Princess Norwalk Virus Update

July 2, 2002

The Norwalk Virus that surfaced on Princess Cruises’ Ocean Princess earlier this month also has appeared on Sun Princess and the company has continued to use unusually proactive measures to prevent its further spread. Some passengers, booked on Sun Princess’ sea and land cruise tours, report that those who’d sought treatment while onboard were asked to delay joining their post-cruise land tour until the 72-hour incubation period had passed. These folks were instead sequestered in an Anchorage hotel until being permitted to rejoin the land tour. They received a refund for the days missed. Impacted passengers also were given the option of canceling the land portion entirely and returning home with a refund for that portion.

According to Princess spokeswoman Denise Seomin, “a letter was distributed to staterooms explaining the concern with the virus and asking passengers who showed symptoms to notify the onboard. medical center. That’s how we knew who had it.”

In response to passenger criticism that only those slated to continue on to a Princess-organized land tour were singled out, Seomin responds: “We don’t control the airlines. But we can do everything we can to keep our properties as safe and healthy as possible for our passengers. Obviously the bottom line was to do everything we could to stop the spread of the virus.”

Indeed, in some cases Princess actually turned embarking passengers away at the terminal. These folks had, in response to a flier handed out there, responded that they had some symptoms of the virus. A Princess spokeswoman did not respond to our request for information on how those passengers were compensated.

Meanwhile, should Alaska-bound cruisers be worried? The situation, says HealthCanada’s Jamal Harb, “has gotten a lot better and the numbers are definitely down.” Harb, and Princess, both credit the extreme preventive measures for nipping, the spread, so to speak, in the bud. Oddly enough only Princess’ Sun and Ocean Princess were impacted on any kind of scale; executives from other cruise lines, from Norwegian to Holland America, report no significant reportages of passengers with Norwalk virus symptoms.

“The good thing,” says Harb, “is we know exactly what we’re dealing with, preventative measures are in place and the onboard environment is a lot safer as a result.”