NOROVIRUS: The Travel Agent's ultimate guide to combating cruising ignorance

It’s the ‘cruise ship’ virus you have a better chance of catching on land & the reason why thousands are missing out on holidays on floating cities. Here to break through those viral barriers is the cruise expert himself, O’Captain.

It’s the ‘cruise ship’ virus you have a better chance of catching on land & the reason why thousands are missing out on holidays on floating cities. Here to break through those viral barriers is the cruise expert himself, O’Captain.

“I wouldn’t go on one them cruises because of the norovirus,” a client said to me when I suggested cruising as a holiday option.

The charm of using ‘them’ as opposed to ‘those’ as a demonstrative in both nominative and oblique constructions aside, this woman was a prime example of the general ignorance out there about cruising and norovirus.

If fear of norovirus is the excuse people use to not try cruising, then statistically, they also should avoid eating, working, living some place, getting an education, getting old, following religion, and prison. In other words, they need to become Vampire Charlie Sheen (which isn’t that much different from normal Charlie Sheen).

Here are some cold hard facts to questions raised about this perfectly safe form of travel:


It sounds like my odds are high in getting norovirus on a cruise ship, should I avoid cruising?


Quoting Matt Lennon’s article from Cruise Advice from 2015, based on a US study, cruisers have a 1 in 12,000 chance of getting norovirus on their cruise compared to the 1 in 15 chance of catching it on land.

Assuming you will live to at least 80 years of age, you literally have the same chance of being struck by lightning in your lifetime as you do getting norovirus on a cruise ship.

So people who avoid cruising to avoid getting norovirus, should technically never leave their homes to avoid the electric ticking time bomb that is the outside world.

One in 500 people have an extra finger or toe – that has nothing to do with what we’re talking about, but holy #$#@, the things you find on the internet.


Wait a second, are you giving Matt Lennon’s article a shameless plug?


No, I am not giving Matt Lennon’s article shameless plug.


I’m worried about my children getting norovirus, what places are considered safer than cruising?


In terms of percentage of outbreaks, there are admittedly three areas that are safer than cruising – church, prison and fairs/shows.


Fairs & shows are considered clean for norovirus?


I know, right, I’ve assumed for most of my life that fairs and shows were ground zero for every virus and influenza on the planet. I’m pretty sure if cruise lines replaced the question “Within the last three days, have you or any person in your group developed any symptoms of diarrhoea or vomiting?” on the Public Health Questionnaire with “Have you had a Dagwood Dog in the past week” we’d pretty much wipe out norovirus on cruise ships all together.


And churches & prisons?


Though holy water may protect you from Vampire Charlie Sheen, you still need to be vigilant with your hygiene and choose wisely in the sharing of baptismal water and drinking of the sacramental wine from a shared common cup.

In prison, bad things happen to bad people, and it involves soap and showers and generally people should be more concerned about what’s going in, as opposed to what is going out. It’s a great reflection on our society that our prisons provide a more sanitary environment than our nursing homes and schools.


How clean is cruising compared to other elements of travel?


On a scale from 10 to 1, with 10 being clean, or drinking from a mountain stream on the Milford track in 100% Pure New Zealand, and 1 being not so clean like the host hotel’s pool the night after the Flight Centre Global Ball, cruising is a solid 9.999.


Is there any specific ship you recommend avoiding to minimise the risk of getting Norovirus?

Absolutely, there is ship that has a history of being heavily infested with rats and mice, questionable sanitation, a history of getting bad weather, and a high incidence of missed ports of call, but fortunately since Captain Noah retired, the cruising industry now has set itself amazing high standards in terms of cleanliness and safety.


It seems like every time a norovirus outbreak is reported, it happens on a cruise ship, why is that?


Cruise ships are one of the few entities that are required by law to report any outbreaks of norovirus, and cruise ships are required to do so when over three percent of the crew and passengers are infected.

So, as one of the few, and certainly highest profile, facilities reporting norovirus outbreaks, unfortunately cruise carries the brunt of norovirus discussion in the media, despite being responsible for less than seven percent of norovirus incidents.


Is Norovirus damaging the cruise industry?


Loose lips sink ships, but loose stools have done their share of damage.

There are two key elements in dealing with norovirus, the first is perspective – the media tends to blow things out of proportion and norovirus tends to blow things out in proportions. Statistically and proportionally, cruising is an extremely safe and healthy way of travelling.

The second is personal responsibility – if you are lucky enough to have gone on a cruise or a ship inspection, you can’t help but notice the extremes cruise lines go to maintain high hygienic standards, from the Public Health Questionnaire every client must fill in before boarding, to the hygiene signs posted throughout the ship, to the dispensers of hand wash placed throughout the ship, cruise lines rival hospitals in terms of setting the standard in maintaining a clean and sanitised environment. But ultimately, it comes down to individuals doing the right thing, and being honest and truthful about their health, and maintaining personal hygiene, and avoiding Dagwood Dogs.

It takes all hands in to fight norovirus (no matter if you’ve got 10 fingers or 11).


Do you have any more questions for O’Captain on norovirus?