Norovirus outbreak on Oasis of the Seas

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More than 270 passengers have reportedly fallen ill with Norovirus on Royal Caribbean International’s Oasis of the Seas.

Passengers were kept on board for hours after it docked at Falmouth port in Jamaica on Wednesday (January 9).

The ship was on a seven-night cruise through the Caribbean, but passengers have been told they will have their cruise fares refunded in full following the outbreak.

A Royal Caribbean spokesperson told Travel Weekly: “Oasis of the Seas will return to Port Canaveral [in Florida] a day early after an episode of gastrointestinal illness.

“A total of 277 guests and crew members have been affected since the ship departed on January 6 — about 3.3 per cent of the people aboard the ship.

“All of the ship’s guests will receive full refunds of their cruise fare paid.

“We think the right thing to do is to get everyone home early rather than have guests worry about their health. Returning on Saturday also gives us more time to completely clean and sanitize the ship before her next sailing.

“Our guests sail with us to have great holidays, and we are sorry this cruise fell short.”

Passenger Alan Thomas tweeted: “Oasis of the Seas, Royal Caribbean. We’re docked at Falmouth Jamaica. Level 3 Norovirus outbreak. 100+ passengers and a crew member sick. Cancelled shore excursion. Waiting to see if Jamaican authorities let us off the ship.#refund #lostvacation #disappointed #royalcarribean.”

Oasis of the Seas, Royal Caribbean. We’re docked at Falmouth Jamaica. Level 3 Norovirus outbreak. 100+ passengers and a crew member sick. Cancelled shore excursion. Waiting to see if Jamaican authorities let us off the ship. #refund #lostvacation #disappointed #royalcarribean

— Alan Thomas (@alan_thomas13)

Don’t shake hands with the captain!

Cruise ships said to have banned greeting because of fears contagious stomach viruses could be passed on

  • Cruise ship captains have been warned against shaking hands on deck
  • It is feared that shaking hands can pass on the infectious Norovirus
  • Crystal Cruises admitted the new rule was designed to prevent disease
  • The company said two of their boats were hit by Norovirus since 2008

Dining at the captain’s table is, for the lucky few, perhaps the glamorous highlight of a luxury cruise.

But having donned your dickie bow for the big night, don’t be surprised if he doesn’t stretch out a gold-braided arm in greeting.

For some cruise ships have banned passengers from shaking hands with the captain amid fears over highly contagious stomach viruses being passed on.

On-board outbreaks of norovirus have turned many a cruise into a nightmare for holidaymakers, leaving them suffering chronic vomiting and diarrhoea.

The bid to prevent it being passed to captains at dinners, cocktail parties and receptions was noted by Margaret Thatcher’s official biographer Charles Moore when he went on his first cruise recently.

Writing in The Spectator magazine about his time on board the £225 million, 1,070-passenger Crystal Serenity on a 12 day, £3,700 per person cruise from Lisbon to London via the west coast of France, he said: ‘Every effort was made to look after us courteously. Modern standards, however, put things under some strain. ‘As our voyage neared its end, the daily ship newspaper, Reflections, delivered to the door of our cabin (‘stateroom’) said: ‘All guests are cordially invited to join Captain Birger J Vorland and Crystal Society Hostess Isabell Wagner in the Palm Court at 7.45pm.

‘While the captain is pleased to meet you, he and the other staff receiving you refrain from shaking hands in order to provide the most effective preventative sanitary measures’.’

Yesterday a Crystal Cruises spokesman said: ‘It used to be, back in the day, that the captain would shake everyone’s hand. But because norovirus is spread so easily it’s just standard now that when the captains are greeting lots of people they don’t shake hands.

‘They are not being rude, it’s a preventative measure. It’s been the case on our two ships since at least 2008.’

Whether or not passengers can shake hands with the captain is down to individual cruise lines, say the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).

A Cunard spokesman said: ‘While I was on Queen Mary 2 last week the captain shook hands with passengers attending the many cocktail parties that were held.’

A CLIA spokesman insisted norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships are uncommon, affecting ‘just 1 out of every 12,000 cruise passengers’.

He said: ‘You are 750 times more likely to get norovirus on land than on a cruise ship.’

Standard procedures for CLIA cruise lines to follow when a guest on board is suspected of contracting the gastrointestinal illness include regularly sanitizing door handles, railings and elevator buttons, providing hand sanitizers to passengers during their cruise, and sending public health specialists as well as additional medical personnel to ships as required.

The CLIA spokesman said: ‘Norovirus can remain viable on hands for hours thereby giving hands the potential to spread the infection both directly and indirectly. ‘Hand washing is therefore the single most important procedure for preventing the spread of infection.’

Only 1% of norovirus outbreaks are on cruise ships, says CDC

By Jerry Limone
Norovirus outbreaks most often makes headlines when they happen on cruise ships, but these only account for about 1% of all reported outbreaks, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

About 20 million people get sick from norovirus each year, according to the CDC Vital Signs report “Preventing Norovirus Outbreaks.”

In norovirus outbreaks for which investigators reported the source was food contamination, 70% are caused by infected food workers, CDC reported.

Of outbreaks caused by food workers, 54% involve touching ready-to-eat foods (i.e., food that is ready to be served without additional preparation, such as washed raw fruits and vegetables, baked goods or items that have already been cooked) with bare hands.

According to the CDC, observations of food service workers have shown that they practice proper hand washing only one out of four times. The CDC recommends that workers “wash hands carefully and often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the restroom.”

“Norovirus often gets attention for outbreaks on cruise ships, but those account for only about 1% of all reported norovirus outbreaks,” the report said.

“Norovirus is very contagious, and outbreaks can occur anywhere people gather or food is served.”