PHOTO: The actual threat posed by norovirus aboard cruise ships is much less than you might think. (photo via Pixabay)
By JASON LEPPERT
While norovirus does rear its ugly head from time to time on a cruise ship, its likelihood remains very rare.
What’s more, travelers need to be reminded that it is not a cruise-specific virus.
It’s up to all of us in the industry—travel agents included—to accurately inform the public following a sea of misinformation presented by the mainstream media.
Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has compiled the infographic below from the CDC National Outbreak Reporting System to indicate the realities of norovirus on a cruise.
People are statistically more likely to become sick from it at a health care facility, restaurant, school, daycare or private residence. There’s only a 0.18 percent chance of contracting the virus on a cruise ship during an outbreak.
“According to the CDC, there are more than 685 million cases of norovirus cases on land around the world each year and only a very few on cruise ships,” adds Mike McGarry from CLIA.
“CLIA estimates the chances of getting norovirus on a cruise ship compared to land is .007 percent, a fraction of a fraction. So, in many ways, the best way to ensure people don’t attract norovirus is to take a cruise, especially considering the rigorous cleaning protocol on cruise ships.”
I can personally attest to such sanitary processes having just returned myself from Royal Caribbean International’s Freedom of the Seas. During our cruise, a number of norovirus cases were reported, but the ship was extremely diligent to regularly clean surfaces throughout and frequently provide Purell sanitizer. As a result, none in our party were stricken with illness.
Of course, the greatest defense against norovirus is thorough hand washing after using the restroom and before eating, and the Freedom’s captain often repeated this information over the ship’s intercom as well.
READ MORE: How Cruise Ships Battle Norovirus
CLIA recently released a list of five best practices for staying healthy onboard, and they mirror the procedure:
As I witnessed, crew members frequently sanitize ships. Staterooms are cleaned at least once daily, and public venues like restaurants, snack areas, pools and elevators are continuously cleansed. All voyages conclude with a ship-wide sanitation as well.
Early detection of illness is particularly crucial, so pre-boarding health questionnaires and screenings are used to determine sick passengers and staff. Medical teams are on hand to evaluate prior to further interactions accordingly.
What’s more, all CLIA oceangoing cruise line members adhere to ACEP Guidelines (2014) developed along with the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). These ensure high-quality infirmaries, staffing, equipment and procedures.
For further prevention, cruise lines follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP). That means unique federal scrutiny and transparency is in place not even present for hotels, airlines or restaurants.
A final element is the proper training of onboard crew in first aid and public health practices. All positions are well versed in emergency procedures, signals and alarms, evacuation procedures and fire prevention safety.
With all of these efforts, ship’s like Holland America Line’s Eurodam are scoring 100 on United States Public Health (USPH) inspections. Impressively, the ship recently achieved the perfect rating for its thirteenth consecutive time—its third in 2017 alone.
During the last four years, Holland America ships have received a 100 over 22 times including on the Koningsdam and Oosterdam, also in 2017.
“With each new perfect score Eurodam’s entire team clearly demonstrates their pride and commitment to excellence and to continuing their amazing streak of perfect scores that raises the bar in the industry,” said Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line, in a press release.
“Receiving a perfect USPH score on an unannounced inspection is not easy, yet the team on Eurodam certainly makes it look that way year after year. We all know what a tremendous effort it takes to get that 100. Congratulations to everyone on Eurodam.”