Norovirus At Sea – Q&A For Cruisers

Norovirus has become an infectious topic lately throughout the news and media. Many news outlets have led their viewers to believe that the norovirus is a dangerous virus only found aboard cruise ships. This misconception couldn’t be further from the truth. To help break down the half truths and to share some helpful information, Cruise Currents has compiled a list of the most important questions and answers regarding the norovirus. Now, find some hand sanitizer and grab your biohazard mask as we infect you with the truth and vaccinate you with helpful tips regarding norovirus.

Where can norovirus be found?

Norovirus is not unique to cruise ships as many media outlets lead the public to believe. Norovirus can be found in almost any public or private space with a large number of people. The likelihood of norovirus spreading through a group of people is increased if the group remains together in the space for an extended period of time. Prime examples of breeding grounds of the virus include schools, malls, restaurants, hospitals, nursing homes, hotels, and cruise ships.

Is norovirus common?

Yes, norovirus is the leading cause of acute gastroenteritis in the United States and is responsible for 19-21 million illnesses each year.

How is norovirus spread?

While many scoff at the idea of blaming guests for introducing norovirus to cruise ships, it is most often the case. In most cases, norovirus is introduced to a cruise ship by one guest who inadvertently spreads the virus to other guests. The CDC states norovirus is most commonly spread by contact with people already infected by the virus or through contact with surfaces that are already contaminated. In some cases, the virus can be contracted by consuming food or water that is already contaminated with the virus. (Example: If a guest should happen to sneeze in a buffet line with no sneeze guard, the contacted food can become contaminated.)

What are the symptoms of norovirus?

The most common symptoms of norovirus include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Additional symptoms can include a fever, body aches, and headaches.

How can a cruiser prevent contracting norovirus?

The CDC advises the general public to practice good hand washing habits. Cruisers should always wash their hands before meals or coming back onboard the ship from a port. Many cruise lines have set up self dispensing hand sanitizer modules around restaurants and other public areas of the ship. Some cruise lines have also set up hand sanitizing checkpoints in front of restaurants and gangways, encouraging all guests to sanitize before entering.

What should I do if I experience the symptoms of norovirus while at sea?

Guests experiencing the symptoms of norovirus should immediately contact the ship’s medical office. Guests will most likely be examined by the ship’s doctor and could be prescribed medication and/or quarantined until the symptoms subside.

So, norovirus isn’t just a “cruise ship thing?”

No. While many people will unfortunately suffer from the virus while at sea, many more will suffer from it on land. Norovirus ranks just behind the common cold as the most widespread virus each year, so it will obviously affect more than a few hundred guests on a cruise ship. For many media outlets, but not all, painting a picture of a dream cruise turned infectious is what drives advertising revenue and readership nowadays.

Final tip: When cruising, wash your hands, sanitize, cover your sneezes, cough away from the salad bar, and remember we all share the same ship for our time at sea.



Mike Faust

Mike Faust is an avid world traveler, often found traversing city streets in Asia and Europe rather than his home city of Boca Raton. Mike has touched down in 39 countries, set sail on 35 cruises, and flown over 400,000 lifetime miles.