Travel Here’s how to avoid getting sick on a cruise
New Study: Planes And Trains Are Filled With Germs
In fact, public transportation might be the most germ-filled places Americans go.The study was done for Vital Vio, a company that markets LED technology that it claims can kill 90% of the bacteria and other germs left on surfaces.
When passengers booked their vacations on the ill-fated Diamond Princess, they were likely looking forward to hanging out in a hot tub, not a hot zone. Now most of them are quarantined off the coast of, hoping to avoid testing positive for the , which has already infected more than 200 people on the cruise ship.
The fact that the largest outbreak of COVID-19 outside of mainlandis happening on a cruise can’t be reassuring to travelers who are already skittish about health issues on boat-based trips, which are well known incubators of gastrointestinal illnesses. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers a helpful of cases, broken down by year.
The vast majority of cruises don’t experience any problems. But confined spaces mean that even one sick person can create a serious situation, explains Tullia Marcolongo, executive director of the nonprofit“It’s the domino effect, and you have nowhere to go,” she says.
What cruise companies do to minimize risks
Cruise companies work to minimize the risk of illness by maintaining cleanliness and monitoring health on board their ships. In response to the coronavirus outbreak, Carnival—the parent company of Princess Cruises—has introduced expanded, including “enhanced onboard sanitation measures with non-toxic materials” and “pre-boarding medical evaluations, as needed.” On its website, Royal Caribbean Cruises touts its health and safety program, such as internal and external inspections, frequent water systems testing, and strict food handling rules.
Norwegian Cruise Line Increasing Room Service Fees
Travelers should be aware of the changes being made to room service fees.According to Cruise Critic, Norwegian has raised the mandatory fee for all room service orders by $2 per order, with the only exceptions being continental breakfasts orders and passengers staying in Haven suites.
How to protect your health onboard
Passengers can do their part, too. “The first thing I would say is that the power is in your hands,” Marcolongo says. She means that literally. Frequent hand washing can be a critical preventative measure for norovirus, colds, and other yucky things circulating on a ship. To make sure you scrub long enough, sing “Happy Birthday” twice, she suggests, and don’t miss the spots between your fingers. If there’s no soap and water nearby, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Many ships make sanitizer stands readily available to passengers, Marcolongo adds.
David Parenti, director of the George Washington University Traveler’s Clinic and professor of medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, advises being aware of when you’ve held handrails and touched other surfaces. Until you can wash your hands, don’t stick them in your eyes or mouth.
Cruise companies MSC and Costa cancel departures from Chinese ports
Cruise operators MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises said on Thursday that they had cancelled departures from Chinese ports because of the deadly coronavirus outbreak. MSC said in a statement that no case of infection among passengers or crew had been reported on any Asian winter cruises. The decision to move the departure point from Shanghai to Singapore had been taken for the safety and wellbeing of passengers and crew, it said.Costa, meanwhile suspended nine trips from China that had been scheduled between now and February 4, saying the measure was "temporary".
Unfortunately, Parenti says, there are lots of other ways to get sick, both on ship and on land. “It all has to do with luck. If you’re on a ship with norovirus, that’s bad luck. If you are on a cruise ship, you will need to eat. Those risks are something you don’t have a lot of control over,” he says.
Give yourself a pre-cruise check up
To be proactive, travelers can set up a pre-vacation doctor’s appointment to make sure their immunizations are up to date. Depending on your destination, that flu shot might be important even if you’re taking off in the middle of the summer. “Keep in mind that the U.S. influenza season is the opposite of the Southern Hemisphere,” Parenti notes. He recommends getting the vaccine for Hepatitis A and checking on your immunity to measles; you could possibly use another shot. (A measles case was responsible for a different cruise quarantine in May 2019.)
Because of the limited number of medications on board, it’s smart to pack whatever you think you might need, Marcolongo adds. That includes first-aid basics as well as some standard over-the-counter supplies, which for gastrointestinal issues include Loperamide (Immodium) and oral rehydration salts.
Cruise ships on coronavirus: Do not board if you've been to China
Several cruise lines are not allowing passengers to board if they've been to mainland China 14 or 15 days before their sail date, according to an industry trade association. Related: Passenger on Carnival's Princess cruise gets coronavirus after disembarking in Hong Kong The Cruise Lines International Association said its members, which include Carnival Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International that sail from Galveston, have suspended crew movements from mainland China and will deny boarding to any individual, guest or crew, who has traveled from or through mainland China.
Miami-based attorney Jack Hickey once represented cruise companies—and now sues them over personal injury claims. His advice? “What I tell people is get trip insurance and make sure it covers an air ambulance.” Travelers who experience emergencies and need to pay for transportation will be in for some serious sticker shock otherwise.
If you do get sick
Be realistic about what kind of care you can actually expect on board a ship. “If you get sick or injured, get back to the U.S. as quickly as possible,” Hickey advises. Although cruises undoubtably excel at hospitality, he says, they tend to be lacking when it comes to medical care. “It’s not a hospital, but a ship carrying 3,000 to 6,000 people and going to isolated areas of the world,” says Hickey, who thinks there typically aren’t enough doctors and staff to handle a heavy workload, and that the facilities aren’t adequately equipped. “Almost uniformly, they have X-ray machines. But [ships] do not have good machines or people who know how to read films well,” he says.
The coronavirus quarantine—which is keeping people cooped up in tight cabins for weeks—is a reminder that mental health problems could also arise, especially for anyone with issues around anxiety or claustrophobia. “Travel insurance doesn’t necessarily cover that,” Marcolongo notes.
Passengers on Quarantined Cruise Ship in Hong Kong Cleared to Disembark
The ship had been quarantined since it arrived last week.According to BBC.com, the World Dream cruise ship arrived last week at a port near Kai Tak when several crew members reported feeling ill. As a result, health officials in Hong Kong quarantined the ship until tests were completed on all 1,800 crew members.
As scientists learn more about the virus and how it’s transmitted, there may be more scrutiny of ventilation systems on cruise ships, Parenti adds. In a hospital, it’s possible to put a patient in a “respiratory isolation” room with frequent air exchanges.
That’s not an option for most cruise accommodations. The next best choice, according to Parenti? “I would take a window, personally.” At least you could open it and get a breeze that way.
is a Florence, Italy-based health and travel writer. Follow her on .
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The Caribbean Princess ship came back to Florida early after 345 passengers and 26 crew members fell ill with symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea.
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