Virus outbreaks on cruise ships have been making news headlines recently. While these headlines can be alarming, outbreaks on cruise ships actually affect less than 1% of all passengers, according to the CDC.
Cruise lines are very careful about hygiene and sanitary measures on their ships, and the main health risk is contact with a person who’s contagious, even through touching the same handles, handrails, and elevator buttons. If one passenger is sick, a contagious illness can spread quickly since a cruise ship is the perfect closed environment for an outbreak.
Follow these few simple steps to avoid getting sick on a cruise to steer clear of flu viruses, stomach bugs, norovirus, and other infectious conditions from Assist America, our global travel emergency assistance partner:
See your doctor before your departure.
6 weeks before your vacation, plan to get a full check-up and ask your doctor about your destination(s). Your doctor will make sure you have all the vaccines you need for your trip and can recommend important medicines for you to bring in case of sickness.
Pack plenty of sanitizer and wipes.
While rooms are thoroughly cleaned, an extra wipe down of your cabin’s phone, doorknobs, and remotes can’t hurt. Always carry hand sanitizer with you to disinfect your hands as often as possible.
No matter how much you trust your travel buddies, don’t share plates or silverware and don’t sample cocktails. Remember that a person can be contagious without showing symptoms.
Wash your hands properly.
While hand sanitizer does the trick, it does not replace a good hand wash under warm soapy water for about 30 seconds. Once you’re done, dry your hands with a paper towel and use it to turn the faucet off and to touch the restroom’s door handle while exiting.
Opt for cooked and pasteurized foods.
Besides norovirus, other microbes like salmonella and listeria can also cause a living nightmare on a cruise ship. While salads, fruits, and raw seafood is safe on reputable cruise lines, use caution when you are dining onshore in less developed regions. High cooking temperatures kill bacteria and viruses that can upset your stomach, so maybe get your steak well-done. Bacteria can also thrive in unpasteurized dairy or egg, so ask the staff if the food is pasteurized before you savor that cheese platter.
Use your own bathroom.
Although public restrooms on a cruise ship are frequently sanitized and cleaned, using your own cabin’s bathroom is the safest bet.
Watch for sick travelers.
If you see another passenger who appears to be sick, steer clear. If you see someone coughing or vomiting, inform a crew member so that they can clean the mess, assess the situation, and potentially isolate that passenger.
Use bottled water.
While water is generally safe on reputable cruise lines, using bottled water to drink and brush your teeth can help you avoid getting sick should a rare water contamination occur. Always use bottled water when you are enjoying a day onshore.
If, after taking precautions, you still get sick during a cruise, go to the ship’s medical center for a consultation. If the medical team can’t treat you, you’ll probably be sent to a clinic at the next port.
If you need further assistance, make sure to call Assist America’s 24/7 Operations Center for help. A coordinator can help you find a qualified medical facility, fill a prescription at a local pharmacy, and more.