There’s yet another gastro outbreak on a cruise ship -- this time the passengers of the Diamond Princess are the unlucky ones.
More than 150 passengers are reportedly ill with gastro-enteritis. The ship is currently docked at Sydney’s Circular Quay where several passengers told The Huffington Post Australia about 158 passengers succumbed to the dreaded illness.
"There was a lady in the restaurant who was sick and vomiting over the floor. It wasn't very pleasant. So she was immediately taken to her cabin and the area she'd been seated at was cordoned off. She was the only person I saw who'd been sick. We were all kept very well informed," Mary, from Brisbane, said.
"The people in the cabin next to me were ill. They were an elderly couple but I don't think they let anybody know for a few days, as they were so sick they just stayed in bed," Dennis, from Sydney, said.
"I saw a man vomiting outside a restaurant and then a couple of hours later I saw another man vomiting in the hallway, all over the carpet, so that was when I started to worry," Victoria, from Melbourne, said.
Passengers said the captain alerted the ship of the outbreak and asked anyone with gastro symptoms to stay in their rooms. Crew were working to disinfect the ship; the pool was completely emptied and passengers were prevented from serving their own food to prevent further spreading. This morning, hundreds of passengers were milling around Circular Quay, dragging suitcases and peering at maps.
The Diamond Princess just completed a 12 day cruise departing from Sydney to New Zealand. There was another gastro outbreak last December on the Royal Caribbean where about 200 people fell ill with gastro.
Helen, from Newcastle, said the experience would not put her off booking another cruise. In fact, she's planning to sail away on the same ship later this year.
"I go on at least two cruises a year and I've never been sick. My late husband and I started going on cruise ships thirty years ago and I still love it. I follow all the guidelines when it comes to cleanliness and I always use the hand sanitisers. I can't fault the crew, they did everything they could to make everything clean and keep everybody aware of what was going on," Helen said.
Travel Insurance Direct's Phil Sylvester has these health tips for people travelling on cruise ships:
Tell the truth before you board
Have the sniffles or an upset stomach? Make sure you see a doctor before your holiday starts and let the crew know that you’re not feeling 100 percent once you board. It might mean you need to rest up for a few days before you lounge poolside with a mai tai, but this could mean the difference between a one-off case and a ship-wide outbreak.
Buy travel insurance
Medical treatment or evacuation could become costly for a passenger if you haven’t taken out travel insurance. Medicare coverage no longer applies once your ship leaves port, even if you don’t leave Australian waters or visit another country.
Use on-board sanitisers
The only thing you’ll see more of than glitzy on-ship entertainment, are no-touch sanitiser dispensers. You’ll see these on every corner of the ship, particularly at the entrance to dining rooms and restaurants. Don’t think these are purely decorative -- use them obsessively.
Wash your hands frequently.
Don’t let your new-found obsession with hand sanitiser be your only line of defence.
"Hand washing is one of the cheapest and most effective health measures known," said Dr Karl Kruszelnicki. Ensure you use warm soapy water and rigorously wash your hands front and back for at least 30 seconds.
Avoid the public bathrooms
Make sure you use the ensuite in your cabin to avoid coming in contact with other passengers who may not have the same level of cleanliness as you.
Don’t share plates or cutlery
It might be polite of the woman in front of you in the buffet line to pass you a plate, but what else is she sharing with you in the process? Eliminate your risk of contracting unwanted bacteria by picking up your own plates, cutlery or glassware.
Use your knuckles to press buttons
Elevator buttons, ATM machines and drink dispensers are all accessed by our fingers, but it’s those little touchpads at the end of our digits that become the transportation vehicle for germs. Get in the habit of using your knuckles to press buttons, as your knuckles are less likely to come in contact with bacteria.
What to do if you get sick on board:
Head to the pharmacy. Most major cruise lines will have an on-board pharmacy where you can pick up over-the-counter meds for an upset stomach, cold and flu, or sea sickness.
Head to the infirmary If you’re worried that it’s something more serious. These are staffed 24 hours a day and must adhere to the Cruise Line International Association’s Standards of Care, as well as the American College of Emergency Physicians guidelines.
Respect quarantine procedures If you’ve come down with a contagious bug such as influenza or Norovirus, you may be required to go into quarantine. You’ll be isolated from other passengers and required to remain in your room and take your meals there until you are symptom free for 72 hours. You may be eligible for compensation from your cruise line for any pre-paid activities you missed.