Other people seem to like cruises. They rave about how it's one-stop vacation fun: endless buffets of food, daily planned activities, and kid camps. But even after having friend after friend come back from their cruise vacations tanned and rested, I have no desire to ever step foot on a cruise ship. Stories like the 600 passengers that just fell ill with vomiting and diarrhea on a Royal Caribbean cruise this week seals the deal.
The cruise ship believes the culprit was norovirus.
Image: Cruise Ship by kansasphoto via Flickr
This problem is so common on cruise ships that the CDC has a page on their site solely for tracking these cruise ship outbreaks. We're only a few weeks into 2014 and there have already been two reported cases of cruise ship outbreaks. There were nine in 2013. 16 in 2012. And those are just the cases that fit into the very strict guidelines for reporting it to the CDC, not all of the cases where people have become ill on cruise ships from year to year. The reports go back to 1994, and with the exception of a few low and a few high years, the number remains fairly constant. In other words, despite knowing that cruise ships create a perfect breeding ground for outbreaks of illness, we haven't perfected the art of keeping passengers safe.
Let me break this on down for you: a cruise is nothing more than locking yourself in an enormous, floating hotel THAT YOU CAN'T LEAVE. Does this hotel take you somewhere cool or pretty? Sometimes. But here's the thing, you can get to cool and pretty places and even have nonstop food and babysitting service without locking yourself into a floating hotel with no escape. Really, no escape. Everyone is vomiting around you, and you just have to sit there and wait for the norovirus to reach you because you are surrounded by water.
And you've paid a huge price for the privilege of having a vomit-filled vacation.
There are plenty of precautions you can put in place to help stop the spread of norovirus. For instance, hand washing, cleaning surfaces, and carefully washing fruits and vegetables (which may be carriers of the virus) all can help stop the virus from spreading. But, according to the CDC, 80% of the norovirus cases take place between November and April -- which also happens to be high season for Caribbean cruises. The reason why cruise ships pose a big threat comes down to three factors: "close living quarters, shared dining areas, and rapid turnover of passengers." According to the CDC,
When the ship docks, norovirus can be brought on board in contaminated food or water or by passengers who were infected while ashore. Repeated outbreaks on consecutive cruises may also result from infected crew or environmental contamination. This is because norovirus can persist on surfaces and is resistant to many common disinfectants.
So, no cruise ships for me. This lady is sticking to vacations she can leave on her own timetable.
Has the coverage of illness outbreaks on cruise ships made you rethink this vacation option?
More from health