Over 200 contracted gastrointestinal illnesses on Ruby Princess – US health officials are now boarding the cruise ship in Galveston to investigate Seafarers News

At least two hundred and nineteen passengers and crew fell ill with gastrointestinal illness on board Princess Cruises with vomiting and diarrhea. Ruby Princess who returned to Galveston, Texas this morning after a cruise to the Caribbean.

199 out of 2,881 (6.61%) of the passengers called in sick during the cruise, as did 20 out of 1,159 (1.73%) of the crew members on the ship.

The Centers for Disease Control and Infection (CDC) has not come to a conclusion on the “pathogen” behind these gastrointestinal (GI) disorders. CDC data on this GI outbreak suggests “epidemiologists and environmental health officials” are now boarding to begin an investigation once the cruise ship is back in a US port.

The Ruby Princess was the site of an early major outbreak of COVID-19 in Australia when infected passengers were allowed to disembark in Sydney in 2020. At least 900 passengers and crew later tested positive for COVID-19, and 28 people died.

In 2023 there were four GI outbreaks on cruise ships that meet CDC reporting requirements, including cases on the Ruby Princess. RoyalCaribbean jewel of the seas and the shine of the seas had GI outbreaks in late January 2023 totaling around one hundred and fifty passengers and crew. Over 100 passengers and crew on P&O Cruises arcadia suffered from vomiting and diarrhea, which the CDC attributed to norovirus. The CDC could not identify the “pathogen” for the GI outbreak on Royal Caribbean’s cruise lines.

Unfortunately, the CDC is never able to determine the exact mechanism of infection in such onboard outbreaks, even if they eventually determine that norovirus was involved. I am not aware of a single time that the CDC has determined the exact cause of an outbreak of GI disease on cruise ships. The public must be wondering if the cruise ship’s food or water was contaminated, or if the outbreak was caused by a sick galley worker, or was brought on board by sick passengers and then spread because of inadequate sanitation and poor cleaning procedures.

A few years ago, Time Magazine ran an article entitled The 13 worst norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships. The overall winner of Time’s top 13 list was Princess Cruises, which had five outbreaks at its brand alone: crown princess (January 2010) with 396 patients; crown princess (February 2012) – 363; Ruby Princess (March 2013) – 276; coral princess (February 2009) – 271; And sun princess (July 2012) – 216.

Princess and Holland America Line have historically had the sickest cruise ships in the cruise industry’s fleet.

When cruise lines don’t directly accuse passengers of being the problem, it’s always implied that passengers don’t need to have washed their hands.

The amazing thing about the cruise industry is the frantic activity as ships pull into port. An enormous amount of provisions are brought on board at every port, literally hundreds of thousands of pounds of beef, chicken, pork, fish and shellfish, and every fruit and vegetable under the sun. Hundreds of thousands of liters of water are pumped into the ship. The crew members get on and off board and of course the passengers too.

Was the food and/or water served to passengers on the ship contaminated? Did the passengers or crew eat contaminated food on land? Were the hands of any crew member involved in preparing the food infected?

Demonstrating exactly how the virus occurs on a cruise ship is a difficult scientific process. But nobody is involved in such tests. Yes, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) test determines whether gastrointestinal illness is due to Noro or E-Coli, but that’s where the test stops.

Of course, whoever is at fault, crew members always pay the price by having to mop, scrub and spray everything in sight for long days lasting 12+ hours to try to disinfect a ship for more than three football pitches.

Blame notwithstanding, if you get sick on a cruise, don’t call us. It’s virtually impossible to prove where the virus came from or that the cruise line was negligent, especially since the CDC doesn’t do epidemiological analysis and sometimes can’t even figure out if the outbreak was due to norovirus, e-coli, or something as exotic as that Shigella sonnei or Cyclospora cayetanensis.

Do you have a comment or a question? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

We recommend reading Norovirus Nightmare: Cruise Industry Plays the “Blame-the-Passenger” Game.


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