Concern over the Norovirus ailment, common to closed spaces like nursing homes, hospitals and cruise ships is about as legitimate as it gets. Everyone who sails on a cruise ship has the opportunity to pick it us and let it ruin a good chunk of our time at sea. At embarkation, many cruise lines go through the formality of asking passengers to complete a short questionnaire asking if they are sick now or have been exposed to sickness recently. I’m pretty sure only silly people check “yes” and get denied boarding.
Unlike motion discomfort (sea sickness) that can be prevented for the vast majority of cruise travelers, Norovirus has no preventative measures. Even getting a flu shot won’t help. But there are steps we can take to make minimize the odds of getting it.
- Your Hands are the single-most important element in protecting yourself from illness on a cruise ship, or many other places for that matter. Frequent hand washing is a must, like every time you enter your stateroom, to wash away germs picked up along the way.
- Remove the bed spread or ask for it to be replaced. These are often used from sailing to sailing without cleaning and harbor all kinds of bad things.
- Don’t touch things- Elevator buttons, stair rails or other people. You can get norovirus from an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces.
- Consider stateroom location- Right in the middle of the ship may provide a better ride and be closer to everything but more (potentially sick) people will walk by your cabin, spreading whatever they might have picked up along the way.
- Avoid buffets where passenger after passenger touches the handle of serving spoons. I was impressed while on Holland America‘s Oosterdam last summer when, for the first 24 hours, buffets were roped off with only crew members allowed to serve the food.
When it comes to security, that’s another matter altogether and something we can indeed take steps to prevent any problems. Cruise lines commonly maintain a perimeter of several hundred feet around the vessel to keep away security problems. Often, though, its not what the ship’s security shield keeps away that is the problem, its more a matter of other people on the ship with us.
Cabin Security is an issue many travelers think nothing about. Even if your cabin steward seems like the nicest guy or gal on the planet, measures we take to secure our space can make a big difference
- Lock up all valuables- Passports, credit cards and cash you don’t need on the ship anyway for the most part. Keep a small supply of $1 bills handy if you plan on using room service, otherwise keep those things locked in your stateroom safe
- Out of sight, out of mind- Expensive electronic items like cameras, computers, and the like are easy to sell and a hot ticket item for those who might happen by your cabin while it is being cleaned.
- Your Balcony- may seem like a secure area but I found out first-hand that it is unbelievably easy to go from one balcony to another over the guard rail when I was surprised by an (idiot) friend one night. Stupid move but quite easy to do and get into another person’s cabin. Lock that door.
Also on the ship, solo travelers; children and teens are prime targets for criminals for a variety of seedy reasons.
- Buddy System- Insist that teens walk around/hang out/enjoy the pool in groups of at least two, three is better. A lone teen is easy prey for pedophiles aboard the ship.
- Check –In- Teens can have an enjoyable run of the ship for the most part and the cruise line will assure that they stay out of adults-only areas. Still, periodic set times to check in are a must. If that teen is supposed to check in at high Noon and they don’t, the adult in charge should be talking to security at 12:01.
- Solo Cabin Location is a way to help secure a single person’s space. Try a cabin close to public areas to minimize the distance between common venues and your private space, that’s where evil criminals may attack.
There is really no reason why a cruise vacation can not be the best vacation ever for all of us. If we choose the right ship, sailing date and plan ahead, including matters of health and security, just about any sailing can leave us with memories that will last a lifetime. Good memories that we want to share with others, not horror stories about a “cruise from hell” or some other easily avoidable bad scene.