Sick on a Cruise Ship or in a Hotel? It Could be the Norovirus

Sick on a Cruise Ship or in a Hotel? It Could be the Norovirus
General Health

Nothing ruins a vacation quicker than a bout of Norovirus infection. This gastrointestinal virus is not only hitting cruise ships; it is now frequently found throughout similar environments such as hotels, day-care centers, restaurants, and nursing homes. If you experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps, you may be hit with this illness.

“Noroviruses are a group of viruses that cause inflammation of the stomach and large intestine lining (gastroenteritis); they are the leading cause of gastroenteritis in the U.S. The norovirus was originally called the Norwalk virus after the town of Norwalk, Ohio, the location of the first confirmed outbreak in 1972.”

All of the service sector businesses harboring the virus share similar types of food preparation operations in a high density location. The real problem is that these service enterprises are often functioning 24/7 with very little quality time to thoroughly clean the food preparation areas. Also, so much food must be prepared so quickly that proper hygiene and sanitation are often sacrificed for the sake of expediency.

Especially in those warmer climates where many cruise ships travel does the mixture of hot and humid weather with constant food preparation give rise to ideal conditions for norovirus to thrive. Wherever large volume meals are prepared is a hospitable environment for both pathogenic bacteria and viruses to flourish. Particularly when rigorous sanitation and hygiene standards are not religiously adhered to in such a high traffic area do the rates of viral infection increase.

Cruise Ships Pose Greater Challenges than any Other Venue

When keeping hotels properly sanitized and clean is such a challenge, it is easy to understand why floating hotels (also known as cruise ships) are so difficult to keep illness-free. These mammoth horizontal hotels not only house their guests for extended periods of time, they are kept in constant operation to remain profitable. Keeping a cruise ship clean is no easy task, especially for those companies that keep a close eye on the bottom line.

Herein lies the true cause of the many norovirus outbreaks now occurring on cruise lines all over the world. Simply put, a large group of people is being regularly served a large volume of food in a relatively confined space. Because of the obvious challenges of running such large kitchen operations, particularly in light of an uncompromising daily meal schedule, proper sanitation and hygiene are usually the first to be neglected.

For the very same reasons, nursing homes and restaurants have similar track records for norovirus outbreaks. However, cruise ships are particularly vulnerable to fostering conditions where norovirus is found to be both highly infectious and contagious. Therefore, it is essential that cruise-goers understand the multiple vectors of dissemination of norovirus, especially if they are vulnerable.


This article reporting on how more than 200 people were sickened on cruise ships from the norovirus states that:

“Since the start of 2015, the CDC has recorded five outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness aboard cruise ships, including the latest outbreak in April on the Celebrity Infinity…Of the ship’s 2,117 passengers, 106 have suffered from vomiting, diarrhea and other symptoms, the CDC said. The illness has also affected six members of the 964-person crew.

Cruise ships like the Celebrity Infinity routinely house 2000 plus passengers, so it’s easy to understand how norovirus can be spread via so many potential vectors of dissemination.

What is particularly noteworthy is that individuals who are already immunocompromised should take great care before embarking on such a pleasure voyage. The increasing incidence of norovirus outbreaks on all the cruise lines is simply too dramatic to ignore.

Any person who already suffers from mineral or nutrient depletion should likewise take special precautions. Prolonged diarrhea can cause serious dehydration; it will also deplete necessary minerals, nutrients and electrolytes.


Cruise vacations now come with a risk no matter what the destination or the track record of the cruise line. Every floating hotel potentially fosters an environment wherein the norovirus can propagate and quickly spread. The very best that any cruise vacationer can do is to be armed with all the necessary preventative measures in case there is an outbreak. A small “first aid” kit of natural remedies is also a good idea – one which includes oregano oil.

However, knowing thatthe virus is transmitted by fecally contaminated food or water, by person-to-person contact, and via aerosolization of the virus and subsequent contamination of surfaces” should give every cruise-goer reason to pause. Such a predicament is very difficult to adequately guard against in a cruise ship environment no matter what precautions are taken.