200 Royal Caribbean cruise passengers struck down with gastro-intestinal illness

Helen Coffey

Passengers on Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas cruise have been struck down with an outbreak of gastro-intestinal illness believed to be norovirus.

Some 3 per cent of passengers – 195 out of 5,800 – have gone down with the sickness according to Royal Caribbean.

The outbreak began after the liner left Singapore on 23 November. Passengers were treated with over-the-counter medicine on board before the ship docked in Hobart, Tasmania, on Tuesday 5 December.

“It is not unusual for gastroenteritis outbreaks to occur aboard cruise ships, just as it is within the normal population,” a spokesman for The Tasmanian Health Service told ABC.

“Cruise ships have their own medical teams, medical surveillance systems, outbreak control measures and are well-trained in treating passengers.”

A video posted to facebook showed members of the crew in facemasks and industrial cleaning suits spraying hallways as part of the sanitisation process.

Sam Hennessy Peters, a passenger on board the ship, didn’t contract the virus but complimented Royal Caribbean staff.

“The crew are fantastic – working so hard keeping everything washed down 24/7! Had a lovely day, back on board for lunch then the sun came out so enjoyed the afternoon sunbathing,” she wrote on Facebook.

“We cannot fault the staff, they really are working hard to keep everywhere sanitised.”

Royal Caribbean has issued a statement saying that the ship will be “comprehensively sanitised and cleansed” when it docks in Sydney on Thursday 7 December before the next batch of passengers are welcomed on board.

The company added: “We're taking steps like intensive sanitary procedures to minimise the risk of any further issues."

Norovirus symptoms include nausea, headaches, abdominal cramps, diarrhoea and vomiting. For otherwise healthy people, the symptoms last from 24 to 48 hours. The best way to avoid catching it is through good hand hygiene: washing thoroughly before touching food and after using the bathroom.

There are currently around 325 British nationals on board the Ovation of the Seas.