The Crown Princess (owned by Princess Cruises) docked at San Diego with 94 passengers and 23 crew members who are  sick with Norovirus. 117 were confined to their cabins with acute gastrointestinal symptoms, including severe vomiting and diarrhea.

Imagine being stuck on a cruise ship, unable to escape, and you and over 100 fellow passengers are vomiting and suffering with diarrhea. You’re cowering in your room, hovering near the bathroom, and you know people in neighboring cabins are doing the same thing. It’s enough to make you avoid cruise ships for good.

The Crown Princess isn’t the only cruise ship plagued by Norovirus. A Royal Caribbean cruise ship returned home early on January 20, 2014, because 700 of their crew and passengers fell ill with severe flu-like symptoms. It’s likely Norovirus was the culprit on this ship too, as the passengers were vomiting and suffering with diarrhea.

Now if that isn’t enough to keep you off of cruise ships, I don’t know what is.

CNN reported that cruise ships are floating petri dishes and are ripe for spreading illness. Outbreaks of Norovirus are the leading cause of acute gastroenteritis and occur most frequently in close quarters. And that means cruise ships, nursing homes, and dormitories.

According to the CDC, Norovirus is the most common cruise ship illness that spreads easily from person to person, through contaminated food and water and from contaminated surfaces. That covers just about everything on a cruise ship from the people preparing the meals, transmitting it to food, passengers eating with contaminated utensils, to touching any public surface on the ship and being in contact with people who are ill.

Egads!

If you think these are isolated incidences, think again. So far in 2014, the CDC reports eight cruise ships infected with viruses, causing passengers to get sick, most because of Norovirus and E.coli. In 2013, eight ships were infected with Norovirus and E.coli . In 2012, sixteen ships were infected with the same.

If you’re going on a cruise (buyer beware) there are some things you can do to protect yourself:

1. Check the CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program website and search for the cruise line  on which you’ll be traveling. See link here

2. Wash your hands frequently, which means with warm and soapy water for 20 seconds.

3. Avoid touching your mouth unless you’ve thoroughly washed your hands. This includes: eating and drinking, smoking, and brushing your teeth.

4. Avoid using the public restrooms on the ship. To keep these clean, they have to be bathed in bleach. 

5. Gel sanitizers. If you can’t wash your hands, use a gel hand sanitizer with 60% ethanol.

6. Get plenty of rest and drink a lot of water. Rest helps restore your immune system, and drinking water helps to prevent dehydration.

8. If you see someone sick (vomiting or diarrhea) leave the area.

9. If you are sick, report it to the crew and stay in your room until you are well.

You might look into portable plastic bubbles (joke) if you’re intent on taking a cruise. For germaphobes like me, I’ll take a plane or car. Hand washing can be very effective but if there is an outbreak and your fellow passengers are throwing up and heading for the bathrooms, you’ll have to confine yourself to your cabin for at least a few days.