Princess Cruise Ship Addresses Outbreak as Over 100 People Become Ill

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While cruise lines work hard to keep their guests and crew members safe and healthy, sometimes the spread of disease is inevitable when so many people from around the world are brought together in a confined space. Princess Cruises’ Sapphire Princess is the latest ship to report an outbreak of norovirus. 

Gastrointestinal Outbreak Aboard Sapphire Princess 

Norovirus, which can spread quickly and easily in close quarters, is no stranger to the cruise world. While crew members work hard to keep communal spaces sanitary, it only takes one sick guest to be at the wrong place at the wrong time to start the spread of disease.

The gastrointestinal illness found its latest victims aboard Sapphire Princess’s 32-day voyage to the South Pacific Islands and Hawaii, which embarked from Los Angeles, California, on April 5, 2024. As of April 25, 94 guests and 20 crew members have become infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

While this may sound like a lot of cases, it’s actually a low number when you consider the amount of passengers and crew members onboard who remain unaffected. The ill passengers account for only 3.71% of the 2,532 guests on board and the 20 crew members account for less than 2% of the 1,066-person crew. 

Additionally, norovirus is rarely serious, although the stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea it causes are unpleasant. Thankfully, symptoms almost always resolve on their own within one to three days – which gives passengers plenty of time to re-join the fun when their symptoms subside.

Sapphire Princess Cruise Ship
Sapphire Princess Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: ODEGOVA)

Since embarking on April 5, the Gem-class cruise ship has already called on Honolulu (Oahu), Hawaii; Kahului (Maui), Hawaii; Apia, Western Samoa; Pago Pago, American Samoa; Suva, Fiji; and Dravuni, Fiji. 

Before the cruise concludes in Los Angeles on May 7, the 115,875-gross ton vessel will also sail to Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia, and Moorea, French Polynesia. No outbreak-related itinerary changes have been made as of the time of publication, and there likely will be no alterations for this reason. 

Crew Members Work Hard To Stop Spread Of Disease

While cruise lines work hard to prevent outbreaks from happening in the first place, they have protocols in place that allow them to act quickly when these events do occur. In the case of Sapphire Princess, crew members have collected stool samples from those affected to confirm the diagnosis, immediately isolated ill passengers and crew members, and increased cleaning and disinfecting measures throughout the ship. 

Qualified crew members have also stayed in close contact with the Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP), which is operated by the CDC. This allows medical experts to closely monitor the outbreak and help provide the right advice to mitigate the situation. 

In fact, experts with the VSP monitor all cruise ship outbreaks that occur, with all cruise ships required to make a report when a disease impacts 3% or more of the people on board. The outbreak on Sapphire Princess is the sixth of 2024, which is a very low number when one considers that millions of cruisers vacation on the high seas every year. For context, there were only 14 outbreaks in 2023 and four in 2022.

CDC Sign
Photo Credit: Katherine Welles / Shutterstock.com

Prior to Sapphire Princess, the most recent outbreaks impacted Silversea Cruises and Holland America Line. Earlier this month (April 2024), Silversea Cruises’ newest ship, Silver Nova, reported that 28 guests and one crew member suffered from an unknown gastrointestinal illness during a 16-night sailing from Lima, Peru, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. 

A month prior, in March 2024, Holland America Line’s Koningsdam saw 98 guests (out of 2,522) and 12 crew members (out of 961) fall ill from norovirus during a 35-night Pacific Ocean cruise. 

According to reports from guests onboard Koningsdam, the outbreak had little impact on the voyage – and in both cases, the mitigation and sanitation protocols were able to stop the spread and clear up the outbreaks quickly. There were no reports of anyone needing to be hospitalized or dying due to the stomach virus. 

But if any potential cruisers are feeling a bit weary about potential contagions, there are plenty of steps you can take to make sure you stay healthy on your cruise, starting with washing your hands.

Make sure to use sanitizer or stop by a sink anytime you touch high-contact areas, such as railings or elevator buttons, and before you eat. Similarly, consider keeping small sanitizing wipes on hand to clean frequently touched surfaces, such as tables in the buffet. 

Read Also: Cruise Ship Illness: How to Protect Yourself

In addition, it’s important to practice healthy habits even while on vacation, such as getting enough sleep, taking prescribed medications and vitamins, and taking time to enjoy the fresh air on deck. 

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