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What Cruisers Need To Know About Avoiding Norovirus

Washing hands regularly is an excellent way to avoid getting sick on a cruise ship

The norovirus infection is sometimes spread on cruise ships, but thankfully, it occurs infrequently. The symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain or cramps, muscle pain, malaise and a low-grade fever. Symptoms usually begin 12 to 48 hours after exposure, and the symptoms may last one to three days. There are some tips you can use to try to prevent getting the infection.

Use The CDC Health Inspection Search

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a database that you can use to search inspection records. You should probably avoid going on a cruise ship that scores lower than 85. Unfortunately, the search doesn't include every cruise ship but it will include most large cruise ships that serve American ports.  To be included in the search, the cruise ship must also have a foreign itinerary with ports in the U.S.

Take Precautions If You Use the Buffet

Some people will sneeze or cough into their hands and then pick up the serving spoon to get their food. Others "forget" to wash their hands after using the bathroom. This is never good in any social situation but is worse in a cruise ship buffet.

For instance, imagine just one sick person who forgets to wash their hands and spreads it to the next person in line and the person after that ... This can spread disease rapidly if it is given the opportunity. That being said, I find that sanitation at most cruise ship buffets is excellent. For instance, all ships that I've been on recently ask guests to wash their hands or use sanitizer before entering and they are excellent at cleaning food spills as well as keeping serving utensils clean between guests. In fact, I love seeing the, "Washy Washy!" ladies on Norwegian and Royal Caribbean has even created a video about the importance of handwashing.

Personally, I always carry a bottle of anti-bacterial handwash with me and use it before and after visiting the buffet line. This helps keep germs isolated and avoids me passing anything on that I might not even be aware of yet.

Wash Your Hands Regularly

Be sure to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with the hottest water you can handle. If you don't, you won't be killing germs and you'll continue to infect yourself and other people. You should always wash your hands:

  • After using the toilet or changing diapers.
  • Before eating, preparing or handling food.

You can use alcohol-based hand sanitizers in addition to hand washing, but hand sanitizers shouldn't be used as a substitute for handwashing. Additionally, it's better to wash your hands.

Alert The Cruise Staff Immediately

If you're around someone who has fallen ill and they're vomiting, having diarrhea, or feeling ill in a way that you might attribute to flu-like-symptoms or something you'd attribute to food poisoning - ALERT STAFF IMMEDIATELY. Isolate yourself from contact with others by returning to your cabin and calling for assistance. Do not wander around the cruise ship or wait in line to see a doctor.

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you should clean and disinfect the area immediately to prevent germs from spreading. Be sure to wear gloves. Use bleach on surfaces, and make sure to leave it on the surfaces for at least five minutes. If you want to be on the safe side, clean the area again with hot water and soap. Afterward, you should be sure to clean any soiled laundry, empty all trash and wash your hands. Soiled laundry should be washed in hot water and detergent. Furthermore, when you use the dryer, use the highest heat setting.

If You Feel Ill Before Boarding The Cruise Ship

If you feel ill before boarding a cruise ship, be sure to tell the medical staff. During embarkation, you will receive a medical questionnaire. It is critical that you answer truthfully and report any symptoms that you might be currently experiencing. Depending on the cruise line, you may be eligible for a refund or be allowed to postpone your cruise. However, remember to read the cruise line's policies.