December 27, 2002
Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas is the latest cruise ship to report ill passengers. While docked at its regular port-of-call in Key West yesterday, 71 passengers and 10 crew -- representing 2.7 and 1.2 percent respectively -- were reported ill. Royal Caribbean chartered two buses to transport approximately 37 passengers, who opted voluntarily to return to Miami a day early. Folks on the bus were given a boxed lunch and, upon arrival, provided with hotel stays, medical care and penalty-free air-change-arrangements as needed. The ship itself arrived in Miami, as scheduled, this morning. It is anticipated that Majesty of the Seas will depart Miami this afternoon, sailing its regular three-night Coco Cay-Bahamas itinerary, as planned. Spokesperson Lynn Martenstein emphasizes -- as have other cruise lines -- that "stringent cleaning protocols have already been in place and are heightened" on Majesty of the Seas since this outbreak occurred. As with passengers afflicted on other cruise line ships, Majesty of the Seas medical personnel did ask those who reported to the onboard medical center to remain in their cabins for 36 hours following the onset of symptoms. Responding to reports that passengers -- on any cruise line -- have been hesitant about seeking official onboard medical care out of fear of being remanded to their cabins, another source at Royal Caribbean noted that "most passengers are responsible. We do offer free medications in the medical facility -- not to mention the fact that the only anti-diarrheals are carried in the medical facility. Once you're there, free medical care and in many cases a consultation with the doctor will allay concerns." There's also another incentive. The majority of Majesty of the Seas passengers who opted to travel back to Miami by bus were compensated by Royal Caribbean with cruise credits and, in some cases (depending on the length of the illness), a free trip. "We tried very hard to accommodate these passengers," Martenstein says. In other Norwalk news, Dave Forney, chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Vessel Sanitation Program, confirms that lab reports indicated that passengers who fell ill on P&O's Oceana earlier this month had contracted Norwalk. It's interesting to note that these were the United Kingdom-based travelers who had flown to Florida on chartered aircraft and immediately boarded their ship -- an indication that Norwalk's reach extends beyond North American shores. Tests have not yet come back on Carnival Conquest but Forney says that results of that ship's effort to sanitize have been successful. On this week's voyage, Conquest has reported that just 10 passengers and six crew members -- out of 3,100 and 1,000 respectively -- have shown symptoms.