Ruby Princess, a Fort Lauderdale, Florida based cruise ship, experienced its’ third norovirus outbreak this year in March. Although tests confirming that the illnesses are indeed due to norovirus are still pending, a Princess Cruises spokesperson confirmed that some of the nearly 4,000 passengers aboard the ship suffered the effects of an undisclosed illness. No exact numbers were available. It is not yet known whether anyone plans on filing charges regarding the continued rash of illnesses aboard cruise ships, or has hired a personal injury lawyer to that end.
This outbreak constitutes the third norovirus attack aboard the Ruby Princess. Last week, the giant cruise ship sailed into Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale with 129 passengers suffering from norovirus, which can cause gastrointestinal issues, vomiting and dehydration. No serious complications have yet been reported pertaining to a cruise-ship induced norovirus bout. However, the disease can be dangerous for young children, the elderly, and those suffering from medical complications.
Passengers of the ship reported that the crew took extreme precautionary measures in order to stop the spread of the disease. The ships’ departure was delayed due to sanitation efforts, and passengers were sent an email outlining cleanliness rules beforehand. Once on-deck, patrons noted that staff members continually wiped down surfaces onboard, encouraged passengers to avoid using public restrooms, and even stopped letting passengers use salt and pepper shakers at meals (giving them paper packets of salt and pepper instead). “We have been operating at higher levels of sanitation,” explained a Princess Cruises spokesperson.
Passengers reported that staff members even insisted on serving all of the food at the buffet for the first few days of the cruise, as norovirus can spread easily via shared surfaces. This apparently caused some problems amongst passengers. “The set-up for the buffet is not accommodating at all to serve food,” said one cruise ship passenger, saying that the large number of people passing through the narrow walkways to get served caused “mass confusion.”
Despite the precautions, the Ruby Princess’ staff was not able to stop the outbreak entirely. Infected persons aboard the ship were quarantined in a separate area so that others would not become infected.
“It was a miserable family vacation… if I knew then what I know now I would not have boarded that ship,” said one woman, whose 71-year-old mother and 8-year-old daughter started displaying norovirus-like symptoms and had to be quarantined three days into the cruise. The woman explained that she had tried to get a refund when she and her family had arrived at the port only to find that the ship’s departure had been delayed. This was apparently because of extra sanitation efforts due to the sizeable outbreak of the virus on the previous cruise.
Despite the recent problems, the Ruby Princess departed for yet another cruise on Sunday after another thorough cleaning. No word yet on whether another outbreak has taken place.
The norovirus problems come after the large-scale Costa Concordia cruise ship accident earlier this year, in which a cruise ship carrying 4,200 passengers and crew members had to be evacuated after its’ captain allegedly ran into rocks off of the coast of the island of Giglio.