'Tis the Season for Norovirus

March 16, 2006

Cruise Critic members have sporadically notified us of outbreaks of the dreaded Norovirus onboard various ships.

This nasty little virus is passed around easily in confined spaces, including schools and hospitals as well as cruise ships. Typical symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps. In addition to these three, you may also have a low fever, chills, headache, muscle aches or just a blah feeling.

Because Norovirus is so common, Cruise Critic typically doesn't report outbreaks unless more than 10 percent of folks onboard are affected or there are particularly odd circumstances (this does not mean we're unsympathetic to the others, mind you). In any case, it looks like 2006 has already been a busy year if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have anything to say about it. They've been conducting investigations into outbreaks that could possibly be Norovirus on the following ships: Holland America's Zuiderdam, Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Sea, Regent Seven Seas Cruises' Seven Seas Mariner, Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas, Cunard's Queen Mary 2 and Swan Hellenic's Minerva II. We had already reported, earlier this month, about an outbreak on Crystal Symphony though it wasn't listed on the CDC's Web site.

There's obviously no pattern here in that a wide variety of cruise lines, from big-ship mass-market to small-ship luxury, are grappling with this problem.

Concerned? Make use of hand sanitizing contraptions (Holland America, for instance, has stationed them at gangways, dining rooms and Lido buffets). Wash hands frequently. And take other precautions, such as covering your mouth while sneezing.

If you catch it, trust me, you'll know it (you won't "wonder"). The good news is that as awful as its symptoms are, they typically run through your system in 24 hours. And if you feel sick while you are onboard, report to the medical center. They'll quarantine you -- not much fun for sure, but you still get to order room service -- and double-sanitize your quarters. Your fellow passengers will appreciate your honesty.