This time, it’s Princess Cruises that’s seen one of its cruises cut short, and passengers are doubtful that it had anything to do with the fog that apparently plagued the ship as much as a virus did.
Passengers aboard the Caribbean Princess were told as early as this past Tuesday, January 28, that Houston would be their last port of call as a result of the dense fog that threatened to descend on the weekend. Keith Davis, who hails from Austin, said the cruise line blamed the early end to their trip consistently on the fog rather than the norovirus that was spreading through the passengers and crew.
Norovirus was responsible for the illness that struck 165 passengers and 11 crew members and there were still several people who were sick as the ship pulled into what ultimately ended up as their final port of call. While the situation was not as dire as the situation seen on Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s Explorer of the Seas where 700 people fell ill, people were still encouraged to self-isolate while crew implemented their ship’s standard protocols in dealing with widespread illness. Bernadette Burden of the Centers for Disease Control said that when people fall ill while on a cruise, it’s standard protocol to encourage passengers to self-isolate in order to prevent the further spread of disease.
There was yet another cruise ship down with an illness in significant numbers this year. Norwegian Cruise Line saw the Norwegian Star, which departed Jan. 5 from Miami, felled by norovirus as well. Royal Caribbean has had well-documented issues with the virus this year. Its most recent experience with the virus ended with some 700 passengers and crew struggling with the illness as it pulled into a New Jersey port.
The Centers for Disease Control works with cruise lines throughout the year to keep them up to speed on protocols to follow in the event of an outbreak and sanitation techniques to follow in order to stop the spread of viruses or other illness-causing agents. In the case of Royal Caribbean, there were CDC representatives on hand throughout the cleaning process for monitoring purposes to ensure the ship had been thoroughly sanitized prior to its scheduled departure today.
Where there were reports from Royal Caribbean that people were seen getting sick in bags in the hall, passengers aboard the Caribbean Princess said that the trip was fairly normal for those who weren’t sick. Princess Cruise spokesperson Julie Benson said that, should two percent or more of the passengers and crew become ill aboard any cruise ship, the cruise line is under an obligation to report to the CDC.
Given the numbers, nearly 4 per cent of the passengers and crew were sick aboard the Caribbean Princess, but Benson noted that norovirus is a common illness at this time of year. Aboard a confined space such as a cruise ship, it’s not an uncommon occurrence to have people fall ill. Those from the CDC note that cruise ships automatically implement a variety of protocols in order to ensure that the spread of illness is minimized.
While another cruise ship is down with illness, passengers aboard the Caribbean Princess have noted that the crew reacted to the crisis with a great deal of professionalism. Benson said that the crew was able to respond especially quickly to the medical issue thanks to the lab that was aboard the ship. Within a fairly short time, tests came back positive for norovirus, and response procedures were implemented immediately. The Caribbean Princess is still on track to depart next Saturday.
By Christina St-Jean