Norovirus is in the news this week after passengers onboard Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas fell ill. Writer Sally MacMillan writes about an experience she had previously with Norovirus.
When you’re sorting out your travel insurance just before you leave for a well-earned break, the possibility of lost luggage or missed connections might flash through your mind. But coming down with Norovirus? It wasn’t on the top of my concerns when I flew from Sydney to Auckland for a 10-day R & R cruise on board Celebrity Solstice.
But oh dear: Almost as soon as I boarded the ship I felt decidedly under the weather. I thought it was just a side effect from some medication. I coped by spending a leisurely afternoon unpacking and reading, and dipped out of dinner with my group that evening, choosing a Spartan soup and bread-roll dinner from room service instead.
Next morning, I loaded up with anti-nausea pills, drank gallons of water to counter the light-headed feeling that was adding to my unpleasant sinking stomach and headed out to the lawn deck for a walk. That worked for a while. But after another day and night of self-imposed exile in my balcony cabin, I had to accept I’d been hit with a gastro bug.
Celebrity Today, the daily newsletter, advised anyone who might be suffering any sort of stomach symptoms to report to the medical facility for a complimentary consultation and treatment (if necessary). With dreaded word “Norovirus” now on the table, off I went to Deck 2 where a very efficient nurse interviewed me.
Because my symptoms were indeed consistent with a possible Norovirus, I was given some Imodium pills. I was also asked to sign a document stating I consented to being isolated in my cabin for 24 hours, and possibly longer if the symptoms hadn’t subsided.
The documents I signed made it very clear that if I attempted to break out of my isolation I would be “subject to disembarkation from the ship,” and could be reported to the local port’s health authorities if I attempted to leave. If I left the ship, I would also be ineligible for any compensation the cruise line would offer me for missed activities.
Not that there was any chance of escaping even if I’d wanted to. My keycard was deactivated on the spot and a cabin steward escorted me from the medical center to my cabin. Somewhat bemused by this not-in-the-brochure situation, I frantically tried to contact the friend I was due to meet in Wellington in the morning to say I might be stuck on the ship and then settled in to contemplate the next 24 hours.
One upside: I could now give in gracefully to doing nothing but relaxing, reading, watching movies and taking in the views, and recover. The information emphasized the necessity of frequent and thorough hand-washing with soap and hot water. Because I was on a restricted diet, I had to call a special number to order its delivery. No sneaky treats allowed and certainly no chocolates were going to be left on my pillow.
The choice of dishes for passengers isolated for Norovirus-type symptoms is simple: white rice, baked potatoes, chicken broth, chicken breast, watermelon (not honeydew or any other variety), white bread, mint or chamomile tea, and bottled water. Over the next 24 hours, my regular cabin steward delivered this fare on plain black plastic trays with disposable plates accompanied by plastic cutlery and paper napkins — and while he wasn’t covered in hazmat gear, he didn’t hang around to chat.
Nobody likes being sick on their vacation and as this was more or less a stricter version of the diet I’d already put myself on since I’d first felt queasy, I was happy to stick to plain food in order to feel better as soon as possible. By the time my isolation period was up — I didn’t have to report for a personal examination — I was able to report that all symptoms had abated and I was allowed to leave the ship for a couple of hours in Wellington. My keycard bleeped at the gangway and security had to check that I was officially cleared. Yippee, I was free.
As far as I know, there had been no massive outbreak of the virus on the ship; certainly I didn’t see many people in the medical center. While there was no self-service in the Ocean View Cafe or Aqua Spa Cafe for the first three days of the cruise, I believe this was largely precautionary.
The rest of the cruise was everything I had wanted. My account was credited with the for-fee movies I’d watched during the lockdown; and while some passengers suffered involuntary isolation from seasickness during the rocky Tasman Sea crossing, I relished the conditions to the point of having a huge dinner at Murano.
When it comes to Norovirus, myths abound. Let us help you separate facts from fiction.
Not familiar with Norovirus? Check out our guide to everything you need to know about the disease and its spread.
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