Caribbean Cruise Ship Turns Into Diarrhea Nightmare Vessel

When gastrointestinal illness hits a cruise ship, there’s nowhere to run or hide, as nearly 450 passengers and crewmembers aboard the Celebrity Cruises ship Mercury have discovered. Celebrity Cruises says they they’re still investigating what caused the outbreak, but the symptoms include “upset stomach, vomiting and diarrhea,” according to their spokeswoman.

She also says that those who are sick will receive compensation of some sort for missing out on the actual cruise.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the Mercury was responsible for two of the 15 recorded outbreaks of illness on U.S. cruise ships last year, both caused by norovirus (the most common cause of the stomach flu gastrointestinal illness). That’s not a great record for Celebrity Cruises–some competitors had zero outbreaks last year–but the record-holder for bad trips in 2009 was Holland America. Its fleet delivered seven different outbreaks on five different boats.

The Norovirus Blog (of course there’s a blog) says new research suggests norovirus is spread on cruise ships via dirty bathrooms and not enough chlorine bleach (alcohol won’t kill norovirus):

According to researchers writing in the Nov. 1 [2009] issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases…

[...]

There were 19 outbreaks of intestinal illness during the 3-year study period. Although the survey was not designed to detect norovirus or establish the cause of any illness, the restroom cleanliness scores were slightly lower on ships that had outbreaks than on those that had none.

The difference was not statistically significant, but the authors said the findings were consistent with the possibility that restroom contamination contributed to norovirus epidemics.

“More than 400 fall sick on Caribbean cruise” [CNN]