As Disney Cruise Line’s Magic reported another outbreak of stomach
flu and Holland America continued to clean the stricken Amsterdam,
many cruise companies have stepped up both their housekeeping
regimens and public relations efforts.
The Magic was scoured by 200 professional cleaners and more than
900 crew members after 275 people became ill during a recent
cruise, company officials said.
But Tuesday, Disney said that 69 of the 2,400 passengers on the
ship’s current Caribbean cruise also were reporting flu-like
Holland America pulled the Amsterdam from service for a 10-day
stem-to-stern sanitizing after more than 500 people became ill
during its last four voyages. But the company still is facing a
lawsuit on behalf of affected guests.
According to Reuters, the suit was filed in Seattle and seeks
class-action status. Lawyers said they also were considering a
second suit in connection with similar outbreaks on the Holland
America ship Ryndam during Alaskan cruises last summer.
Last Monday the Amsterdam’s sister ship, the Statendam, reported
that passengers on two voyages had diarrhea, stomach pains,
vomiting and other symptoms associated with the Norwalk-like
Cruise lines have sanitation regimens designed in cooperation
with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and
monitored during two surprise visits each year.
Cruise executives also are quick to point out that illness has
affected only 1,400 of the nearly 7.5 million people, or less than
1 percent, of those who have cruised this year.
The virus is spread through food and water and close contact
with infected people or things they have touched.
None of the lines, including Disney and Holland America, have
experienced any unusual cancellations, according to their
But both Disney and Holland America as well as many other cruise
lines that could suffer from the public perception that ships are
unhealthy places said they are making sure their ships meet the
highest standards and, in some cases, are implementing new
A Disney spokeswoman said there are no plans to remove the Magic
from service. “Right now, we don’t find that necessary, and the
experts at the CDC don’t either,” Angela Bliss said.
Both the Magic and the Amsterdam have received high marks from
the CDC in the past.
But besides scouring the Magic, Disney has dramatically
increased the strength of the disinfectants used on both of its
ships, said Mark Jaronski, a spokesman.
The company is reviewing procedures with the CDC. “As they learn
new information, they can recommend things for us to do in the
short and long term,” he said.
Holland America executives said they are “already on high alert”
and consultants are recommending new cleaning products and
During the Amsterdam’s 10-day cleaning, crew members were told
to replace thousands of pillows and disinfect every surface aboard
the 780-foot ship.
Throughout the fleet, the company has mandated certain
procedures if illness affects 1 percent of the crew or passenger
population, according to spokesman Erik Elvejord.
“Our practices are very good, they’re highly regarded, they’re
among the best in the world,” said David Giersdorf, Holland
America’s senior vice president of marketing and sales. “So we have
mainly a challenge to put the matter in context and equip travel
agents to put it in context and answer the concerns of
Giersdorf said letters have gone to “tens of thousands” of
agents and travel agencies outlining information about the virus.
He recommended that people buy vacation insurance for maximum
Disney has allowed customers booked on the Magic’s Nov. 23 and
Nov. 30 sailings to reschedule without penalty or to cancel and
receive full refunds; the policy may be extended, Bliss said.
Usually, cancellations made within 60 days incur penalties,;
rebookings never do, she said. Commissions are being protected.
At Holland America, passengers booked on the Amsterdam’s Dec. 1
and Dec. 11 sailings can switch to any open date through January.
Agents with customers on scheduled Amsterdam cruises should have
received a letter with a special phone number, Giersdorf said,
which will help with rescheduling.
According to Elvejord, there are no penalties to change, but if
the cruise is more expensive, the customer must pay the difference.
Penalties usually apply to changes and cancellations, he said.
Even cruise lines that were not directly affected are taking
Last week Royal Caribbean created a 10-member task force to
coordinate prevention efforts, said spokesman Michael Sheehan.
Special disinfectants are being used on its 16 ships, he said, and
items such as remote controls are being cleaned more often.
Carnival Cruise Line also is using a chlorine solution to
sanitize each of its 18 ships between cruises, said spokeswoman
Jennifer de la Cruz.
At the industry level, the International Council of Cruise Lines
plans to send a note to 17,000 travel agents describing the virus
and its effects. “The incidence of these things occurring is
greater in the restaurant community, hospitals, nursing homes and
schools than in the cruise industry,” said Michael Drye, president