My wife and I just returned from the September 10, 2013 sailing of Cunard's Queen Mary 2 to New England and Canada and, although we liked the cruise, we learned that preventing the Norovirus is easier than getting over it.
Upon sailing from NYC on Tuesday afternoon, the only advice we received from Cunard staff and literature was to wash hands frequently and use the hand sanitizers frequently. To Cunard's credit, the hand sanitizers were amply available throughout all public areas of the ship. My wife is sort of a "Clean Freak" and always washes her hands frequently plus utilizing the hand sanitizers. I would place her in the top 5% of passengers with respect to hand washing and sanitizing. I, on the other hand, would place myself in the top 40% of this category.
On Saturday afternoon around 3 pm and four full days into the cruise, my wife displayed the first obvious symptoms of the Norovirus and I followed suit about 5 hours later. From that point on, my wife and I were extremely ill. When I called the Medical Center onboard, pain and dehydration medicine was prescribed and delivered shortly thereafter. Although my wife's symptoms ended after 12 hours, my illness was more severe and lasted more than 24 hours. I was advised to confine myself to my cabin for 48 hours _after_ the last symptom ended. Due to the number of passengers exhibiting symptoms of the Norovirus, Cunard offered complimentary laundry and room service which I had to utilize since I was confined to my cabin for a total of 3.5 days. During the last 36 hours of confinement, I finally had somewhat of an appetite but the complimentary room service only consisted of clear broth and other liquids - and room service would not accommodate my request for more solid food.
Cunard, to their credit, after the outbreak of Norovirus was evident late on Sunday afternoon, instituted stringent sanitary procedures in the King's Court Buffet. Passengers could no longer serve themselves but rather, everything, including coffee and tea, would be handed to or served to them by a crew member wearing gloves. And those procedures lasted until the very end of our cruise.
Cunard began showing a prepared Norovirus video on channel 41 explaining all of the new sanitary procedures and advising passengers not to touch hand rails or even the buttons on the elevator without some sort of barrier between your hand and the object. The video further stated that "These safety precautions are usually only instituted the first 48 hours of your cruise."
Lessons learned from this unfortunate experience:
1. A passenger does not want to contract the Norovirus - it is extremely unpleasant - I consider myself to be very healthy and took all usual and typical precautions and yet I contracted the Norovirus and it made me extremely sick for well over 24 hours.
2. The Norovirus is transmitted by touching surfaces - so don't touch handrails, buttons on elevators, chairs, tables, etc. directly - carry and use a paper towel to touch those surfaces. Don't use public toilets onboard.
3. Cunard's video made one rather damning statement: "These safety precautions are usually only instituted the first 48 hours of your cruise." Why weren't these extreme precautions instituted for the first 48 hours of our cruise as stated? If they had been instituted, would that have likely prevented the outbreak? I think the answer is, "Yes, possibly." Daily announcements by the Captain after the initial outbreak stated that right up to the end of the cruise, there were still new cases of the Norovirus onboard the QM2. We were, of course, never told exactly how many passengers onboard the QM2 contracted the Norovirus.
My wife and I have sailed different cruise lines to many ports around the world including two visits to Istanbul and have had no health problems before this one. We certainly find it ironic that we were both struck by the Norovirus on the QM2 while sailing off the coast of New England.