The cruise ship virus and the shrill reports about it in the
consumer media were still stubbornly alive last week.
But there were signs that some cruise lines were gaining control
over the Norwalk-like virus, which sickened about 1,070 people on
three ships in south and central Florida over a six-week
And, while a recent e-mail survey of travel agents found some
concerns about the virus, most said it was not affecting their
In another twist on the ship sickness issue, Radisson Seven Seas
Cruises reported Dec. 4 that four passengers and 14 crew members
displayed symptoms of salmonella-related illness Nov. 19 to Nov.
23. They were on a trans-Atlantic cruise that left Barcelona Nov.
Salmonella is a bacteria that can cause fever and intestinal
disorders in humans and domestic animals.
The crew members none of whom were food handlers were sent home.
Later, six were found to have the bacteria in their systems, most
likely from food or water consumed at a European or North African
port, said Mark Conroy, president of Radisson Seven Seas.
He said that, for safety’s sake, the ship discarded some ice
cream and eggs purchased in Spain.
No further gastrointestinal problems were reported after the
ship left Bermuda Nov. 30.
“Most importantly for the peace of mind of our guests, there has
been no indication that the Norwalk-like virus has been, or is,
present on the ship,” Conroy said.
Carnival Cruise Lines’ Fascination was the latest Florida-based
ship affected by a gastrointestinal virus.
On its three-day cruise beginning Nov. 29, 190 passengers and 13
crew members reported symptoms similar to those of the Norwalk-like
virus found on Holland America Line’s Amsterdam and Disney Cruise
Line’s Disney Magic in preceding weeks.
“We’re operating under the assumption that it’s Norwalk,” said
Carnival spokeswoman Jennifer de la Cruz. “We did an ultra
super-duper sanitizing effort on the ship during the Monday
When the ship was scheduled to depart again, on Dec. 2, all
passengers were given a two-page letter explaining the illness and
offering the option to cancel without penalty. About 4 percent
canceled, said de la Cruz.
As of the evening of Dec. 3, the ship reported one passenger and
four crewmembers with gastrointestinal problems.
Meanwhile, the ship that first drew media attention, the
Amsterdam, was sailing with “no reports” of illness aboard, a
spokeswoman, Rose Abello, said Dec. 4.
The Amsterdam departed Dec. 1, after being removed from service
for one cruise period so an extensive cleaning and sanitizing
program could be conducted. Previously, 524 Amsterdam passengers
had fallen ill on four of its 10-day cruises.
The Disney Magic was scheduled to depart on a Western Caribbean
cruise Saturday. It also canceled one cruise for a sanitizing
program. The Magic had reported 344 sick on two previous
CDC Lauds Efforts
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which monitors
cruise cleanliness, has credited the cruise lines with doing all
they can to stem the virus.
“I am confident the cruise lines are taking all the appropriate
steps within their power,” said David Forney, chief of the CDC’s
vessel sanitation program. Nonetheless, the story took on a life of
its own, with headlines such as “Cruise from Hell” and “Sailing the
sickening seas” appearing in The Miami Herald and CNN.com,
But Carnival President Bob Dickinson, never one to mince words,
addressed questions about the virus head-on during a press
conference at the Port of Miami Dec. 2.
His openness had “a calming influence,” The Washington Post said
in a Dec. 3 story.
Citing the Post story, a cruise industry online newsletter,
Seatrade Insider, commented: “Perhaps the consumer media is at last
coming to its senses about the Norwalk virus.”
Almost half the agents questioned in Travel Weekly’s recent
online survey said that “many” or “some” of their clients were
worried about possibly falling ill.
But 56 percent of the 926 respondents noted that they would have
no qualms about vacationing on a ship with a recent
gastrointestinal outbreak, while 48 percent said they wouldn’t
hesitate to recommend it to their customers. n