The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed a recent outbreak of norovirus aboard Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Constellation, with dozens of guests and crew members reporting symptoms. Sanitation procedures were increased onboard to mitigate transmission, and the situation will continue to be monitored.
Norovirus Onboard Celebrity Constellation
In the first confirmed outbreak of 2024, Celebrity Constellation was stricken with norovirus on the ship’s most recent sailing. The impacted voyage was a 9-night roundtrip cruise from Tampa, Florida that departed on Wednesday, January 3, 2024, and returned to Port Tampa Bay on Friday, January 12 after visiting New Orleans, Cozumel, Belize, and Costa Maya.
The number of guests onboard for the sailing was 2,056, and 68 reported symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea. This is a total of 3.31% of passengers, well over the 2% threshold when ships are required to report cases to the CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP). In addition, 7 of the ship’s 948 crew members (.74%) also reported similar symptoms.
Testing confirmed the outbreak to be norovirus, a very common gastrointestinal illness that causes vomiting and diarrhea. It is very easily transmitted and infected persons may show symptoms 12-48 hours after exposure. The disease typically resolves within 1-3 days without significant medical intervention.
Increased sanitation measures were immediately taken onboard, including enhanced cleaning and isolating guests and crew members reporting symptoms.
It should be noted that at no time were any cases of COVID-19, RSV, or other respiratory diseases reported aboard Celebrity Constellation.
The 90,940-gross-ton, Millennium-class ship can welcome 2,184 guests aboard at double occupancy, and is also home to up to 1,000 international crew members.
Next Steps for the Ship
As the ship is on a turnaround day on Friday, January 12 – debarking guests from one sailing and embarking guests for the next cruise – it is likely that a full deep clean will be made at that time. This may slightly delay embarkation for the next departure, though no impact is expected for the next cruise.
The next itinerary is a 12-night “Ultimate Caribbean & The Americas” sailing, with visits to Grand Cayman, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, and Cozumel before Celebrity Constellation returns to Tampa on Wednesday, January 24.
Guests booked on the cruise should take extra precautions with hand washing, use of hand sanitizer, and minimizing contact with high-touch surfaces such as elevator buttons, stair railings, and door handles as much as possible.
It is also possible that continued enhanced cleaning procedures will be continued at least through the first few days of the voyage to ensure minimal risk to everyone aboard. Other steps, such as fewer self-serve stations in the buffet, may also be implemented to minimize high-touch contact points.
While this outbreak aboard Celebrity Constellation is the first to be reported in 2024, there were 13 norovirus outbreaks reported aboard cruise ships in 2023, including vessels from Viking Cruises, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, P&O Cruises, and Celebrity Cruises.
Celebrity Constellation was one of the ships to have an outbreak in 2023, which happened in early March and involved a total of 97 guests and crew members (out of more than 3,000 people onboard). The 2023 and 2024 outbreaks are not related.
It should be noted that norovirus is not confined to cruise ships and outbreaks regularly happen at schools, workplaces, restaurants, sporting events, and other areas where crowds may gather. Because cruise ships are closed environments where tracking cases is possible, reports are easier to note and confirm.
Cruise travelers should always take steps to remain healthy while sailing and minimize any risk of infecting others if they do begin to feel unwell while onboard. Resting, staying hydrated, opting for a bland diet, and using over-the-counter medications for diarrhea and nausea are all effective treatment options.