Get Away With Fran

March 16, 2010

Norovirus means no go for Celebrity Mercury

Filed under: Cruise — Tags: , , , — admin @ 5:18 am

Among the issues cruise line executives will no doubt discuss at the Cruise Shipping Miami conference today is the dreaded norovirus, the fast moving stomach bug, that can quickly infect a ship, or for that matter, a hotel, or a shopping mall or, gulp a conference, or any other gathering of people.

Norovirus has been much in the news in the past few weeks with one ship, the beautiful, 1,749-passenger Celebrity Mercury out of Charleston, South Carolina, so hit with the illness on multiple sailings (including 22% of passengers on one cruise in February) that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a “no sail” recommendation yesterday.

In response, the ship will be volunarily “grounded” for a cleaning and sanitizing Thursday to Sunday, I confirmed with Celebrity President Dan Hanrahan, who I had dinner with last night at a party at the W Hotel, hosted by Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. Though he added, a lot of cleaning efforts have already been underway – including a complete sanitizing before the last cruise and, newly, use of a new machine that cleans with technology that didn’t make a lot of sense to this technaphobe but apparently uses electric currents of some sort.

And Hanrahan also made the clear, all this despite the fact, according to him, that the issue is not that the ship isn’t clean. It’s that norovirus is spreading all over South Carolina and sick passengers keep getting on. All passengers are required to fill at a form saying they are in good health, but not everyone tells the truth, Hanrahan added.

You can get norovirus by touching surfaces a sick person touches, like chair arms, and stair banisters. It’s spread through the air too, and is particularly hard to contain. Why do cruise ships seem to get it so often? They really don’t, any more than other contained spaces. But unlike others they are required by law to report outbreaks to the CDC.

Meanwhile, Hanrahan also indicated because of this and other issues, Celebrity is none too pleased with Charleston and unlikely to base a ship in that city in the future.

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