Sea Princess

31st May 2006, 20:06
200 passengers on board Sea Princess has been hit by acute gastroenteritis and put into isolation. She is returning a day early. I am surprised she left Southampton last Saturday because there was a rumour that she had a virus on board then. She took our place at 38/9 berth which according to my taxi driver, was because they wanted to isolate her. Oriana was due to dock there, and all passengers cars were driven there. Sea Princess was on 38/9 the previous Saturday, and we were at 106. But Sea Princess was due to return to 104/105, so her passengers cars were there, and our cars at 38/39 causing total mayhem. We only learned of the change in berths the evening before, but nobody told the car parking people, so passengers of both ships had to get taxis to their cars in different parts of the port. But nothing was said about the virus in the media, so I decided to say nothing on this site the day I returned in case it was only a rumour. Now however, it is quite obvious she had the virus on board and the poor passengers who joined her last Saturday caught it. P&O blame passengers for bringing virus on board, but it would seem that this one was already on board. Not too sure if it is the same virus that hit passengers on another cruise ship, the Van Gogh. David

31st May 2006, 20:29
Welcome back David - I see you have posted a load of pictures!

I am glad you were only inconvenienced by what was going on at Soton and not exposed to the outbreak. I read the report about Van Gogh but hadn't spotted the problem with Sea Princess.

I guess this kind of bug can affect anyone but is more likely to polish off the elder passengers.

What I find strange is that I spend two-thirds of my life living in hotels but have only been affected by stomach bugs once or twice over the last 25 years of travelling. I wouldn't have thought hotels were cleaner that cruise ships - but no doubt SN members who have served on them know better than me. I suppose people are more confined and air conditioning spreads the bugs around.



31st May 2006, 20:34
Fresh water also iffy, plus catering, open buffets, sad fact people dont wash their hands as much these days. Once germ is in confined space like a cruise liner it spreads like wildfire.


Paul UK
31st May 2006, 21:05

You are so right my wife and I were on the last Arcadia for final atlantic crossing to become Ocean Village and we saw the crew handing out hand wipes to everyone at the bottom of the gang way and they did not use them just carried then aboard along with all the crap on their hands.

My wife went down with the bug and we missed three islands and treated like lepers, I had to raise my voice to get the doc to come to the cabin, we were asked to go through the ship to his office, but I explained that my wife was to ill they came to her, also no charge and the buffet was closed down.

Guys watch GMTV in the UK tommorow big article on this subject now I know why.

Paul :@

PS Rule of thumb dont use the public toilets and only drink bottled water last wash your hands as soon as you get back to the cabin not just when you have been to the toilet!!!

Pat McCardle
31st May 2006, 21:23
Cruise ships are too big these days. Have too many turn arounds of passengers, many of whom will have something wrong with them before boarding, but have the medicines to 'Take care of them'. Put too many people of different nationalities together & some bug will arise !!Where are the health inspectors when the ship is at sea? Get them employed cruise companies!! (Thumb)

31st May 2006, 22:00
That explains the letter my mum got this morning.
She was due to have a look around her for a few hours on Saturday, but a letter arrived this morning saying that the visit had to be cancelled.

Wording goes: "Due to operational reasons that have only immerged during the current cruise and that could in no way be forseen..."

Frank P
31st May 2006, 22:28
Sorry to read that some of the passengers are sick.

How old is the "Sea Princess"?


fred henderson
31st May 2006, 22:41
The official US Government position on this problem is as follows: -

"Facts About Noroviruses on Cruise Ships

Noroviruses are a group of viruses (previously known as Norwalk-like viruses) that can affect the stomach and intestines. These viruses can cause people to have gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the stomach and the large intestines. Gastroenteritis is sometimes called a calicivirus infection or food poisoning, even though it may not always be related to food.

Norovirus is sometimes called the “stomach flu,” although it is not related to the flu (a common respiratory illness cause by the influenza virus).

Symptoms caused by noroviruses
Common symptoms: vomiting, diarrhea, and some stomach cramping
Less common symptoms: low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, nausea, and tiredness

This illness often begins suddenly, and the infected person may feel very sick. Normally the illness lasts about 1 to 2 days. Children often vomit more than adults.

Where noroviruses are found
Noroviruses are found in the stool or vomit of infected people and on infected surfaces that have been touched by ill people. Outbreaks occur more often where there are more people in a small area, such as nursing homes, restaurants, catered events, and cruise ships.

Reasons why noroviruses are associated with cruise ships
Health officials track illness on cruise ships. Therefore, outbreaks are found and reported more quickly on a cruise ship than on land.
Close living quarters may increase the amount of group contact.
New passenger arrivals may bring the virus to other passengers and crew.

How noroviruses are spread

People can become infected with the virus by:

Eating food or drinking liquids infected with noroviruses

Touching surfaces or objects infected with noroviruses and then touching own mouth, nose, or eyes

Having person-to-person contact (with a norovirus-infected person) by
o being present while someone is vomiting
o sharing food or eating from the same utensils
o caring for a sick person
o shaking hands

Not washing hands after using the bathroom or changing diapers and before eating or preparing food.

Norovirus infections are not usually serious

Noroviruses are highly contagious, but infections are not usually serious. People may feel very sick and vomit often or get diarrhea, becoming dehydrated if lost liquids are not replaced. Most people recover within 1 or 2 days and have no long-term adverse health effects.

What to do if you get norovirus

Advise the medical staff of your illness. Drink plenty of fluids. Wash hands often.

How to prevent getting and spreading noroviruses
Wash hands often. Wash hands after using the bathroom or changing diapers and before eating or preparing food. Wash hands more often when someone in your home is sick. For hand washing tips, click on the following link:

Avoid shaking hands during outbreaks.

Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer along with handwashing."


1st June 2006, 00:02
Good posting Fred, you should be a medic?!. Thanks for the welcome back Brian. I have been transferring my camcorder to the video this evening so although I appeared to be on line, I wasn't.

Norovirus as it is known these days is nothing new. It is just a fancy name for gastroenteritis or D&V as we medics call it which as Fred says is a group of viruses causing the symptoms already mentioned.

Personal hygiene is quite obvious, but it is amazing how people need to be told this rather than automatically washing their hands after going to the toilet or whatever.

When I was at sea, we medics were always in the galley. We had cases of D&V on a regular basis from crew to passengers. Today, passengers are blamed for bringing stomach bugs aboard but I have seen galley staff handling food having had their hands in places I dare not mention!. We checked everything in the galley from the temperature of stored foods to the handling of it. I would assume that medical staff still check this and take samples. Crew today in public areas at least are far more hygienic than my day wearing gloves. And in the buffet, all passengers have to use a hand gel. In fact I wrote to P&O last year after another trip on Oriana praising them for being far more hygienic than my own hospital.

Like Fred says, outbreaks occur more often in small areas like nursing homes and cruise ships etc which is why it is reported more. People shore-side are affected every day, but not always reported. But it is not always the lack of hygiene that causes problems or poor storing of food. Prawns and flat fish for example are renowned to cause problems however well they are stored. Passengers and indeed holidaymakers shore-side also bring problems on themselves by being incredibly greedy. I have mentioned over eating before in threads. On Oriana for example people were going crazy at the daily buffets. They loaded their plates right up, sometime having to have two plates to get it all on. This was followed by two sweets, often three. On one excursion, just like the ship, there was hot and cold food. Some people had both. Pudding dishes were huge, and these were filled right up, often going back for more. The body cannot always cope with such huge amounts of food that it is not used to digesting in such massive volumes each day at home, so it reacts in many ways. One is to give the person diarrhoea. The latter can be just plain over eating as well as bacterial or viral infection caused by food poisoning etc. This can lead to bigger problems because diarrhorea caused by over eating can cause infection to others if people do not wash their hands causing a chicken and egg scenario. Good hygiene, being careful what you eat and not being greedy should mean that you have a good holiday. But people wont do any of these things, so there will always be outbreaks of stomach bugs. Cruise companies and all outlets that handle food these days do their best to make our food safe, but as long as people shovel food down their throat as if there is no tomorrow they will go on making themselves ill, and affecting others. David

1st June 2006, 00:58
I would imagine the air conditioning on board would not help. I always got a cold when I went back. Confining passengers to their cabins, like on the Van Gogh, wont help, as in colder regions, the air conditioning will run on a recirculating cycle. The air is just pumped around and not refreshed! On the tankers we would all get ill within days of each other, because the AC was on recirc for cargo operations.

John Rogers
1st June 2006, 01:21
On the Holland American ships there is hand washing lotion at the entrance of all the eating places and in each public toilet.
They are very health conscious.

Keltic Star
1st June 2006, 06:36
I noticed in the electronic version of the Telegraph tonight that Princess Cruises is going to give a 30% refund to each passenger. seems a pittance to me. If they were discharging in Miami ot Ft. Lauderdale there would be taxi's full of lawyers waiting to sign up passengers as they came down the gangway.

We know the problem can't be totally eradicated, you can't police every food handler all the time on the big ships but I also agree that passengers can bring the virus aboard and the recirculated aircon can also be blamed. The larger the cruise ship, the larger the problem is going to be.How many have experienced colds, stomach bugs etc after a long haul flight and it's not entirely down to airline food.

Frank P
1st June 2006, 08:07
I think that we are overlooking one fact, and that is if you put 3-5,000 people in a confined space, it is inevitable that at some time some of the people are going to get ill, and being on a ship the germs/bugs will spread around easily.
With so many people onboard, the cruise ship companies have their work cut out to keep on top of it.
I noticed that some passengers on a smaller ship the Van Gogh were also stricken by the bug


1st June 2006, 08:50
You are right Frank, that is why we were so busy in the medical department on Canberra and Arcadia, and it would be no different now. Airborne viruses in particular spread like mad in confined spaces and airconditioning certainly would not help. Colds or flu for example can be picked up anywhere in confined places from ships and aircraft to football grounds. Norovirus is highly contagious from person to person which is why hand washing with soap is so essential. If seen under a microscope, viruses are protected by an outer coating, some thicker than others. Basically, soap destroys it thus killing the virus. Many viruses are not very robust and are easily disposed of with good hygiene. Hands should also be washed after coughing or sneezing. Never shake another persons hands before washing them. David

1st June 2006, 12:47
Speaking as someone who has been affected!! It was always on board in some form on both my ships. If you are on a short cruise scedule you get it bought on board often, but its taken off again. If you are on a long cruise it does the rounds, but people recover. They tell us that it is passed on by touch rather than air con, so handrails and food areas are the hot spots.
Our ships do have a sanitation officer responsible for things like this (im not entirely sure how, im deck not hotel department!!) and it is very dificult to walk around any crew area without finding somehwere that has been sanitzed!! Yuck!!
Also whilst you can confine crew to their cabins, or the medical centre, passengers are a law unto theirselves, and even if they report they have D+V symptoms, they wont always heed the request to stay in their cabins for 24 hours.
Crew dont tend to get it so often.......except when there is a larger outbreak. Confinement is 24 hrs from last 'episode', and 48 for those who work in food areas. I got stuck with a very grumpy Polish waiter.....long 24hrs!!

1st June 2006, 17:46
You are quite correct Sailor-boy. D&V is not spread via the air conditioning, but cold viruses are. D&V is spread by person to person. And yes, if the infected person touches a handrail or what ever without washing their hands, you could get it. But virues don't live for long away from the carrier unlike bacteria. During the line voyage era, and indeed the early days of cruising, we isolated both crew and passengers within both hospital complex. On both Canberra and Arcadia, we had a Crew & Isolation Hospital which I was in charge of. On Canberra, we were still employed on line voyages so my patients in the Isolation section was usually children with measles or chickenpox, but passengers with infection was also put there. Crew with colds or flu was always put into the crew hospital or indeed any other illness. We could monitor them better that way because if crew or passenger are confined to cabins, they do not always comply. On Arcadia, we were full time cruising, so we had a different kind of passenger. I didn't have one single case of chickenpox or measles but instead was isolating passengers or crew but viruses etc. Oriana for example has a much smaller hospital than either Canberra or Arcadia, and she is three times larger than Arcadia and almost twice as big as Canberra. Yet we had two hospitals on both ships. And it seems that these days, they tend to land passengers where we treated them on board. We even had an operating theatre on both ships where we set broken bones and minor surgery. Oriana does not have this. She has far better equipment than we had in general, but that is about it. Even in the 70s we took X-rays, tested blood slides. A passenger on my table went to the hospital for sea sickness. Her short visit cost £60. My advice to all passengers is to visit your doctor or pharmacy before you leave. Those prone to sea sickness should take a tablet before they feel sick. It is far cheaper than a huge bill visiting the doctor on board who will give you the same thing. As well as bigger hospitals, we had a bigger medical department. I am sure that we would have handled these outbreaks better. But like hospitals shore side, if you cut staff and wards, you can't offer the same service?!. David

2nd June 2006, 18:20
P&O are normally good at the buffets with the alcohol gel. Most people sensibly use it, but unfortunately there are still others who are too ignorant and lazy that they feel it is not necessary.
It's a shame that the buffet staff can't force people to use the gel, becuase that would help stop the spread of the infection by a large amount.

2nd June 2006, 22:12
Local BBC interviewed passengers coming off Sea Princess and all were critical of Princess Cruises. You will always get the moaners of course, even when nothing goes wrong of course, there were plenty on Oriana. But one passenger was complaining of dirty cups and plates and saw one crew member at the buffet tear cling film off with his teeth to cover food. That would be consistant with my observations many years ago when working for P&O which is why I said in post 9 that we medics used to visit the galley seeing many crew handling food in an inapproriate way, and that today, P&O blame passengers for bringing it aboard. The BBC also said that she had an outbreak last week which is why she took our berth. So the taxi driver was right.

You are right Newda 898, some passengers are too lazy to use the gel, but some crew members are the same. It only takes one to start an outbreak, and as a former medic at sea seeing it so many times, I have always been reluctant to blame passengers because we traced it back to galley staff every time during my era. David