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Experience with norovirus on a cruise

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Most people have heard of the norovirus by now, but many may not be aware of the increased threat on cruises. To be considered is not only the question of how healthy one is and the slim possibility of becoming ill with the virus, but how different the cruise experience will be.

This writer experienced the effects personally on an October 2013 Canadian cruise aboard the Celebrity Summit. Customers were notified just before the cruise that a large number of norovirus cases had erupted on the ship's current trip, so the cruise could be opted out of with a full refund. Having already purchased plane tickets and made travel arrangements, our party opted to go on the cruise anyway. After this experience, that will not happen again. .

Before purchasing a cruise on any ship, go online and read their history. If there is a current outbreak, investigation information can be read on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Link to the Summit report for an example of what information is available about an outbreak. The report tells the number of passengers and crew reported ill out of the total number on the ship, predominant symptoms, cause, actions taken and CDC consult plans.

Some of the norovirus effects on our cruise were:

  • The ship had to be disinfected before our set of passengers could get on so we had to wait on shore until 5 p.m. after our prearranged bus dropped us off at the terminal at 10:30 a.m.
  • Food in the waiting area could not be brought in from the ship so an outside vendor supplied it. Numbers were given since passengers could not serve themselves in the lines and it took much longer to get anything.
  • No condiments, cream, sugar or butter could be on the tables in the dining rooms at meals so there was a lot of sitting and waiting for needed items to arrive and some never did arrive at all.
  • Coffee was cold by the time cream and sugar was brought to the table.
  • Soft drinks would arrive at dinner with no ice and it took a half hour before ice arrived.
  • Buffet lines could not be self-serve with the result of horrendous lines of people scrambling and pushing to get even one item added to a plate.
  • One of the first nights we waited 2 1/2 hours in the dining room so we changed our seating arrangement to be near the escalator where servers had to go up and down to the kitchen to get everything.
  • Food was definitely not up to par.
  • It was hard to get seating in the buffet rooms because of short staff and taking longer to clean.
  • Everything closed down early.
  • Room service orders were severely incorrect--meals missing, empty coffee carafe, cream cheese for bagels but no bagels.
  • One show had to be canceled so there were not enough seats in what was to have been the second show.
  • Staff had to stand at all dining room doors and insist on hands being washed with antibacterial soaps.
  • Staff stood in public restrooms cleaning and people were reported for having anything that sounded like diarrhea or vomiting and were questioned.
  • Rooms like the library were closed until they could be approved by the CDC, almost the last day of a 15 day cruise.
  • Some of the overworked staff was irritable, impatient and uncooperative.
  • The smell of disinfectant and varnish was horrible. Because the disinfectant had destroyed the finish on wood poles, men were revarnishing the poles and decking with some kind of petrochemicals.
  • The handrails on stairways were frequently wet with disinfectant.

Those are just some highlights of what stands out in memory. Seriously reconsider taking any cruise on a ship that has a reported norovirus outbreak on the prior trip. It is definitely not the most green environment in which to travel.

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