Spreads like this one onboard Regent Seven Seas Mariner
could be reduced or done away with if your cruise
is stricken with Norovirus.
Photo © Aaron Saunders

An article on BBC News caught my eye this morning.  It seems some passengers aboard Princess Cruises Grand Princess are suing the line after the ship was stricken for the second time with a Norovirus outbreak.

Upon arrival in Southampton, the affected passengers – which say 47 out of 2,500 guests were struck down by the virus – are suing on the basis the outbreak ruined their vacation.  They say the ship should have never been allowed to sail in the first place.

Grand Princess isn’t the only ship to have started off its European season on a somewhat sour note.  Royal Caribbean‘s Vision of the Seas has been the subject of three outbreaks so far this year, dampening the start of its Northern European sailings.  UK-based line Fred.Olsen has also felt the pinch on a number of its sailings as well.

Cruise lines can take a variety of countermeasures to help prevent the spread of Norovirus, and they do so on a regular basis: items at Lido and Buffet restaurants can be changed from self-serve to staff-serve.  Salt and pepper shakers, as well as condiments, can be removed from tables to reduce handling.  Drinks can also be made staff-serve, and in many cases, these simple precautions are enough.

While these lawsuits demand compensation and an admission of responsibility from the cruise line, I can’t help but wonder: what about the passengers? 

After all, Norovirus doesn’t just start on its own.  It needs a little help…and on every sailing I’ve been on, I’ve seen a couple of people bend head over heels to do just that.

Consider the lady who wanted to test out a sauce in the Lido buffet on an Alaskan cruise once.  She could have asked for a sample, and more than likely the staff member working the area would have produced a spoon.  Instead, she dipped her finger into the sauce, pulled it out, licked it – decided it was tasty – and dipped her finger in again for another go. 

Another instance I’ve seen more and more frequently are dishes in the public washrooms.  I have absolutely no idea what would compel anyone to take food into a washroom – even a drink – but again, this might be the first person to get Norovirus. 

The best way to prevent Norovirus is: wash your hands.  Not with the hand sanitizer that squirts liberally out of those dispensers, but with real soap-and-water.  Try to avoid things like running your hand along the railings of the ship and then sticking it in your mouth.  Sounds crazy?  Of course – but I saw someone do it.  He wasn’t doing it to suck on his hand – he was picking something in his teeth. 

Having been on a cruise that was in “Code-Red” once after passengers became stricken with the virus, I sympathize will all the passengers.  It’s no fun to have facilities closed or reduced for your trip of a lifetime, and it’s equally unfortunate to have been confined to your cabin because someone gave you the virus.  It’s certainly not fair.

But people and ships are at fault 50/50.

The best way to avoid Norovirus?  Don’t stick that little whistle on your lifejacket in your mouth and give it a toot while you’re doing the lifeboat drill. 


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