the Sun Princess cruise ship stating that the cruise ship is experiencing an outbreak of what is described as norovirus which is diminishing the cruise experience of the passengers. 

The primary complaint seems to be that the cruise line allegedly knew about the noro outbreak but did not tell the passengers until after the ship sailed. Earlier, on December 26th, we previously posted comments about noro virus on the Sun Princess.  Here’s what we received this evening:

"The Sun Princess is again out in the South Pacific with about 2,000 "Guests," all of whom were boarded without advice that the ship was sailing at ‘RED ALERT’ levels for the NORO virus raging in the vessel. The company is clever at preserving their profits at the risk of passenger health in not advising passengers of the outbreaks until well out on the ocean.

Holiday pleasures diminished, no condiments on tables, no self-service buffers, constant urgings to use expensive bottled water, very expensive medical centre visits, confined to cabins etc. etc. etc This concealment of health risks is deeply concerning and must be addressed by the industry at large right now."

We have written hundreds of articles over the years about noro virus and how the cruise line handle (and don’t handle) the outbreaks. The cruise lines always blame the passengers for not not washing their hands, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have concluded that the most common causative factor is contaminated food and water.

Irrespective of what side you are on in this debate, there are a couple of things that everyone should agree on.

First, there is not enough time during turn-around day for the cruise ships to be adequately cleaned. There is not even enough time to figure out from an epidemiology perspective where the virus came from.  All of the spraying and wiping and fogging are pointless if the water or food are contaminated with the virus. But the cruise lines pressure the crew to madly try and super-clean the ship when it returns at the end of the cruise. 

Secondly, if the cruise line knows that there is a viral outbreak, it should be required to tell the passengers before they embark on the ship. Passengers should not be forced to sail on sick ships.

I for one would hate to take my family into a cabin where just a few hours earlier a sick family was power-puking millions of microbes of noro pathogens everywhere.

Update: Statement by Princess Cruises. Princess provided a statement which reads in its entirety as follows:

"Sun Princess experienced an outbreak of AGE on the prior voyage, however the cause (now known to be Norovirus) was not confirmed until the next voyage began.

During both voyages, the ship increased sanitation procedures, announcements were made by the captain, and letters were distributed to all passengers advising of the situation onboard. We also received verification from New South Wales Health that they were happy with the ship’s actions and response." 
 

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

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Lemeki Lenoa

We have been notified by several cruise passengers aboard the Oasis of the Seas that they became sick with gastrointestinal symptoms including severe nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.  

The cruise line has not disclosed how many passengers or crew experienced symptoms like this yet, and there is no indication whether the illnesses are in fact due to norovirus or some other virus.

Royal Caribbean sent passengers embarking today on the Oasis the following information:

"Hello, this is Royal Caribbean International. We would like to provide you with some important information regarding your Saturday, December 28, sailing onboard Oasis of the Seas out of Port Everglades, Florida. During the ship’s last sailing, a number of guests experienced a gastrointestinal illness. We will conduct enhanced sanitizing onboard the ship and within the terminal to help prevent any illness from affecting your cruise. Therefore, your check-in and boarding will be delayed. Because space and seating in the terminal is limited, we ask that you not arrive to the port before 1:30 PM. Check in will take place between 1:30 PM and 4:00 PM. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation and we look forward to welcoming you onboard."

If you have any information about the situation aboard the Oasis, please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.  

 

Photo credit: Wikipedia / Baldwin040

Celebrity Summit Cruise ShipLast week we published an article which featured a comment by a passenger aboard the noro-infected Celebrity Summit cruise ship. 

A number of people commented or contacted our office about the comment, both pro and con. 

We rarely handle norovirus cases, but the discussion around the subject, we think, is still important. How the cruise industry treats gastrointestinal infection cases reflects the cruise lines’ standards for hygiene and the cruise companies’ attitudes toward their customers.

Here’s the latest comments about the situation on the Summit:     

We too were on the Summit recently. We reported how dirty our Royal Suite was. They said they cleaned it, but the only evidence was that they used epoxy on the dining area parkay floor. The smell was horrendous.

I had allergic reaction tongue swelled, face, nose, eyelids and had hives on face and upper body. The doctor on call would not acknowledge this and commenced to tell me that I was having an allergic reaction to blood pressure and cholesterol medications I have been on for years. He told me to stop taking these medications and he filled new prescriptions together with benedryl. They put in a IV to rehydrate me two times.

At the end of the cruise I was taken off the ship in a wheelchair. I had been sick the entire second week. Our butler was under orders to charge us for all the bottle water we needed. They clean the suite with a dirty rag and some kind of spray they use in all the rooms and hallways. It’s disgusting! You wouldn’t use someone elses used tissue. How sanitary is that?

They charged our ship account $600 for the doctor and pills (that I didn’t use except for the benedryl). When we questioned the charge even though we had bought the travel insurance, the Concierge said we "must read the fine print." Three days after my allergic reaction, my disabled husband got the norovirus. Through all of this the doctor refused to come to our suite. They said we needed to come to the doctor office.

This trip was from hell!

Have a comment? Leave your thoughts below or join the discussion on on our Facebook page.

We received information that the Celebrity Constellation has been hit with a norovirus outbreak during the September 25, 2013 to October 7, 2013 cruise.

A passenger informed us:

Just off the Celebrity Constellation Black Sea cruise Sept. 25th – Oct. 7th. Over 300 sick with Norovirus etc . . . Crew did their best but the sickness progressed rapidly . . . no time to really get rid of the problem between cruises. Expensive problem for passengers traveling from far Celebrity Constellation Norovirusaway places and not being warned prior to boarding the ship. This produces lots of anxiety for all who look forward to a wonderful time. Celebrity should do better for their loyal customers. 

Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein also commented on his popular web site CruiseJunkie that passengers had complained about the disease outbreak on the Constellation.

This outbreak was taking place at the same time as another norovirus outbreak on another Celebrity cruise ship, which you can read about here:

G.I. Blues: Over 300 Sick on the Celebrity Summit.   

We commented on Celebrity Cruises’ problems with norovirus aboard the Constellation last year.

If you were on the Constellation, please leave a comment below regarding how Celebrity handled the situation or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

Photo Credit: Getty Images 

Last week we reported on a norovirus outbreak on the Fred Olsen cruise ship, Black Watch, while sailing to Russia. The cruise ship’s sickened passengers dubbed the ship the "Black Death." One ill cruise passengers was quoted saying:

“The staff marked doors of those infected with a cross. It was like the Dark Ages. Forget the Black Watch – we were on the Black Death plague ship.” 

Well the so-called "plague" continues. The Daily Record says that 72 people on the latest cruise aboard the Black Watch have been struck down with the same sickness causing nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.

Fred Olden Black Watch Cruise ShipThe cruise line confirmed to the newspaper that 112 passengers on the August 18th cruise became sick, and then 59 more passengers fell ill on a September 1st cruise to Norway. That means that 234 passengers have become ill on the last three cruises on this cruise ship which carries less than 750 passengers.

According to the Daily Record, one poor passenger said: 

“Norovirus was rife. The sauna, jacuzzi, casino, buffet and cinema – all the facilities we had paid for – were closed, as were all the public toilets."

“In my opinion, this ship should never have been allowed to leave  . . . It should have been docked until it was free of the bug.”

My thoughts?

There’s no excuse having three consecutive noro outbreaks which average over 10% of the passengers (the article doesn’t mention the sick crew). 

The business model of all the cruise lines keeps the ships running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There’s is no time for a systematic, scientific inspection to determine the actual cause of the norovirus and to determine when and how it is was introduced onto the ship, whether by food, water or a previously-sick passenger.  "Enhanced cleaning" of everything, when the virus may have been brought aboard in lettuce or sprouts, is pointless. Cruise lines are quick to blame the passengers for not washing their hands, but the real culprit could be contaminated food, water or an ill crew member.    

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia / Ra Boe