Sick Ships in Europe and Alaska

Posted Jun 7th 2010 09:55 AMUpdated Jun 7th 2010 10:08 AM

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Passengers on two big cruise ships have been attacked this month with the highly contagious stomach bug known as Norovirus.

On the 1,950-passenger Celebrity Constellation, 204 guests and 34 crew members were ill with the gastro-intestinal illness, a Celebrity Cruises spokeswoman said. The 12-day cruise of Scandinavia left Amsterdam on May 28.

The ship is due to arrive back June 9, and before its next cruise will be delayed a few hours in Amsterdam to give ship personnel time to do "some enhanced sanitizing," the spokeswoman said. She added the cruise terminal itself would also be sanitized as well to prevent any illness from affecting the next sailing.

Guests arriving for the June 9 sailing will be provided with a $25 onboard credit to cover any expenses they might occur, such as having lunch while waiting for the ship to be readied, the spokeswoman said. The cruise line will also be providing complementary shuttle buses into Amsterdam.

Meanwhile in Seattle, King 5 TV is reporting that nearly 100 people on the 2,670-passenger Sapphire Princess came down with Norovirus on a weeklong Alaska cruise last week. The TV station quotes a Princess Cruises spokeswoman as confirming 96 passengers sought medical attention, and that the crew was on "red level" calling for the highest level of sanitary precautions. The ship was extensively cleaned after passengers disembarked, and before it left on its next Alaska sailing on Sunday.

Norovirus can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea. Sick passengers are typically asked to stay in their cabins to prevent spread of the illness to others.

Celebrity was plagued by an unprecedented number of outbreaks on sailings from Charleston this winter, prompting Celebrity's President and CEO Dan Hanrahan to respond that people should not get on cruise ships if they are sick.

One of the best ways to prevent getting Norovirus is to wash your hands before you eat. Nearly every shipboard restaurant now has a hand-sanitizing station nearby for passenger use. While cruise lines are required by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to report outbreaks of Norovirus, the disease also spreads in other public places including schools, apartment buildings and shopping malls.
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