Bugs? I hate bugs! The dreaded Norovirus on a Cruise Ship.

Health is not valued till sickness comes. – Thomas Fuller



The dreaded norovirus!  No one wants to hear that it’s going around the ship while they’re cruising.  And as one who has had it, it isn’t the ideal way to spend your vacation.  So, how do you prevent it?  Cruise ships try very hard to prevent the spread of norovirus, but passengers have to do their part too.  The odds are very small that you will actually get norovirus, but they’re even less if you practice due diligence.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), anyone can get Norovirus, and you are not immune to it after you’ve had it.  You can get the Norovirus in three ways: by eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated by the norovirus, touching surfaces or objects with norovirus on them and then putting your fingers into your mouth, or by having direct contact with a person who is infected with norovirus.  The incubation period is from 12 – 48 hours, and people are contagious from the time they start feeling sick and for a few days after recovery.

How can you protect yourself?

So, how can you protect yourself from the norovirus? First off is the basic common sense – wash your hands religiously. Keep them clean! Most ships have hand sanitizer everywhere you look. Use it if you cannot get to a restroom to wash your hands.  Wash your hands after pushing the elevator buttons or using handrails, that’s where a lot of the germs are present. Everyone else is touching the elevator buttons and using the handrails.

Or use your elbows or a tissue to push the buttons and don’t use the handrails.  I know, I always say I’m not going to use the handrails, and then I find myself doing it anyway by habit. Use the paper tissues provided to open the bathroom door after you’ve washed your hands. There’s always a wastebasket outside the bathroom door to dispose of them. If you use the buffet, use hand sanitizer after you’ve touched the serving spoons.

Avoid shaking hands, and if you do, use hand sanitizer afterwards. Don’t forget the casino, gym, and sporting equipment. Take Clorox wipes with you on the cruise and wash down surfaces in your cabin that may have been touched a lot, like phones, faucet handles, and the TV remote.  Clean the door handles often because your room Steward is in and out. And I cannot stress enough, wash your hands consistently and often.

Make sure that your children wash their hands and keep their hands out of their mouths.  If they get norovirus, you’re going to be taking care of them, and then you’re going to get norovirus. Stay healthy and keep your immune system up.  Before and during your trip get plenty of sleep.  Drink water to keep yourself hydrated. Take probiotics if they help you. Take your vitamins if you normally do. Eat healthy.

Why else could I feel sick?

Other things that can cause similar symptoms to norovirus include the water in a cruise port.  Just about everyone knows not to drink the water, but did you know that just drinking a can of soda that has been sitting in unfiltered ice can cause stomach problems?

Or that by drinking an alcoholic drink made with unfiltered ice can do the same?  Bring a straw with you for the cans, and be sure the ice in your drink has been filtered.  I’ve had both of these things happen to me, and they are not fun.  Don’t eat uncooked vegetables or fruit in port. Beware of what you eat from local port vendors. And avoid lukewarm food at the buffet.  You just never know how long it’s been sitting there.

What to do if you get sick?

If you do get norovirus in spite of your efforts you will want to make a visit to the ship’s doctor, who can give you something to make you feel better.  You will most likely be quarantined to your cabin for the duration of your illness so that you do not spread the norovirus to other passengers. You’re not going to want to go out anyway.

Just try to relax and get some rest so that you can enjoy your cruise the next day.  From my experience, you should feel better in approximately 24 hours.  Have someone else bring you some light food from the buffet if you feel like eating. I always take Immodium and Dramamine with me on my cruises just in case the norovirus, or similar illness strikes.  The Dramamine will help with the nausea, and the Immodium with the diarrhea.

You’re not likely to get norovirus on a cruise ship

And remember, being on a cruise does not mean that you’ll get sick.  It’s actually a rarity to get norovirus on a ship, but the publicity it gets makes it seem otherwise.  For every cruise ship that has an outbreak of norovirus, there are many many more that don’t.

Practice good hygiene, and be aware of things that could make you sick and avoid them.  Wash or clean your hands often, and clean off any surfaces in your cabin that could have contaminants on them from the previous occupants or your steward.  I’ve been on many cruises, and it’s only happened once to me, so don’t worry and enjoy your cruise, practicing proper caution. And remember, getting norovirus isn’t the end of the world. On the one ship that I did pick up the norovirus on, I was only sick for one day and enjoyed the rest of the cruise just fine.

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