This morning [January 30, 2014] I received an email from a reader of Cruise Law News who said that the Princess Cruises’ Caribbean Princess cruise ship will be arriving in Houston tomorrow night 36 hours or so early due to a norovirus outbreak.
This evening the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the Caribbean Princess has suffered an outbreak affecting the following people infected during its current January 25th – February 1st cruise:
162 of 3102 passengers (5.22%); and
11 of 1148 crew members (0.96%)
The CDC has not yet announced the type of pathogens involved in this latest cruise ship infection.
A Houston newspaper said the virus was norovirus. [see related story below]
The newspaper also said that Princess Cruises issued a statement today saying “that the trip was cut short by one day because of thick fog expected over the weekend.”
Princess Cruises was recently featured in Time Magazine’s Top 13 Worst cruise Ship Norovirus Outbreaks.
Princess Cruises had five of the worst outbreaks: Crown Princess (January 2010) – 396; Crown Princess (February 2012) – 363; Ruby Princess (March 2013) – 276; Coral Princess (February 2009) – 271; and Sun Princess (July 2012) – 216.
The last gastrointestinal illness outbreak on a Princess cruise ship involved the Diamond Princess just two weeks ago.
January 30, 2014 Update: Cruise expert Professor Ross Klein received information from cruise passengers indicating that there were problems with norovirus on the prior cruise:
“From a reader: Passengers have been notified that during the current cruise there has been an increase in the number of cases of gastrointestinal illness amongst passengers caused by Norovirus. In response, we have arranged for the ship to undergo a prolonged and additional disinfection in Houston on Saturday, January 11, 2014. As a consequence, cruise check-in and embarkation will be delayed until 2:00 pm.
This was also noted by a passenger who just disembarked the ship who said, “Cabins on both sides of us had to be sanitized due the passengers being sick.”
January 31, 2014 Update: “Blame Game: Princess Accuses Passengers of Starting Norovirus Outbreak on Caribbean Princess.” “Not our fault” says the PR people at Princess Cruises. How about letting the experts conclude their investigation first?
For more on this story go to:
Cruise ship back in Houston after nearly 200 fall ill
By Cindy George From Houston Chronicle
The Caribbean Princess ship docked at Bayport Cruise Terminal Thursday (30) evening
For the third time in less than a month, federal health officials are investigating an outbreak of illness on a U.S.-based cruise ship after more than 170 passengers and crew members on a Houston-originating vessel reported gastrointestinal symptoms.
The Caribbean Princess arrived at the Bayport Cruise terminal at about 9 p.m. Thursday, more than 24 hours sooner than scheduled. It was previously set for an early arrival on Friday. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigators planned to board the vessel for a public health investigation.
The cruise line suspects the cause of the outbreak is norovirus, a highly contagious infection that causes severe vomiting and diarrhea — the predominant symptoms reported by passengers, according to a CDC preliminary report.
Norovirus also was believed to be the cause of a highly publicized outbreak this week that struck Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas. That ship docked Wednesday in New Jersey after an infection spread to roughly 700 people on board.
The Caribbean Princess left the Port of Houston on Jan. 25 bound for the Western Caribbean with more than 4,200 people on board. The vessel was scheduled to return on Saturday.
According to CDC spokesman Llelwyn Grant, 162 of the 3,102 passengers and 11 of the 1,148 crew members had reported illness by late Thursday afternoon. Ship employees implemented some of the agency’s recommendations for preventing further infections, he said.
“We have already been working with the crew in getting some stool samples so we can send that back to our labs for testing,” Grant added.
The ship’s rapid norovirus tests on samples were positive for the infection, according to the CDC.
The public health agency instructed the crew to increase cleaning and disinfection procedures and to notify passengers about the outbreak to encourage reporting.
Caribbean Princess passengers will remain on the ship until they are cleared by U.S. Customs authorities, which will take several hours, according to Princess Cruises spokeswoman Julie Benson.
“They’ll be going either home or into hotels,” Benson said, adding that none are expected to go to hospitals. “We don’t believe anybody will be ill getting off the ship. The ship did a great job stopping the spread of illness. The number of people who were ill continued to decrease dramatically over the last couple of days.”
Besides overnight accommodations in Houston, the cruise line said passengers would be offered a 20 percent credit toward a future cruise.
Once on board, CDC investigators will spend several days “basically evaluating the outbreak and trying to look at some of the responsive activities that we recommended to the cruise line folks,” Grant said.
Princess Cruises said in a statement Thursday that the trip was cut short by one day because of thick fog expected over the weekend. The statement also revealed that more than 100 people had been treated at the ship’s medical center.
“Caribbean Princess has experienced an increase in the number of cases of gastroenteritis among passengers, which has been confirmed to be norovirus,” the statement said. “Because of the increased sensitivity surrounding norovirus by both cruise lines and the (CDC) in this winter season, we notified the CDC …to ensure all appropriate measures are followed for an extensive sanitation of the ship prior to the next cruise departing February 1.”
Benson said the ship “will be undergoing a thorough sanitization” before the next cruise, which is scheduled to depart around 4 p.m. Saturday.
Asked if there was enough time to clean up the ship before Saturday afternoon, Benson said: “We have a good history and we have good procedures to do that.”
The Caribbean Princess is part of Carnival Corp., a family of brands that include Carnival Cruise Lines, Princess Cruises, Holland America Line and Seabourn in North America.
According to the CDC’s vessel sanitation program, the Caribbean Princess outbreak is the third on a U.S.-based cruise ship this year. In 2013, there were nine reported incidents — seven caused by norovirus, one by E. coli and another in November from a still-unknown cause.
In February 2013, an engine fire left the Carnival cruise ship Triumph adrift without power for several days, forcing passengers to endure a lack of air conditioning or, in some case, functioning toilets. The plight of the vessel — which departed from Galveston — drew international attention and became a public relations disaster for the cruise line.
For more on this story go to:
Second cruise ship in a week hit by illness
By Gene Sloan, USA TODAY
Another cruise ship has returned to its home port early in the wake of an outbreak of gastrointestinal illness.
Princess Cruises’ Houston-based Caribbean Princess arrived back in the city late Thursday, more than 24 hours ahead of schedule.
More than 160 of 3,104 passengers on the vessel had fallen ill with a gastrointestinal illness that the cruise line suspected was norovirus — a highly contagious infection that causes severe vomiting and diarrhea.
The incident comes just days after a massive outbreak of a norovirus-like illness forced an early end to a sailing of Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas. The ship returned to its home port of Bayonne, N.J. on Wednesday — two days ahead of schedule — after more than 20% of 3,071 passengers fell ill.
While the Caribbean Princess’ early return will allow time for a thorough cleaning before its next sailing, the decision to return ahead of schedule was prompted not by the outbreak but by a forecast for thick fog over the weekend that is likely to close Houston’s port, the line says in a statement sent to USA TODAY.
“We are mindful of our passengers’ safety and comfort, as well as the disruption the port’s closing will have on their onward travel plans,” the statement says.
Like Explorer of the Seas, the Caribbean Princess was on a Caribbean cruise. The ship set sail from Houston on Jan. 25 and was scheduled to return on Saturday.
Sometimes called the “24-hour flu” even though it is unrelated to influenza, norovirus is the most common cause of gastrointestinal illness in the United States, accounting for about half of all cases, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. It breaks out regularly in schools, nursing homes, hospitals, offices and other places people congregate.
The norovirus season typically runs from November through March and peaks in January. The illness usually begins suddenly and lasts one to three days. Most people recover without treatment, but some require hydration with liquids or intravenous fluids.
While the outbreak of gastrointestinal illness on Explorer of the Seas was one of the largest ever on a cruise ship, it occurred amid a general decline in such incidents. The number of outbreaks on cruise ships sailing from U.S. ports hit a multi-year low last year, continuing a downward trend that began nearly a decade ago as the industry increased prevention efforts.
The CDC recorded just nine outbreaks of illnesses such as norovirus on ships in 2013, down from 16 in 2012 and more than 30 as recently as 2006.
The decline comes even as the number of people cruising continues to rise. The Cruise Lines International Association estimates the industry will carry 21.7 million passengers in 2014, up from 15 million in 2010.
Cruise ships arriving in U.S. ports must report all cases of gastrointestinal illness treated by on-board medical staff to the CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program division, and a separate notification is required when the number of cases exceeds 2% of passengers and crew. When the number of cases exceeds 3% of passengers and crew the CDC issues a public report.
Princess says officials from the CDC will be boarding the Caribbean Princess today to monitor an extensive sanitizing of the vessel before its next scheduled sailing on Saturday. Passengers on the cruise that ended early will receive a future cruise credit of 20% of their fare, as well as a one day per diem to help offset ancillary expenses such as meals, the line adds.
PHOTO: Andy Newman
For more on this story go to:
See also latest story re- Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas 700 passengers norovirus sickness:
Bill Rakowicz first thought he was seasick until illness spread through vessel
By Eric Bunnell, St. Thomas Times-Journal
A 61-year-old St. Thomas retiree is back on his feet after he was one of nearly 700 passengers and crew felled by gastrointestinal illness on a huge cruise ship.
“He’s fine,” Bill Rakowicz’s brother, John, told the T-J on Thursday morning after speaking with him the night before.
Bill Rakowicz, a retired transport driver, told the Associated Press he thought he was just seasick when he became ill.
“Then I went out of my room and saw people with gloves and people sick everywhere.”
He started feeling unwell on Jan. 22, the day after Royal Caribbean International’s Explorer of the Seas set sail from Bayonne, N.J. For what was to be a 10-day cruise which turned out to be a week of misery.
The Miami-based cruise line cut the voyage short following the outbreak and the ship returned home mid-week.
Rakowicz was one of 3,050 passengers – and 4,237 people in total — reported on board.
Health investigators who boarded the vessel in the U.S. Virgin Islands suspect highly-contagious norovirus. That has to be confirmed.
Rakowicz, who his brother said is a veteran cruiser, told Associated Press he gives high marks to Royal Caribbean for going “above and beyond” helping passengers.
Built in 2000, 15-deck Explorer of the Seas is a sister ship to Voyager of the Seas, the largest cruise ship in the world when the first Voyager-class vessel was built the previous year, according to online wikipedia.org. Since then, they have been eclipsed by much larger ships.
Royal Caribbean, which said it did not deliver the vacation guests expected, was reported “taking several steps” to compensate passengers.
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