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Redirected: Q&A: Cruise President Talks About Noro

Carolyn Spencer Brown
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on Cruise Critic,

Celebrity Cruises

' Charleston-based

Celebrity Mercury

experienced a relatively unprecedented bout of sick-ship-syndrome with three successive voyages resulting in at least 10 -- and in some cases 20-plus -- percent of passengers becoming ill.


has been confirmed in the first two instances and is suspected in the third.

If Norovirus is uncomfortable for those who contract it (including yours truly), it's almost never fatal. The medical industry has offered advice on the best ways to avoid it, which include washing hands thoroughly and often (especially after bathroom visits and before meals) and avoiding touching one's face. Sanitizers, typically on offer all over cruise ships (from gangway entrances to restaurants), may also help.

We asked him to explain what his team of staffers and crew would do to eradicate the spread of Norovirus onboard.

Dan Hanrahan:

As soon as we see any pattern of Norovirus, even minimal impact, we start an enhanced cleaning process. We bring out the cleaning fluids that specifically kill Norovirus and we start to use chlorine. We consider this our "Code Yellow" stage. If we see more than six cases in six hours, we go to "Code Red."

If they don't follow it, we do not refund the per diem. And yes, it's pretty easy to figure out which passengers respect the contagion period -- and which do not.

CC: Have you ever seen such an epidemic of Norovirus on cruise ships before?

CC: What will be different about the cleaning process than Celebrity's usual Code Red response?

We have hired a retired CDC vessel sanitation staffer to provide guidance and counsel. We also have six of our shoreside management team to provide more oversight to the cleansing process.

DH: Giving us a few extra days allows us to go through the process of cleaning two more times! It's important to understand that the incubation period of Norovirus is 36 hours, so it's possible that a ship could experience two incubation periods in that time. This way, effectively, the virus dies twice.

CC: How will you ensure that this period of sanitizing Mercury will work and that passengers on its cruise departing Sunday won't be affected?

We've also made an offer to anyone who, booked on Sunday's cruise out of Charleston, is nervous about contracting Norovirus. We've given these passengers the option to cancel their cruises and receive a full refund, plus a 15 percent credit toward a future voyage. So far, about eight percent have taken us up on it.


No, as noted before it's by no means limited to people who travel on cruise ships. The message I always try to give is this: when we are reporting to the CDC the number of passengers affected on a particular voyage, we also look at crew members who have been ill. They live in closer quarters than do our passengers -- and of course they're working in public spaces onboard. And you'll rarely see a significant percentage of crewmembers affected on the voyage. That's because they're trained to follow proper procedures.

Tell us what you think!

Demystifying the Myths of Norovirus

Updated October 10, 2019

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