From The Observer News (www.observernews.net)

Commentary
'I'm Glad You Didn't Get Sick!"
By Mitch Traphagen mitch@observernews.net
Apr 19, 2007, 19:07

I heard from a number of people regarding my newfound passion for cruise ships, as detailed in last week’s story.  Many letters were from people who shared my passion; a few made me jealous by mentioning cruises they were about to take.  Others were from people who thought as I did before going – that it wouldn’t exactly be a relaxing vacation.  They were surprised to read otherwise.

Also in my mail I found a consistent sentiment that jumped out at me:  Several people mentioned they were glad we arrived home without catching a virus.

Stories of cruise ship viruses make for good headlines but, given the number of cruises that depart from our shores, the odds are in your favor.  In other words, out of the huge number of cruises that depart each week, only a few have problems with shipboard illnesses.  Apparently, however, those few have been enough to make a mark on the public’s consciousness.


I wasn’t worried about it before we left, although the subject was brought up during a telephone call with my mom when she mentioned that she hoped we wouldn’t get sick.
 

“You mean seasick?  I don’t think so,” I responded.  After all, if I could survive being on a 32-foot boat in the ocean, I felt confident that I could manage on a 1,020-foot cruise ship.

“No, I mean the ship sickness,” she said.


She didn’t have to worry, either.  It turns out there are few places in this world that take illness as seriously as cruise ships do – at least in my experience with Royal Caribbean.  There were easy-to-use hand sanitation stations throughout the ship, with multiple stations near bars, cafés, dining rooms and restaurants.  Most had crew members nearby asking people to use them.  There were also hand sanitizers on the pier for use by those returning from a day in port.  Additionally, signs reminding people to wash their hands were posted everywhere and passengers who felt ill were encouraged to see the ship’s medical personnel.  Free room service provided an incentive for sick passengers to remain in their cabins.  After all, it’s not the ship that causes a virus; it’s people who bring it aboard.


In the end, it seemed that little was left to chance.  After all, the stories of sick ships obviously have some staying power with the public – no cruise line wants that kind of coverage.  And certainly no one wants a ship full of sick and unhappy customers.

But you don’t have to take my word for it.  The Center For Disease Control and Prevention takes the issue seriously as well and they make it easy for anyone to look up cruise ship inspection reports.  Just go to their Website at www.cdc.gov/nceh/vsp/default.htm to select your cruise line or even a specific ship.  Tips and other information are also available and there is some good reading for anyone with a morbid curiosity in the norovirus.

In our case, our ship, Navigator of the Seas, scored well.  Out of a possible 100 points, with anything above 86 being satisfactory, the lowest score it earned was 95.  The most recent score was 99; a single point was deducted for a recommendation to change a venting procedure to a grey water tank.  Put another way, I was far more safe on that ship than in a local fast-food restaurant or a hospital.


I do believe, however, there should be public warnings for at least one issue involved with taking a cruise:  It is highly addictive.  I mean really addictive – worse than chocolate or even Cheetos.  For me, stepping aboard the ship was like casting off all the pressure of day-to-day life and just watching it fade away as we sailed from port.  And when we returned, all I wanted to do was get back on the ship.


As some readers pointed out, as vacations go, cruising tends to be a good value.  For a bit over $100 a day, I received lodging with an incomparable view, unlimited and outstanding meals and transportation to a whole host of exotic countries.  Unfortunately, even though it was a good value, it wasn’t such that I could afford to do it every couple of weeks on a reporter’s salary.  But I would like to.


So no, we didn’t get sick – but thanks for the well wishes.  We have, however, become cruising addicts.  The CDC doesn’t offer any remedy for that.





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