Outbreak Impacts Cruise Passengers on P&O Ship

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A significant outbreak of illness presenting with gastrointestinal symptoms is currently being reported from aboard P&O Cruises’ Ventura. The ship is sailing a 14-night itinerary to Portugal, Spain, and the Canary Islands, and enhanced sanitation measures have been put into place to mitigate transmission of what is likely norovirus.

While the cruise line has not confirmed exact numbers of cases reported onboard either among guests or crew members, a statement indicated that two percent of those onboard were symptomatic with vomiting, diarrhea, and similar symptoms.

The 116,017-gross-ton, Grand-class Ventura can welcome as many as 3,597 guests onboard if fully booked, and is also home to approximately 1,200 crew members. If two percent of the ship’s total capacity were reporting symptoms, that could mean as many as about 100 cases.

P&O Ventura Cruise Ship
Photo Credit: Darryl Brooks / Shutterstock.com

Unnamed sources onboard the ship, however, describe a much more significant situation. Unverified reports claim at least 150 guests have been isolated, and there are an additional 250 suspected cases, with vomiting in public spaces, uncleaned staterooms for those impacted, lengthy waits to visit the medical center, and some passengers leaving the ship early to fly home instead of finish the sailing.

It must be noted that these extreme descriptions are not confirmed, but the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has reported an increase in gastrointestinal illnesses across the UK in general.

P&O Cruises has confirmed that a range of enhanced sanitation protocols have been implemented onboard, including more frequent cleaning, switching to crew served dining rather than self-service, and closing onboard launderettes.

The ship also underwent enhanced cleaning and full sanitizing while docked in Tenerife on Friday, May 17. Guests were asked to depart the ship from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. while the ship was in port to permit more extensive cleaning of as many spaces as possible. As a thank you for cooperating with that cleaning regimen, all guests were given £15 (approximately $19 USD) in onboard credit.

P&O Ventura Cruise Ship
P&O Ventura Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Martin Augustus)

Guests onboard have also been asked to comply with all enhanced sanitation measures, including extra had washing and reporting symptoms if necessary.

“Whilst we have proactively stepped up our already robust disinfection measures, I would like to stress that these measures are only successful if we all comply with the health and wellbeing protocols that we have in place,” a letter delivered to guests explained.

“Washing your hands regularly, particularly before eating and using the bathroom is the single most effective step we can all take. I would urge anyone who experiences symptoms, no matter how mild you feel they may be, to report to the medical centre.”

Ventura has not been delayed in her itinerary, and is due to return to Southampton on Saturday, May 25.

Other Reported Cruise Outbreaks

While Ventura may be experiencing a significant outbreak, it is not the first cruise ship impacted by norovirus so far in 2024. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has noted outbreaks on ships from Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Holland America Line, Cunard Line, and Celebrity Cruises in the last five months.

CDC Sign
Photo Credit: Katherine Welles / Shutterstock.com

Read Also: Over 100 Cruise Passengers Ill on Cunard Operated Ship

The CDC only tracks outbreaks that include US ports and, therefore, would not note similar outbreaks on cruises in Europe, Australia, or other parts of the world without any visits to the US.

Norovirus is not confined to cruise ships, and outbreaks are regularly reported in healthcare facilities, restaurants, schools, and similar group settings. Contaminated food, water, and surfaces are the most common ways the virus is spread.

In the US alone, the CDC notes that there are approximately 2,500 norovirus outbreaks reported each year.

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