|Star Princess// Photo courtesy Princess Cruises|
Star Princess was turned away from calling at Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands on Saturday, because the government said it was unprepared to deal with a noro-virus outbreak and had limited resources to deal with such a situation.
Princess Cruises’ spokeswoman Julie Benson called the government's response "totally unwarranted.” No Princess ship has ever been denied entry into a port based on incidences of ill passengers and crew onboard, she said.
Noro-virus is essentially the stomach flu; symptoms of diarrhea and vomiting are often severe but usually disappear within 48 hours. Except for the elderly, young children or those with severe medical issues, the virus usually is harmless. Over the past few years, cruise lines have a well-established protocol for dealing with cases of noro-virus onboard ships.
Health groups, such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Britain's Health Protection Agency, generally encourage ports to offer support to vessels arriving with ill people. In addition, only 74 passengers and crew (about two percent of those on board) had been reported ill; that's below the three percent level the CDC considers as an outbreak. The Falklands' chief medical officer made the decision after consulting with a U.K. microbiologist.
"An outbreak in the Falkland Islands would put enormous pressure on our limited medical resources, and jeopardize other scheduled cruise visits,” a government statement said. Politically speaking, Argentina and the U.K. – long adversaries for control of the remote islands off the coast of South America – are in the midst of a diplomatic row. Argentina calls the Falklands by a different name, the Malvinas. The two countries went briefly to war over the islands in 1982, with the British maintaining control. Now, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay are supporting Argentina by turning away ships flying the Falklands flag. Apparently many citizens of those countries were passengers on Star Princess. Today, January 17, Star Princess calls in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The 14-day cruise ends Jan. 21.