Cruise ship norovirus: Vital information to avoid illness
What is norovirus
Norovirus is a gastrointestinal illness which causes nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. It is one of the most common stomach bugs in the UK. Whilst symptoms can be extremely unpleasant, it is usually short-lived, lasting 1-2 days.
How do people catch norovirus on cruise ships?
Norovirus is caught by contact with an infected person, contact with surfaces contaminated with the virus such as tables and door handles or consuming contaminated food or drinks. Whilst cruise ships have a bad reputation for norovirus contamination, norovirus is, in fact, common anywhere where people are contained – such as offices, schools, hospitals and hotels. It is not any more common on cruise ships than in any of these places.
How to avoid norovirus on a cruise ship
The most effective way to avoid catching norovirus is to wash your hands thoroughly and regularly throughout the day. It is particularly important that you do this after using the bathroom and before and after eating, drinking or smoking.
Alcohol hand gels are not as effective as soap and water. The most effective way to clean your hands is to wet them with water, apply liquid soap, lather, rinse and dry.
It’s important that you turn off taps and open doors using a paper towel to keep your freshly-washed hands clean. You should also avoid touching elevator buttons with your fingers, and instead use a knuckle or elbow, and avoid touching your mouth.
What does the cruise line do when there’s norovirus on a ship?
When norovirus is reported on a cruise ship, the staff will put measures in places to stop the spread of the virus. These include:
- Advising passengers that others are experiencing symptoms of gastrointestinal illness and giving information about what everyone can do to prevent it from spreading
- Regularly sanitising every area of the ship with a powerful disinfectant called Virox
- Assigning extra staff to monitor entrances of eating areas to ensure that every passenger washes their hands
- Removing items such as salt and pepper shakers and butter dishes from tables and replacing them with individual sachets
- Stopping the use of self-service drinks machines and instead having staff dispense drinks for guests
- Having staff place crockery and cutlery on to trays and handing it to each guest in the buffet
If these measures are not successful in halting the spread of the diseases, in rare cases, it is possible for all passengers to be confined to certain areas of the ship, or to their cabins, or even for the cruise to end early.
What do you do if you catch norovirus on a cruise
As soon as you become unwell, it’s vital that you return to your cabin and call reception to report it. They will advise you about what to do next and arrange a phone call with one of the ship’s nurses who can give you medical advice. The medical team will phone regularly to check how you are feeling.
You must stay in your cabin until 24 hours after any vomiting or diarrhoea has stopped. In this time, you can order from room service free of charge. There is a specially planned menu to assist with recovery which includes bland items such as toast, porridge, soup, sandwiches, grilled chicken breast, salad and chips. Your meals will be served with on disposable plates.
Your cabin will be regularly sanitised by specially-trained crew members. If you require any additional housekeeping, you can call reception and someone will be with you quickly. You can also have any items of clothing cleaned free of charge if needed.
As you are not permitted to leave the ship during the isolation period, if you have booked shore excursions with the cruise line, the cost of these will be refunded to you. If you have booked excursions independently, you may be able to cancel them if you give 24 hours’ notice. If you are unable to do this, you may be able to claim on your travel insurance, depending on the policy details.