Demystifying Norovirus on Cruise Ships

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On more than one occasion, I’ve heard friends, family or clients say “I don’t want to cruise and get Norovirus.” And what’s interesting is that’s the last thing I think about when cruising or planning a cruise for clients. Cruise ships are held to such a high standard for cleanliness and sanitation that the numbers are staggering in our favor for a safe and healthy way to vacation. Still not convinced, here are 3 myths I hope to debunk and help everyone feel more comfortable with cruising.

Myth #1: If you cruise you’ll get Norovirus.

So not true! According to the Cruise Line International Association:

  • Norovirus outbreaks are rare
  • Affect well under 1% of passengers – According to CLIA, in 2016 24 million passengers sailed on a cruise ship, and 2384 cases of Norovirus were reported on for a combined passenger and crew count.
  • The cruise industry works very closely with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention
  • All ships have robust cleaning and sanitation practices – The standard by which cruise lines are held for sanitation is the highest in the world.


Myth #2: Vessels that experience outbreaks will continue to get passengers sick.

Not at all. In most if not all cases, the ships involved have scored very high on the CDC’s notoriously strenuous vessel sanitation inspection. It wasn’t the ships that were sick; it was the folks who came onboard and passed the illness around. Norovirus is, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of the most contagious gastrointestinal illnesses in the world.

Did you know….

  • You are 750 times more likely to get Norovirus or the common stomach bug on land than on a cruise ship
  • In fact, less that 1% of outbreaks every year occur on cruise ships!


Myth #3: There is no way cruise ships can battle the spread of Norovirus.

There are intense — and even more intense — cleaning and service protocols that cruise lines follow when the possibility of a spreadable virus onboard exists. Employees receive special training and utilize a rigorous sanitary protocol that meets or exceeds CDC requirements.

  • Cruise lines voluntarily work with the Center for Disease Control because they are that concerned with the passengers and public
  • Cruise lines work with regulators and the Vessel Sanitation Program to insure compliance and adherence to the standards
  • Two unannounced inspections occur a year – and the inspection program is more involved than hotels and restaurants.

Personally, Jeremy and I have been 5 cruises across multiple different lines from the Southern Caribbean and up to Glacier Bay in Alaska and each ship has taken extra steps to make sure that Norovirus outbreaks are as limited as possible. All cruises have crew members dedicated to cleaning the handrails and bannisters of the ship, literally all day long they are wiping down every handrail, door knob, and elevator button. And it doesn’t stop at just dedicated employees to cleaning public spaces, this includes Norwegian Cruise Lines creating the catchy (read: annoying after a 7 day sail) song “Happy, Happy – Washy, Washy” song for the employees to sing to you as they spray your hands with antibacterial wash before you can enter the main buffet hall. It’s an
earworm that even the comedians make fun, but it reinforces the point. Cruise ships would be out of business if their passengers had to fear for catching an illness due to their lack of attention and adherence to the standards set by the CDC.



Hopefully this puts anyone skeptical of getting sick on a cruise at ease and excited for the opportunity to try out one of the most popular ways to vacation!

Leave me a comment below and let me know which cruise you want to sail on next?  Even better let’s start planning your cruise today!

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