How To Travel

How to avoid getting norovirus on a cruise ship

Cruise ship.  Norovirus.

These two words, when seen together, can cause panic amongst new cruise ship vacationers who don’t know what they’re about to get themselves into.

Just a little bit of E.Coli can cause significant gastronomical distress on a cruise ship, and no amount of handwashing or Purell will erase the memory of a vacation gone bad in the aftermath of spending day upon day stuck (almost literally) to your stateroom toilet.

You’ll be lucky if you have a balcony – at least then you’d be able to air out the room and maybe see a little bit of the sights inbetween your bathroom runs.

Top 100 Cruising Tips for Beginners
Top 100 Cruising Tips for Beginners

The cruise industry (and the CDC) stress that the most effective way to avoid spreading norovirus around while trapped on a cruise ship is to be diligent in washing your hands and to avoid touching surfaces.

But sometimes, through no fault of the passengers on the current voyage, the norovirus can stick around on a ship from one sailing to another.  It’s not the passengers in the next stateroom that’s the issue – it could be the passengers that were previously in YOUR stateroom.

No cute animal towels for you this trip.

So what’s one of the research items you should do when choosing a cruise ship or company?

One thing you should do is pop over to the CDC’s LIST OF VESSEL SANITATION PROGRAM’s OUTBREAK UPDATES.  Sorted by year, you’ll see the full list of which ships (and companies) were stricken by Norovirus or other spreadable disease.

2012 was a big year for Norovirus, hitting a number of Princess cruise ships.  2013 was big for Celebrity Cruises. 2010 had it in for Holland America.

Norovirus can happen on any ship at almost any time.  The best you can do is try to avoid ships that tend to have a history of it spreading.  2010 had three sailings of the Mercury with Norovirus.  2009 saw the Amsterdam get hit three times as well.

Looking at the entire history that the CDC has compiled (dating back to 1994), the following 10 ships have had the most reported outbreaks of norovirus or other passenger-sickening outbreak:

  1. Clipper Cruise Line Nantucket Clipper – 12 times
  2. Holland America Ryndam – 10 times
  3. Holland America Amsterdam – 9 times
  4. Holland America Veendam – 7 times
  5. Princess Cruises Coral Pricness – 6 times
  6. Princess Cruises Regal Princess – 6 times
  7. Regent Seven Seas Cruises Seven Seas Mariner – 6 times
  8. Princess Cruises Sun Princess – 6 times
  9. Princess Cruises Island Princess – 5 times
  10. Celebrity Cruises Mercury – 5 times

This doesn’t mean that the next voyage on these ships will cause an intestinal issue.  Doesn’t mean that you won’t get sick on any other ship.

But sometimes you should play the odds.  That’s entirely up to you.