Prevent Norovirus – Don’t touch ANYTHING!

Don’t touch ANYTHING – and I mean it!  When I hear that phrase it makes me think of my Mother when I was a child….  and she meant it!!  I think it was the kind of scene where she was working on a project of some sort and as a very little one I would go from thing to thing…. touching and asking questions.  It just drove her nuts!  When I first typed the phrase “Don’t Touch Anything” for this post – about preventing Norovirus I was thinking about a question that people ask all the time….  “How do you keep from getting sick on all those cruises you go on?”  But as I typed it – it sounded familiar – isn’t it funny the things we can remember?  I guess it had been filed way back in the archives, but was still serving me well!

OMG – we have so much fun Cruising – as long as we take care of business to stay well!

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This post is about avoiding Norovirus and other illness’ on a Cruise Ship!

Read all the way through to the end to find out how you can know

if there is a problem on your ship or not!

Yep – plain and simple.  Don’t touch anything!  Until it is clean that is…. (if you’re paranoid like me)

  1. When you are in public areas stand on your own two feet.  That means when using the stairs don’t use the handrail. When in a lounge or out on deck don’t lean on the bar or the guard rail.  Right there you cut your chances in half, or even MORE!   It really is simple – Avoid the germs to avoid the illness.  If you do happen to touch something be sure not to touch your face until after you wash your hands.  If you leaned on the guard rail – wash all the way up to your elbows 🙂

  2. Wash your hands every chance you get!  and then use the paper towel to touch the door handle when leaving the washroom.  But – if you are in the sunny Caribbean remember to re-apply sunscreen to your hands so they don’t get sun burned (ask me how I learned this)…  no just kidding don’t ask, I don’t want to talk about it…..

  3. Let the waiter in the dining room pull out your chair.  Have you ever watched the people navigate the dining room ?  Some use the chairs like walkers…  Come to the dining room with clean hands and then don’t soil them getting seated.  If you use a menu – excuse yourself to wash – before you eat or drink anything – because you touched the menu!

  4. If you eat in the buffet gather all of your food and drinks and then go wash your hands before unwrapping your utensils and eating.  I mean think about it – you just touched all the serving implements – the same one’s everyone else touched.  Better yet, don’t even eat in the buffet, or select a cruise line that serves you in the buffet, like Azamara – it is a much cleaner scenario.

  5. Don’t let staff members touch your ship card.  It annoys me to no end when personnel has their hand out for my card at embarkation or debarkation, or any other time, so that they can take it from me to scan it!  What an excellent way to spread germs from person to person, handle everyone’s cards!  Don’t let them do it.  If you do – clean your card and your hands immediately before putting it away.  I can tell you that the new cruise line “fathom” has a self-service card scanning system at the gang-plank.  I appreciate that!

  6. Clean your room! Every time your cabin steward has come and gone, do a quick wipe of surfaces that you normally touch and so did he.  Although rooms with sick people get designated staff that supposedly doesn’t go from room to room, it doesn’t happen until the illness is discovered.  And – I still sleep better knowing that I wiped off all the door handles, sink handles, toilet flusher, light switches….  and any other place in my cabin that I touch frequently.  I even tear off and throw away the pretty little folded square of TP!  It just takes a minute or two, so just do it.

  7. Be sure to pack some Pepto Bismol and/or Activated Charcoal.  Either of these may nip a bacterial gastro infection in the bud, so that you don’t ruin your vacation.  According to Jackson Siegelbaum Gastroenterology Pepto Bismol has an antibacterial ingredient, bismuth.  I usually carry Activated Charcoal, which works like your water filtration system, inside your gut, picking up the bacteria and carrying it out. I carry it in my purse, especially when going ashore.  If we eat something questionable we pop a couple, right away and share them with friends!

There are ways that you can tell and even find out ahead of time if your ship has been infected with something scary.  All cruise lines visiting a United States port of call participate in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Vessel Sanitation Program which requires them to report the total number of gastrointestinal (GI) illness cases–including zero–evaluated by the medical staff at least 24 hours before the ship arrives at a U.S. port, when sailing from a foreign port.  On their website you can look up which Cruise Lines and Vessels have reported either Norovirus or E coli, and the dates thereof.  This will tell you which ships had a problem in the past but unfortunately they can not predict the future or even know what the other guests will bring on board with them.

Once you are on the ship it is kind of too late for online research.  There you are in a situation where you have to protect yourself and your family.  You have to yell at your kids – “Don’t touch ANYTHING!  It is not just passengers who get sick, staff is susceptible too, even causing the spread of disease.  Like I mentioned above, don’t let them touch your card, clean your room after they did, but also pay attention to the person refilling your water when you are eating….  Do they pick your glass up, fill it, then set it back down??  If so they probably did that for the rest of the dining area too, and now they have spread whatever they might have picked up on another’s glass to your glass!  We always tell the maitre d when this is going on because it is really just a matter of good training, and can be corrected right away!  But meanwhile – wash your hands!

Some times a new outbreak will occur when you are on the ship – How will you KNOW?  If you ever notice that there are no salt and pepper shakers on the table, or that the buffet line personnel is serving when it would normally be self-service – it is a BIG CLUE!  There is Norovirus on board!  Whenever the  head count exceeds 2%of people with a gastrointestinal illness on the ship they go on alert, and begin taking the precautions that we think should be standard procedure!  Actually they are Standard Procedure on the higher end lines….  You can do your own research at the CDC website where you can see who all the members of the Vessel Sanitation Program are, and you can also see who is NOT on the 2016 chart meaning that they prevent illness, instead of allowing it.

CDC SHIP CHART

The lines and ships that are not on the list, did not report any illness exceeding 2% 24 hours prior to docking in the United States. Some have a higher staff to passenger ratio so that they can do a better job of sanitation and have a higher level of service.  As you can see only 8 lines and 9 ships have reported illness so far in 2016.  If you are a numbers person you will understand that 9 is only 3.7% of the 239 registered vessels – which is actually pretty good!  The numbers really convey that despite all the hype – these illness’ on board really are pretty rare!

Recently our friend from New York City became sick on a Cruise!

Did you know they quarantine YOU?  Here is her story! CLICK TO READ

I can see at a glance that from August of 2012 through January of 2016 – “Carnival” – the cruise line with the largest fleet had NO SHIPS ON THE CHART! Congrats to you Carnival – you have a hard-working, well-trained staff!

Think I am paranoid??  That’s fine, I don’t mind.  We spend hard-earned money on our vacations, and nothing will ruin one sooner than an illness!!  Norovirus, a cold, the flu….  Whatever it is, we don’t want any!  We have been all over the world and I can only remember one time that I got sick….  We had been on back to back, 7 night cruises, (on the ship for 14 days) and the last day I felt like SHIT!  I had a nasty cold coming on……  I can specifically remember having become lazy about cleaning our room.  I will never do that again!

Honestly we NEVER check the chart for illness before booking or sailing.  We book whatever is in our price range at the time we want to travel.  We pack a big container of bleach wipes, as well as pocket-size packets.  Bleach kills everything and it’s not slimy like hand sanitizer!  I always ziplock bag the jug so nothing leaks on my clothes and pack it in my checked baggage. I keep purse size packets in my backpack.  Our motto is:

“Don’t worry – be Happy & come Prepared!”

Here is what my Amazon Cart would look like a few weeks before my trip!

(except for the Pepto Bismol…. yuck!)


Did you know that Cruise Ships are the ONLY organizations required to report the incidence of disease.  Hotels and Resorts do not report to the CDC.  Airlines do not report illness to the CDC.  Do you really think it’s “Big News”?  or just another case of media hype…………  You don’t have to answer – but seriously – give it some thought 🙂

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