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.’