By Heidi Zemach for SCN
When two thousand tourists are made to get off their cruise ship in Seward and wait for a few hours before being allowed back on, rumors can spread rapidly in the community. This week’s special port of call by the Dawn Princess cruise ship, was a case in point.
A number of passengers and crew members had active cases of Norovirus on the ship, and Princess was dealing with it, said Kirby Day, Director of shore operations for Princess Cruises in Juneau. By the time the ship had reached Seward, from its beginning ports of Japan, and Beijing, China, there were six passengers with confirmed cases of the virus confined to their staterooms, and three symptomatic crew members. All remained in quarantine while the ship was in Seward, he said.
Meanwhile, the remaining passengers were evacuated, and every part of the ship was sanitized according to Princess’ intense sanitation procedures, which were planned with the help of the Center for Disease Control. A special health officer was brought in to oversee the operation on board. The remaining passengers were then allowed to re-board. All went well after that, Day said. By the time the ship reached Juneau Friday, only two passengers were in quarantine.
The novo virus is a bad gastrointestinal flu that knocks you out for about two or three days, he said. It’s very common in the general population, but in a confined environment, such as on board a ship, it can spread rapidly by passengers touching germs found on surfaces such as door handles and railings. All of the cruise ships stress frequent daily hand-washing and sanitizing, and the ships’ crew uses a potent virus killer to treat all surfaces and to clean the cabins daily, he said. It is used to clean all of the coaches too, Day said.
“We’ve been very fortunate this season,” he said. “We just haven’t had a lot of cases.” In fact this was the only instance this cruise season of a Princess Cruise passengers contracting the flu-like virus, Day said, although there may have been some cases on other cruise ships earlier.
The Dawn Princess’ passengers are on a 25-day world cruise between Beijing and San Francisco. Princess has seen 980,000 passengers visit Alaska this summer. That’s about 80,000 fewer than the number they had in 2008, prior to the national recession, Day said. But people are still cruising, and the company did not have to offer as many deep discounts to fill their ships as they have in previous years, so he’s optimistic that in time, the economy, and his cruise business will improve.