top of page
  • Writer's pictureJason Leppert

How Cruise Ships Battle Norovirus

PHOTO: Isolation to a cabin is sometimes required to stem the spread of norovirus. (photo by Jason Leppert)

The mainstream media has blown out of proportion the degree to which norovirus occurs aboard cruises.

Truth is, the chances of contracting the disease on a voyage are about 1 in 5,500 according to a Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) report. Still, when an outbreak does rarely occur, isolation mitigates its spread.

For those who don’t know, norovirus causes acute gastroenteritis and in turn stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. It can be contracted by contagious persons or contaminated food, water and surfaces.

Cruise lines, of course, do everything they can to ensure healthy conditions onboard while making a concerted effort to not only regularly sanitize ships but also screen incoming passengers with health questionnaires.

What’s more, U.S.-bound ships receive at least two unannounced health inspections annually, plus international and internal regulations are rigorous as well. Crew members are further trained in regards to public health practices, and CLIA member cruise lines and the American College of Emergency Physicians have established guidelines for onboard medical facility expectations.

Thanks to such precautions, a CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report indicates, “Fewer and less severe outbreaks are likely the result of earlier detection of acute gastroenteritis, along with cruise industry efforts to identify and control outbreaks.”

Altogether, it claims, “Cases of acute gastroenteritis illness on cruise ships are relatively infrequent.”

Guests need to be aware that they can help themselves too. It’s crucial that both passengers and crew members frequently wash their hands, especially after using the restroom, and stay well rested and hydrated.

Nonetheless, in the rare cases that norovirus does rear its head, early reporting of symptoms is crucial as is possible isolation on a case-by-case basis to prevent a larger outbreak, according to CLIA.

In such instances, guests are likely asked to remain in their cabins, where they may be advised about hand hygiene and the facts of norovirus itself. Naturally, they will be informed as to the anticipated scope and duration of any necessary isolation—potentially ranging between 24 and 48 hours beyond subsided symptoms.

While passengers may be inconvenienced during this time, they are still well looked after as they are monitored while sick and followed up on once well. Room service is also provided.

The end of any quarantine is ultimately determined by the treating doctor or lead medical officer based on risk symptoms. Afterwards, restrictions may still be placed on buffet dining and shore excursions.

It’s also worth noting that some destinations even have health requirements of passengers allowed ashore. In Havana, Cuba, for example, nurses check departing guests’ temperatures before being permitted into the port.

When on Norwegian Cruise Line’s inaugural call aboard the Norwegian Sky this year, two guests were denied entry because they measured over 37.5 Celsius from having a cold. However, after four hours had gone by and their fever went down, they were then granted access.

This post first appeared on TravelPulse.



bottom of page