You have been saving for this trip for months. You have every detail worked out. You’ve picked out the exact cabin you want, the plane tickets have been purchased, shore excursions organized, you have even reviewed the ships layout so you will know your way around the minute you get on board. No detail has been left to chance, or has it?
Most cruisers forget to prepare for the one thing they should be most prepared for. The Norovirus, that infamous little bug that can bring your dream vacation to a screeching halt. After all the time, money and effort you put into your vacation, the last thing you are going to want to do is spend it too sick to come out of the bathroom.
Cruise ships are notorious for spreading the Norovirus. Ships are like a floating block of cheese and the Norovirus is the mold that loves to grow on it. It spreads quickly and is nondiscriminatory. However, if passengers arm themselves with a little knowledge about how the virus is spread and take steps right from the beginning to protect themselves their chances of a virus free cruise increases dramatically, even in the event of a wide spread outbreak on board.
Know the Facts:
* The Norovirus can be passed from person to person or by touching a surface that has the virus on it such as a railing, door knob or arm rest.
* Foods that usually spread the virus are leafy greens, fresh fruits and shell fish. However, any raw food or
any cooked food that is handled by someone who is infected with the virus can become contaminated.
* Outbreaks can also come from contaminated water including swimming pools.
* You are most contagious while you are ill and during the first 3 days after you have recovered.
* Most outbreaks happen between November and April.
* The most common symptoms are diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, stomach pain, headache and body aches.
How to Protect Yourself
The best defense is plain old soap and water. Wash your hands with soap and water and wash them often. You can use alcohol based hand sanitizers for extra protection but they should not replace the use of soap and water.
Wash all fruits and vegetables and shell fish should be cooked thoroughly. Keep in mind the Norovirus can withstand temperatures up to 140 degrees. Simply steaming fish or vegetables will not kill the virus. Make smart menu selections when deciding what you will eat. Choose well cooked foods.
There are areas on a ship that are touched by hundreds or thousands of passengers and crew members per cruise if not daily, stair railings, chairs, the bar, even the elevator buttons. Try to be conscious about touching your face. Every time you touch your face you are exposing your nose, eyes and mouth to germs. Always wash your hands with soap and water before you eat, don’t just rely on the hand sanitizer the ship provides in the dining rooms. Wash your hands after attending any on board activities. Anytime you have a large number a passengers gathered together in a small area it is prime conditions for the spreading of the virus. Wash your hands after returning to the ship from being in port to make sure you are not bringing anything back on board with you.
Both Clorox and Lysol have product lines, in both spray and wipes form that will kill the Norovirus. These products can easily be packed in your suit case and be used to disinfect your cabin. Cruise companies do not disinfect ships between each cruise. They also won’t disinfect the ship as soon as an outbreak happens. They will wait until they reach their final port and the passengers have disembarked. If a widespread outbreak happens are you really going to want to wait several days before you can get off the ship just sitting in a Petri dish of multiplying germs? At least you could disinfect your cabin even if you have to do it yourself.
You can also help boost your immune system by taking vitamins before your cruise as well as during it. Having a healthy immune system will help you fight off the illness.
Be Prepare if You Do Get Sick
When ever you go on a cruise you should be prepare in the event you do contract the Norovirus. Take along some anti-nausea and anti-diarrhea medications. Take a few powder packets of Gatorade that you can add to a bottle of water that will help prevent dehydration.
Cruising is a great way to travel. You get to travel a great distance with only having to unpack once. It is relaxing, you will see beautiful ports and you are completely waited on hand and foot. You get to eat great food and are provided with a wide range of top notch entertainment. Fear of the Norovirus should not keep you from cruising. Most cruisers have no problems with the virus and with any form of travel there are risks and things you need to be cautious of. Just be aware, educated, and diligent about protecting yourself and be prepared if an outbreak happens. Then sit back, get yourself one of those fruity drinks with the little umbrellas, forget about the real world for a few days and just watch the beautiful open ocean roll by.