A Holland America cruise ship has been disinfected and guests have disembarked after about 106 passengers and four crew members contracted a virus onboard last week.
The ship, the MS Oosterdam, launched out of San Diego a week ago for a seven day cruise to the Mexican state of Baja California.
The ship with 2,600 onboard was sterilized when it returned to San Diego Saturday morning and headed out to sea again.
Norovirus (Norwalk-like virus, a group designation by the CDC) is a stomach flu that is easily spread in a contained community such as a cruise ship. Symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea and can begin a day or two after contacting the virus. Individuals can stay contagious while they recover which can take up to two weeks.
The crew declared a “Code Red” after the first night of cruising. Planned group events were cancelled and guests were told to stay in their rooms.
“Guests who demonstrated symptoms were asked to remain in their cabins until symptoms disappeared,” Holland American Spokesperson Erik Elvejord said to MSNBC.
The CDC reports that about 23 million people are affected by the virus every year, with fewer than one percent of cruise ships included in that number.
About five percent of the passengers got sick which necessitates the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) become involved.
Sanitizing the ship includes wiping down every surface that may have been touched, since that is a mode of transmission. Exercise equipment, railings, elevator buttons, carpets and linens must all be cleaned.
KFMB – TV reports on one woman who was trapped in her room during the one- week cruise of the Mexican Riviera.
"I just feel bad, you know, my mom went on a vacation and now she's stuck to her room and confined to her room and she's really nervous she's really scared," daughter Star Ramos said about her mother Marilyn Bennett.
Gerald McGill, a maritime attorney in Pensacola, and IB News partner, says those whose cruise was ruined may not have any action. “In cruise line cases, there is no cause of action for emotional distress. That is eliminated by every provision in every ticket, you must have a physical injury. The people who got sick, have a physical injury and they would be entitled to something.”
But McGill adds that if the injury is not permanent the damages are nominal.
And any compensation may be up to the discretion of Holland America. An action must be brought within a year and those suing the cruise line must file their action in the jurisdiction specified by Holland America.
The small print and disclaimers contain all of the information that limits consumer’s rights when confronting a cruise line.
“In Carnival Cruise Line cases, they give you a two for one cruise, which seems like a good deal except right now they are giving away tickets because they make most of their money on liquor sales and gambling onboard the vessel. You could find a deal on a nice cabin for $100 a day," says McGill.
And McGill reminds us that the ship is not liable for its medical doctor because he is an independent contractor.
The Web site, Cruise Junkie keeps tabs on the industry. Created by a professor at Memorial University in Newfoundland, Ross Klein reports there have been three people that have gone overboard so far this year on Carnival Cruise line. And there have reportedly been 1440 cases of norovirus so far in 2009 aboard cruise ships.
Holland America’s Facebook page does not mention the cruise incident but has testimonials from fans of cruising on the line. #