Carnival Cruise Lines Seeks Source of Grand Turk Illness

March 26, 2013
(2:26 p.m. EST) -- With multiple cruise calls to Grand Turk canceled through the end of March, all by Carnival Corp. brands, port authorities and Carnival are working overtime to find the source of a spate of gastrointestinal outbreaks that afflicted cruise passengers earlier this month.

"Multiple experts, in partnership with local health authorities, have been engaged in examining and testing a wide variety of food service and water system factors over the past two weeks," Buck Banks, speaking on behalf of the Grand Turk Cruise Center, told Cruise Critic. Carnival declined to answer Cruise Critic's questions, instead referring us to the Grand Turk Cruise Center's statement.

Banks said the experts haven't been able to pinpoint specifically "what source, if any, on Grand Turk may have led to increased gastroenteritis among cruise passengers who previously visited the island." He said multiple measures are being taken to ensure the quality of all food, water and sanitation systems going forward but said he was unable to clarify for Cruise Critic what specific measures are being taken.

Local authorities, though, believe the source of the outbreak is the ground next to the port, which is saturated with sewage water, Turks & Caicos online news site reported.

According to the article, Carnival is excavating the sewage system as part of its efforts to eliminate the problem though locals told TCI News Now they have apparently known about the problem for two years.

In response, Banks said, "With respect to claims from unidentified sources on Grand Turk related to the sewage system at the cruise center, the sewage system is but one of many, many systems and factors both at the cruise center and around the island that have undergone testing and examination. While the root cause of what may have potentially led to the issue has not been determined, there are multiple measures taking place designed to double-check and ensure the quality of all sanitation systems throughout the island. Claims that the ground at the cruise center is saturated with sewage and that there has been a known problem for two years are patently false."

But whether the groundwater is contaminated, recent analyses have shown the island's drinking water is safe, the Ministry of Health and Human Services, said in a March 22 news release. Tests of water samples from the reverse osmosis plant, which feeds the public water supply, came back negative for any contaminations that would cause gastroenteritis.

The Ministry also said there has been a decrease in the number of cases of diarrhea and vomiting on the island since the outbreak was first reported in mid-March.

--by Dori Saltzman, News Editor