Passengers aboard the Sun Princess cruise ship have been struck down with the unsettling norovirus, as the ship finished its New Zealand cruise and returned to Brisbane this morning.
It’s the second time the Sun Princess ship has been disrupted by an intense outbreak of the virus this month alone, with around 90 passengers aboard a 12-day trip to Papua New Guinea in early February battling the illness toward the end of the cruise.
Per ABC, Queensland Health confirmed around 140 cases of gastro on board the ship.
The ship docked at Hamilton in the north of Brisbane at about 7am this morning after a 14-day round-trip from Brisbane around New Zealand.
The passengers are reportedly going through customs now.
A Princess Cruises spokesperson this morning told Travel Weekly, “To offer some perspective, Norovirus is a common ‘stomach bug’ that is self limiting with symptoms lasting one to three days. It is common in the general community and has been active in Australia in recent months.
“While the risk of Norovirus is 750 times greater on land than at sea, when it happens on a cruise ship, already high sanitation levels are increased further including encouraging guests to regularly wash their hands with warm water and soap and to use hand sanitiser machines located on board.
“Guests would have seen evidence of the proactive measures being employed on board and heard numerous announcements as part of our transparent approach in these matters. Most guests on Sun Princess’ just completed cruise were unaffected by illness. On any given day during the cruise 12 to 15 of the 2000 guests were in self isolation while symptoms ran their course before they returned to their usual cruise activities.
“At no stage during the cruise was there a large number of guests ill at any one time. We commend Sun Princess’ crew for their efforts and thank guests for adhering to recommended and proven preventative health measures. Embarkation of guests has been delayed today to enable deep cleansing of the ship and the terminal.
“Additional deep cleansing was also conducted on the previous cruise in Port Chalmers and Auckland. Guests have been advised of the changed arrangements for today’s sailing on a 10-night cruise to the South Pacific.”
Per the ABC, one of its journalists, Kathryn Perrott, was on board, but left the vessel with her brother while it was still in New Zealand.
“We were so scared of getting the norovirus, there were people obviously sick,” she told the ABC.
“My brother was particularly not keen after a bad experience getting sick in the past. It was increasingly common to see those hazmat suits cleaning rooms during the cruise.
“It got to the point where there was an announcement over the loudspeaker from the captain saying that there was a high spike in norovirus cases on board the ship again. That’s when me and my brother decided to go home.”
According to another passenger, Margaret Stewart, the virus was already present on the ship when passengers boarded.
“The bug was there before we boarded and it must have broken out again,” she told ABC.
“The staff were working hard to do everything and disinfect everywhere, especially before we went into eat [but] “I think they really should have waited longer before we boarded, before we set off, to make sure it was cleaned thoroughly.”
A statement from Princess Cruises said it was only a handful of the 2,000 passengers that caught the virus.
“On any given day during the cruise 12 to 15 of the 2,000 guests were in self-isolation while symptoms ran their course before they returned to their usual cruise activities,” it said.
“At no stage during the cruise was there a large number of guests ill at any one time.”