For the past three years, one single disease has been the focus of public apprehensions, particularly when it comes to sailing aboard leisure cruises. With COVID-19 occupying most of our anxieties, we’ve perhaps forgotten to worry about other nasty infections that have been known to afflict leisure travelers and ships’ crews at sea.
And, although the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in cooperation with cruise lines, established elevated health safety and sanitation guidelines for cruise ship operations amid the pandemic, sometimes the microbes still manage to win out.
One such instance lately occurred aboard Princess Cruises’ vessel, Ruby Princess, while sailing a seven-day roundtrip Western Caribbean voyage that departed from Galveston on February 26 and returned one week later, on March 5. Which is kind of a bummer, considering this winter season marks the first time in six years that the Ruby Princess has sailed itineraries out of the Port of Galveston.
Of the roughly 4,000 people on board, more than 300 passengers and crew were struck down at some point with a gastrointestinal (GI) illness that caused intense vomiting and diarrhea, according to the CDC’s notice of investigation into the incident. That overall figure breaks down to about 10 percent of the ship’s passenger contingent and three percent of its crew members being afflicted.
“At the first sign of an increase in the numbers of passengers reporting to the medical center with gastrointestinal illness, we immediately initiated additional enhanced sanitization procedures to interrupt the person-to-person spread of this virus,” Princess Cruises said in a statement.
The CDC noted that it had sent a team of Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) epidemiologists and environmental health officers to conduct a field response in Galveston on March 5, who collected specimens to send to the lab for pathogenic identification.
The CDC’s incident update hasn’t specified which virus caused the sickness, but Princess Cruises speculated that norovirus was likely the culprit. The cruise line also reported that the vessel had undergone an extra disinfection process before embarking upon the following voyage.
According to The Washington Post, the Ruby Princess’ recent bout of contagion is the fourth outbreak of a GI illness to have occurred aboard a cruise ship this year. Although, such outbreaks of GI infection had thus far been fewer than in pre-pandemic times, owing to the intensified sanitation and prevention protocols implemented aboard cruise ships to curb the spread of COVID-19.
For the latest travel news, updates and deals, subscribe to the daily TravelPulse newsletter here.