This is a review of the “cruise ship virus” Norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships. How to avoid Norovirus on cruise ships, news makers and latest updates. Here you will also find all links to the official CDC Norovirus cruise ships outbreak reports for 2013 (last updated September 6, 2013).
Another cruise illness issue is that more and more ships (some of them top luxury ships with all inclusive deals) continue to fail their CDC health inspections. Read here all about their gaffes (or should I say blunders). By following the cruise ships’ CDC inspections reports links you’ll know what exactly inspectors didn’t like on a particular ship. I’m sure you guys will enjoy your quest for information about what’s really going on behind the scenes of some of the best cruise ships in the world!
I’ll start with the cruise passenger illness reports showing you the very numbers that would scare the hell out of any normal person, but not the adventurous souls with some voyages under their belts:Some adventurous, but mostly concerned travelers search quite often the Web combining “Cruise Ship” with heavy words, like “Illness”, “Virus” and “Outbreaks”, and those who know better use “Norovirus” and even “CDC Norovirus Outbreaks”.
CDC cruise ship virus reports
In this survey I will tell you all you need to know about this particular type of “ship incidents”, along with the latest 2013 news and updates on recent Norovirus illness outbreaks, particularly on cruise ships. This survey is based on official data from CDC.gov (“Centers for Disease Control and Prevention”) – its “Vessel Sanitation Program” assists the industry to prevent/control the transmission and spread of gastrointestinal illnesses (Norovirus, ETEC) on passenger ships calling on US ports. This program operates under the authority of the Public Health Service Act (fda.gov, “Quarantine and Inspection Regulations to Control Communicable Diseases”). Note: any of the ship-links in this article opens a new window to show you the ship’s complete sailing schedule and itineraries.
Norovirus on cruise ships 2013 outbreaks – the CDC news & reports
|Lines / Ships||Sail Dates||Sick Passengers / All Passengers (%)||Ill Crew-Staff / All Crew-Staff (%)|
|Carnival Miracle*||6-16 Mar||~2%||*(no official CDC data)?! Cause – Grand Turk. Next departure was delayed 3hrs due to sanitation.|
|Celebrity Constellation||25 Sept – 7 Oct||On Oct 5, more than 90 passengers (crew unknown) with Norovirus symptoms were taken to the Burgas Municipal hospital||(no official data yet) on her Black Sea cruise (also stopping in Bulgaria – the port of Bourgas)|
|Celebrity Infinity||17 Mar – 1 Apr||101 / 2086 (4,84%)||17 / 927 (2%) CDC report|
|Celebrity Millennium||25 Apr – 10 May||123 / 1963 (6,28%)||16 / 935 (1,7%) CDC report|
|Celebrity Solstice||8-26 Apr||
178 / 2849 (6,25%)
|2 / 1188 (0,18%), CDC report|
|Crystal Symphony||29 Apr – 6 May||
125 / 816 (15,3%)
|22 / 571 (3,9%) CDC report|
|Cunard – Queen Elizabeth*||4 Feb – 12 Mar||
84 / 1900+ (4,4%)
|*(no official CDC data)?!|
|Holland America – ms Veendam||13 Apr – 4 May||
60 / 1237 (4,9%)
|10 / 574 (1,7%) CDC report|
|Ruby Princess||3-10 Mar||
266 / 3129 (8,5%)
|10 / 1189 (0,8%), CDC report|
|Royal Caribbean – Vision of the Seas||25 Feb – 8 Mar||
118 / 1991 (5,9%)
|3 / 765 (0,4%), CDC report.|
Grand Turk was bypassed as call port by several ships due to a gastrointestinal outbreak there. The cruise terminal was temporarily closed (March 26 through April 4) – according to the port schedule, there were no arrivals after March 13, 2013. The list of lines/ships that skipped the island:
|itinerary changes included adding a sea day, rerouting ships or extending port stays in Puerto Rico & Bahamas. All pre-booked Grand Turk shore excursions/tours & port taxes were fully refunded in the form of OBC.
Grand Turk authorities didn’t find the cause of the illness, the terminal and the near area were thoroughly cleaned & sanitized.
Cruise ship virus issues – CDC ratings/scores/reports (ships that failed CDC inspections)
This is a list of passenger ships that have failed their first 2013 CDC surprise vessel sanitation inspections (these are conducted twice a year, grades of 86 are considered passing).
What the CDC health inspectors usually find on board these ships is food debris, dead insects, insect droppings and records indicating crewmembers (including cooks) working while sick (gastrointestinal disorders or with acute gastroenteritis/AGE symptoms). The list of additional violations includes: cracked/corroded equipment, soiled cutting boards, food served undercooked, lack of safety instruction signs. If you’re curious what were the exact reasons for the low grades, you can see the CDC-report links by each ship for full details.
- Blount Small Ship Adventures – ms Grande Caribe (81) – Aug 22 report
- Celebration Cruise Line – ms Bahamas Celebration (82) – July 31 report
- America Cruise Ferries – Caribbean Fantasy (81) – July 26 report
- Hapag Lloyd – ms Bremen (80) – June 20 report
- Un-Cruise Adventures – ms Safari Endeavour (81) – June 16 report
- Regent Seven Seas Navigator (79) – June 16 report
- Silver Shadow (82) – June 17 report
- Carnival Fascination (84) – Feb 21 (no report)
- Celebrity Century (78) – Feb 8 report
- Celebrity Summit (81) – Jan 19 report
- Golden Princess (81) – Feb 7 report
- SeaDream II (84) – Jan 20 report.
Major cruise ship Norovirus outbreaks 2012 [affected: passengers 3461, crew 286]
|Lines / Ships||Sailing Dates||Sick Guests / All Guests (%)||Sick Crew-Staff / All Crew-Staff (%)|
|Carnival Glory||6-11 Aug||
205 / 3652 (5,6%)
3 / 1144 (0,26%)
|Celebrity Constellation||28 Jan – 10 Feb||
102 / 1992 (5,1%)
12 / 946 (1,3%)
|Celebrity Silhouette||29 Jan – 10 Feb||
178 / 2809 (6,3%)
11 / 1236 (0,9%)
|Cunard – Queen Mary 2||22 Dec – Jan 3||
204 / 2613 (7,8%)
16 / 1255 (1,3%)
|Dawn Princess||21 Aug – 13 Sept||
114 / 1778 (6,4%)
11 / 851 (1,293%)
|Emerald Princess||17-27 Dec||
189 / 3235 (5,8%)
31 / 1189 (2,6%)
|Sun Princess||8-21 Jul||
201 / 1918 (10,5%)
15 / 836 (1,8%)
|(P&O) Aurora||4-26 Jan||
145 / 1727 (8,4%)
8 / 850 (0,9%)
|Oceania – Riviera||15-29 Nov||
37 / 1019 (3,6%)
13 / 767 (1,7%)
|Holland America – ms Amsterdam||11 Nov – 5 Dec||
85 / 791 (10,8%)
6 / 610 (1%)
|RCCL – Rhapsody of the Seas||24-31 Aug||
153 / 2129 (7,2%)
6 / 812 (0,7%)
|RCCL – Voyager of the Seas||28 Jan – 4 Feb||
248 / 3139 (7,9%)
11 / 1192 (0,9%).
The lowest CDC cruise ship sanitation scores (2012 ships with “NOT satisfactory” CDC ratings)
- (Hapag Lloyd) MS Columbus 2 (69) – Nov 15 /report
- (Blount Adventures) Grande Caribe (81) – Sept 28 /report
- (Phoenix Reissen) Artania (76) – Oct 9 /report.
Norovirus on cruise ships – all important things you should know about the “cruise virus”
- Why Norovirus on cruise ships? There are more than 21 million US cases reported annually (of which 1 mill kids). Outbreaks happen mostly during the winter months and mainly in more crowded places with close quarters – schools, hospitals, nursing homes, dormitories, prisons, big resorts, bigger passenger ships. Norovirus is “the cruise ship virus” simply because on ships health officials are required to report every gastrointestinal illness incident. So Norovirus is reported more quickly on ships than on land. Just for a comparison, this virus can afflict as many as 3000 people per day in only one big city, which is about the passenger capacity of a typical ocean liner.
- What is Norovirus infection? It’s a very common, highly contagious, ruthlessly efficient and uncomfortably bad virus affecting the stomach and the large intestines. Often called “stomach flu” (the med term is “Gastroenteritis”) the infection results in massive vomiting and diarrhea sickness outbreaks.
- Norovirus facts – this illness is not seasonal, not usually serious (in med terms), it hits 1 in 5 people annually, it’s the cause for about 50% of all foodborne illness outbreaks in USA and for 90% of all non-bacterial gastroenteritis worldwide, it’s named after an outbreak in Norwalk (OH, USA). Numerous studies confirm that a quick application of hand sanitizer don’t kill Norovirus – it takes about 30 sec of hard rubbing with hot water & soap to wash it (including under the nails). This virus also mutates (changing its strains), and as to its efficiency – a mere 20 particles are enough to get you. You can read more about this gut-wrenching virus at Wikipedia.
- What causes Norovirus on cruise ships? Contaminated food/water, mainly, but when it comes to ships it spreads mostly through physical contact with sick people or handling contaminated objects, including sharing food/utensils, poor hygiene (not washing hands after bathroom use), it’s also spread fecally, so you can catch it into the onboard laundry, or while changing diapers, etc. However, many passengers likely can blame a sick crewmember for the virus. According to a survey based on 170 inspection records on ships that docked in Florida ports in 2012, on 59 sailings violations of the required illness reporting laws has been broken. A total of 130 crewmembers had gotten sick on those voyages and not reported their illness in the required time period.
- What are the symptoms of Norovirus - nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, indigestion, abdominal cramps, also possible are mild fever and headache. It takes 1-2 days for the symptoms to appear, and the illness lasts 1 to 4 days, but some people may be contagious for up to 2 weeks after recovery.
- What is the treatment for Norovirus and what to do if you got it?
- 1) obviously, you go to the ship’s doctor
- 2) drink plenty of water (dehydration is a side-effect)
- 3) there’s no real treatment for Norovirus – you just wait it out. There’s an experimental Norovirus vaccine (applied as nasal spray) developed by the “Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology” (Arizona State University) which generates a good immune response.
How to avoid Norovirus on cruise ships?
- 1) wash your hands often (hot water & soap), especially before/after eating and after using the bathroom
- 2) limit physical contacts as much as possible, pack some extra soap, a personal disinfectant (Lysol, Pepto-Bismol), oral rehydration sachets & treatments for diarrhea
- 3) avoid eating uncooked food (including salads & sandwiches) and food that cannot be washed (unless it can be peeled or shelled), drink only bottled liquids (preferably without ice), don’t share drinks/utensils.
- 4) drink lots of water.
- Compensation for cruise illness. By contract, lines are not required to compensate passengers who fall ill on a cruise, but as a rule they will compensate you if your voyage is altered/canceled due to an illness outbreak. The deal may include a 50% refund, 50% FCC (future credit), or an option to cancel for a full refund plus reimbursement of airline change fees. Also, if you have a travel insurance, it covers a cancellation due to illness – if you’re stricken on board, it could also cover medical expenses and to compensate you for all days you’re not on the ship before the end of the trip.
The cruise ship illness “Norovirus”
What they do about it, what actions do lines/operators/CDC actually take in response to a Norovirus cruise outbreak.
- An “illness outbreak” is considered when 3% or more of all passengers report symptoms to the ship’s med staff. In such a case CDC requires lines to file a report, hotel staff implements special cleaning and disinfection procedures for sanitizing the ship (using stronger solvents, like Microbac, chlorine bleach, hydrogen peroxide), bistro/buffet service switches to manned stations, often salt&pepper shakers are taken off the tables, crewmembers start offering precautionary tips, sick passengers and crew are quarantined in their rooms. When Norovirus outbreaks can’t be contained, lines might also pull the ship out of service for a few days for sanitizing.
- The CDC’s “Vessel Sanitation Program” is for monitoring illness outbreaks on passenger ships carrying 100 or more guests on sailings from 3 to 21 days in length. The ship’s medical staff is required by the CDC to maintain illness counts for each sailing involving a stop at an US port and to give the CDC the number of all passengers&crew on board, plus the number of reported diarrhea cases during that sailing. This is done 24 hrs prior to arrival at any US port from a foreign port – and they file such report even if the “illness number” is zero. Bottomline – CDC knows everything about it.
- Other possible actions and results - red level cleaning and delayed boarding of new passengers to permit a more extensive disinfection of public areas and cabins, distributing a pre-embarkation health advisory to new passengers, with additional med staff sent to the ship in port, disembarkation for ill passengers. Another possibility is your ship to cancel all foreign call ports and return to its home-port before the end of voyage.
- Some lines now offer hand-sanitizer dispensers near onboard restaurants, pool areas and other more crowded public spaces in their effort to keep a lid on sickness outbreaks.
The Norovirus “cruise ship conspiracy”
Illness outbreaks on cruise ships are actually not that uncommon. What? A viral/bacterial outbreak amongst thousands of people packed up in a floating resort for many days on end – it’s probably no conspiracy. And probably there’s really nothing that special about it. After all, in confined spaces with frequent passenger turnover, like a big capacity cruise ship, it’s so very easy for diseases to be spread, whether food- or air-borne, or otherwise. However, there’s a tendency to cover up the severity of this “cruise problem”. Even some of the world’s most famous ship names are not exempt from virus outbreaks, yet one hears so little of it in the mass media news. And there’s no surprise in that too. The “cruise illness” issues are always bad publicity for cruise lines – and very bad for a prosperous multi-billion dollar business.
All major cruise line companies will do their best to keep quiet about cruise virus outbreaks. There are passenger reports about quarantined ships and how badly guests were treated by the line. A bad virus outbreak news speaks of lack of proper hygiene control, of badly trained staff, of bad ship management – of a bad ship from a bad cruise line. The total responsibility goes to the line and their management. And a major illness outbreak is one of the “biggies” needed to bring down the line’s reputation. Cruise ship illness issues always result in lower booking rates and cheaper prices – which is bad business
So it comes as no surprise that when the CDC reports an illness outbreak on some cruise ship, big media sources do not always respond to that. You may hear of it on your local radio station, or on your local cable operator, but not necessarily on ABC, CNN, not even on Yahoo and MSN news online. It’s not about the passengers health (never been) – it’s all about the big money that rules our “not so happy as it should be” world. So keep your hands clear, keep your mind clear, and always hope for the best. Bad, if meant to happen, will happen anyway, and nothing can change it.
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