Cruise ships have experienced a significant increase in norovirus outbreaks, affecting hundreds of passengers and crew members. Royal Caribbean and Carnival Corp., two major cruise line companies, have been particularly impacted. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been 13 reported norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships in the first half of this year, compared to only two outbreaks in 2022. This is the highest number of reported outbreaks since 2012 and reflects the increase in cruise operations since the resumption of sailing in 2021 after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Out of the 13 outbreaks, seven occurred on cruise lines owned by Royal Caribbean Group and five occurred on cruise lines owned by Carnival Corp. The affected Royal Caribbean and Carnival lines include Celebrity, Royal Caribbean International, Holland America, Princess, and P&O. The remaining outbreak occurred on a ship owned by Viking Cruises.
Norovirus, also known as the “stomach flu” or “stomach bug,” causes symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, and stomach pain. It is not related to influenza, which causes the flu. Norovirus is most common from November to April and is the leading cause of vomiting, diarrhea, and food-borne illness in the United States. It spreads easily in closed and crowded environments like hospitals, nursing homes, child care centers, schools, and cruise ships.
The virus can be transmitted through contaminated food and drinks, touching infected surfaces and then touching the mouth, or direct contact with an infected person. While there is no specific treatment for norovirus, the CDC recommends drinking plenty of water or other non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic beverages to prevent dehydration. Symptoms typically last for one to three days, and most people recover.
The most recent norovirus outbreak reported to the CDC occurred on Viking Neptune, a cruise ship owned by Viking Cruises, during a June voyage. Approximately 13.1% of passengers (110 out of 838) and 1.98% of crew members (9 out of 455) reported feeling ill during the voyage. Viking Cruises implemented enhanced cleaning and disinfection measures, collected samples for testing, and provided updates to health officials throughout the voyage.
The cruise industry continues to address these outbreaks by implementing stringent sanitation measures and working closely with health authorities to ensure the safety and well-being of passengers and crew members.