Star Princess Hit With Norovirus: Ship Cleaned and Back in Service

Star Princess arrived at Canada Place in Vancouver on Sunday with several guests still ill from norovirus. The ship was cleaned and is back in service. // Photo by Susan J. Young

Star Princess docked at Canada Place in downtown Vancouver, BC, early Sunday morning with an unwelcome guest -- norovirus. Of the 2,590 passengers on the ship's 15-day cruise to Hawaii, 61 were sickened by the virus during the cruise.

"On the previous voyage of Star Princess we saw an increase in guest with gastrointestinal illness, confirmed to be norovirus," said Karen Candy, the line's press spokeswoman. "However, only five still had symptoms upon arrival in Vancouver, the voyage's terminus point. 

"We conducted an extensive cleaning yesterday before the ship departed," Candy reported. The ship is now sailing a California coastal voyage. It departed a bit later than expected on Sunday as the line conducted an extensive cleaning program.

A Common Virus

While norovirus is a common virus, it occurs on both land and sea -- mainly in areas where there are large concentrations of people, such as hospitals, camps, airlines and nursing homes, as well as ships. 

Little is heard about it on land -- other than people having the "stomach flu" -- because airlines, hotels and malls are not required to report the number of consumers impacted. Cruise lines, in contrast, must report outbreaks of a certain level to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control as part of the government's Vessel Sanitation Program.

Norovirus is the second most common virus after the common cold. It's typically transmitted by person to person contact or close proximity to those who have it. Cruisers often contact it by touching surfaces previously touched by someone ill with the virus; on ships those might include elevator buttons, doors, stairwell handles, and food service buffet line surfaces or serving utensils.

Symptoms of norovirus include vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Typically, guests feel terrible for about 24 to 48 hours, but norovirus typically has no lasting effects. That said, it can be dangerous if contracted by young children, the elderly or those with an underlying medical condition.

Some guests onboard Star Princess emailed Jim Walker who reported the story in Cruise Law News on Sunday: