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Cruise Industry Bracing For Zika?

You may have heard of zika but if you haven’t, you should, especially if you’re going on a Caribbean cruise, or even thinking of it. Especially if you’re pregnant, or even thinking about it.

Zika can be deadly, so read on…

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), this virus is transmitted by mosquitoes and can cause a catastrophic birth defect called microcephaly, and travellers should now take extra precautions against mosquito bites. At this time of year, that means the Latin American countries of the Caribbean. At this time of year, that means cruising.

The CDC alert was upgraded late Friday to a “Level 2 travel notice” which presumably requires more attention than a Level 1 and not as much as a Level 3, which is the highest. Without pressing the panic button, pregnant or pregnant-to-be women are being advised to consider avoiding travel to the affected areas.

The nervousness you hear is the cruise industry.

At a time when cruise lines are pulling out all stops to make their demographics younger, along comes zika. At a time when the “babymoon” business (bonding with unborn baby in a relaxed atmosphere) is flourishing, along comes zika.

At the very least, cruises are being cautioned to take precautions by avoiding mosquito-infested areas (can you say jungles?) and loading up on mosquito repellent. Cruise lines, according to the Cruise Lines International Association, are continuing to publishing not just zika, but any issues relating to health and safety, in each ships’ daily bulletin.

While all of that may be re-assuring, in an era when pregnant women have become accustomed to avoiding a wisp of cigarette smoke or a sip of alcoholic beverages in the interests of protecting their babies, it’s hard to believe anything but a significant impact on travel in general and cruising in particular.

In the news…

• ‘Star Wars Day At Sea’ on eight select sailings on Disney Fantasy
• Acapulco comeback — best tourist season in years: 83 per cent hotel occupancy
• Two Turkey ports skipped by Crystal Symphony amid security concerns

Today at portsandbows.com: Ocean ship for Scenic Cruises

Norwegian Getaway
7 nights
November 6, 2016
Miami (return): Roatan, Harvest Caye, Costa Maya, Cozumel
Inside: $569
Cost per day: $81

Deal Too Good, Too Late To Be True

Normally, we let our “Daily Deal” deliver some value cruises for you to consider but once in a while there’s something extraordinary that deserves an even better treatment…A couple Allureof days ago we had one — you do notice that’s past tense, right?…It was a Transatlantic trip on Allure of the Seas, the (starting) price was $659 with 50 per cent off for the second guest, plus up to $200 for an on-board credit…For 12 days, it worked out to less than $50 a day on one of the two biggest cruise ships in the world, as long as bookings were made by January 31…Well, guess what?…Today is January 20, and it’s no longer available…Obviously, eagle-eyed consumers snapped up the rooms but it does leave you wondering how many Royal Caribbean made available in the promotion.

Now here’s a clever idea: When the AIDAsol arrived in Vietnam this week, immigration AIDAsolofficials boarded the ship at Buoy 1, three hours before docking at Tan Cang-Cai Mep, to process the 2,176 passengers, most of them German…By the time the AIDA ship reached the port, the process was finished and passengers were able to disembark right away…On their most recent health inspections, in Fort Lauderdale, two Holland America ships — the Noordam and the Zuiderdam — were perfect (100) in scores by the Centers for Disease Control.

The line-up for the Olympics has begun…The Norwegian Getaway is first in the line-up of cruise ships for Rio de Janeiro, where the Summer Games will be staged in 2016…The Getaway will be impersonating a hotel from August 5-21 next year, just like its smaller Getawaysibling, the Jade, did at the 2012 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia…With a capacity close to 4,000, the Getaway will help take some of the stress off Rio’s hotels, at the same time providing its “passengers” with luxurious accommodation and presumably earning a few “reals” — you didn’t know that’s what Brazilian currency was called, did you? — for the cruise line…The Getaway has experience at this, having served as a floating hotel at last year’s Super Bowl in New York…It doesn’t hurt that Getaway’s ambiance and treatment are decidedly Spanish.

Super BowlFile this one in the “When Will It End?” drawer…In a major Canadian newspaper (Toronto Star) there was a story about Carnival’s advertising on TV during the Super Bowl next week, and the second paragraph read: “Carnival, of course, is the line whose ship, Triumph, became a PR disaster in early 2013, when it got stuck at sea for almost a week due to an engine fire”…Seriously?…That was two years ago and, after all the things Carnival has done to restore its public stature, the cruise line hardly needed a Super Bowl ad to make image amends.

Today at portsandbows.com: Carnival's latest technology

Carnival Triumph
10 nights
February 20, 2015
San Juan, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Antigua, St. Kitts, St. Croix, Falmouth, Galveston
Inside: $549
Cost per day: $54

Norovirus News…Haven't You Heard?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more commonly known as CDC, announced this month that the occurrence of norovirus on cruise ships is “rare” and “dramatically lower” than the number on incidents of the illness on land.

The interesting thing about this announcement is that it didn’t receive nearly as much exposure as any of the reports over the last few years about cruise ships with the dreaded norovirus on board as an unwelcome passenger.

Good news travels like a bad Internet connection.

Anybody connected to cruising has either known or suspected this for a long time, yet cruise-line officials are constantly having to defend their ships when sickness breaks out.

The CDC report was accompanied by statistics, too.

With 20 million cases of norovirus on land, every American has a 1-in-15 chance of being infected.

In 2013, there were 10.1 million cruise passengers boarding ships in the U.S., and 834 infected during the four norovirus outbreaks. Get out the calculator, folks…that’s a 1-in-12,000 chance of being infected.

Rarely is another segment of society called to explain why norovirus is in its environment. Clearly, cruising shouldn’t have to defend its industry. The good thing about having to do so is that it keeps cruise lines on the front line of defense against norovirus.

Just where it long has been.

Today at portsandbows.com: The latest in cruise news

Carnival Fascination
5 nights
September 22, 2014
Jacksonville (return): Nassau, CocoCay
Inside: $169
Cost per day: $33

Olympians Beware: It's Like A Cruise Ship There!

We've been watching a lot of television, some delayed and some live, from the Olympic Winter Games in Russia this week. 

Last night (well, it was "last night" somewhere), Mexico's lone athlete was on the tube, even though he isn't really from Mexico, but that's another story. He was talking about being in the Olympic Village in Sochi and just in the course of conversation mentioned that many of the athletes had "something happening" in their throats and noses…aka, the 'flu.

A week before the Olympics, we were watching national curling (we do lead an exciting existence!) finals and more than half the competitors had been stricken with illness that was clearly contagious.

Nowhere was the mention of norovirus.

That's in part because norovirus is only linked to cruising when it should be linked to any mass gastro-intestinal sickness that occurs where there are small to large groups of people.

There's yet another misconception about norovirus — and we are not unsympathetic to cruise passengers who have suffered from this, at all. What the Center for Disease Control and Prevention calls a “very hearty virus” that causes stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea can be contracted from contact with an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. Cruise ships are among the places ripe for such viruses to spread.

However, there is a report in "The Week" (?) that passengers wanting to avoid getting it should stick to shorter cruises because there are fewer reports of norovirus outbreaks on shorter cruises…and by "shorter" the publication means fewer than seven days. The vast majority of the outbreaks occurred on cruises of seven days or longer.

Hmmm…is it possible that's because the vast majority of cruises are seven days or longer?

Apply that theory to the Olympics and athletes should attend competitions where they will come in contact with fewer people, not where almost 3,000 athletes are "residing" in the same general area.

Yes, 3,000 is about what many cruise ships carry, isn't it?

Celebrity Millennium
14 nights
May 10, 2014
Tokyo, Aomori, Sapporo, Petropavlovsk, Vancouver
Inside: $699
Cost per day: $49

Norovirus vaccine results looking good: More clinical trials before it's available

Rightly or not, norovirus is known as the "cruise ship virus" because almost every time it surfaces in a public way, it's on a cruise ship. It also happens wherever large numbers of people gather, particularly in fairly confined spaces, and you need no other proof that it is not confined to ships than this one from a recent study: "The overall cost of the disease in the U.S. is $5.5 billion a year."

That's right, billion. That's also right, every year. Imagine what would happen to the cruise industry if this disease was exclusive to cruise passengers.

Having written that, as they say, anything that can eradicate the norovirus is good. Maybe not eradicate, but reduce it. And according to researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an experimental vaccine appears to be working.

Or helping.

The CDC reported that the vaccine's first trial reduced vomiting and diarrhea by 52 per cent among people who contracted norovirus. There are still more clinical trials needed before the vaccine becomes available. The study was presented this month at IDWeek2013, a conference on infectious diseases in San Francisco.

So things are going in the right direction.

This is of interest to anyone who goes on cruises, in particular people who have — like one of us — compromised immune systems that leave you more susceptible to infection.

Last week, there was another report about norovirus (see cruiselawnews.com) about many passengers and crew on the Celebrity Summit. Whether the report is true or not, it didn't reflect well on Celebrity, the latest cruise line to be stricken with the bug.

And it emphasized, once again, why the vaccine is so important.

Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam
7 nights
November 17, 2013
Fort Lauderdale (return): Half Moon CayGrand CaymanCozumelKey West
Inside: $399
Cost per day: $57

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