Cruise NewsNorovirus/Illness Outbreaks on Cruises at 16 Year Low in 2018

Norovirus/Illness Outbreaks on Cruises at 16 Year Low in 2018

Gastrointestinal illness outbreaks on cruise ships are at a 16 year low so far in 2018 with eight outbreak cases reported in the first ten months of the year according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

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Out of those eight outbreaks, only three have been confirmed as a norovirus outbreak. Even though norovirus has been unfairly given the description of the “cruise ship illness”, the number of outbreaks is at the lowest point since 2001. One important fact to keep in mind is that cruise capacity has more than doubled since the turn of the century. Over 27 million people will take a cruise in 2018 while just under 10 million took a cruise in 2001. This means that the percentage of outbreaks on cruises is at the lowest point since the CDC began publishing outbreaks in 1994.

Number of G.I. Outbreaks on cruise ships through the first ten months of the year since 2000:

  • 2018 – 8
  • 2017 – 9
  • 2016 – 12
  • 2015 – 9
  • 2014 – 9
  • 2013 – 9
  • 2012 – 12
  • 2011 – 9
  • 2010 – 12
  • 2009 – 13
  • 2008 – 15
  • 2007 – 20
  • 2006 -27
  • 2005 – 18
  • 2004 – 32
  • 2003 – 23
  • 2002 – 15
  • 2001 – 4
  • 2000 -6

Why does it seem to always make the news when a cruise does have an outbreak?  The cruise industry is required to report to the CDC anytime the illness count exceeds 2% of the total number of passengers/crew members on board.

However if the number exceeds 3%, it is labeled as an outbreak if it meets the following criteria:

  • Fall within the purview of the VSP (Vessel Sanitation Program)
  • Voyages from 3-21 days in length
  • 100 or more passengers
  • Cruise ships in which 3% or more of passengers or crew reported symptoms of diarrheal disease to the ships medical staff during the voyage.

A list of outbreaks on cruise ships since 1994 can be found on the CDC’s website.

Illnesses like norovirus can spread quickly in any place where there are a lot of people confined to a small space.  This includes dorm rooms, day cares,  hospitals, and schools.

The best way to protect yourself is to practice proper hand hygiene.  While alcohol based hand sanitizers can used in addition to hand washing, they should never be a substitute.

As they sing on Norwegian cruise ships, the best way to keep yourself healthy is “Washy Washy”.

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Ben Souza
Ben Souza
Ben is a world traveler who has visited 40+ countries, taken over 70 cruises. He is one of USA TODAY's experts for their 10Best Readers' Choice Awards. His writings have appeared and been cited in various media outlets such as Yahoo News, MSN, NPR, CNN, Fox, and ABC News. Ben currently resides in Cincinnati, Ohio. Follow Ben on Instagram. Visit Ben Souza on Linkedin. You may email Ben at [email protected].
Cruise NewsNorovirus/Illness Outbreaks on Cruises at 16 Year Low in 2018


  1. This article is not accurate for 2018. I just returned from a 9 day cruise on RCCL Jewel of the Seas sailing of the Greek Isles on Sept. 27th to Oct. 6th, 2018. Many of the passengers contracted Norovirus on the third day, and then another outbreak occurred on the 6th day. I spoke to the nurse as she was treating me for vomiting and diarrhea, and she said almost the entire ship was sick including many crew members. We were almost denied entry into the port of Naples where the ship was inspected by authorities for over 3 hours. After returning home, I called RCCL guest services to complain about the outbreak and that I had missed 2 ports because of my illness. The agent informed me there was NO mention of a Norovirus outbreak on the Jewel of the Seas for that time period. LIARS!!!! Don’t cruise RCCL!!!

  2. Very good article. It shows the cruise industry has done a very good job cleaning their ships and also educating the importance of washing and good hygiene. And yes the media should definitely be reporting on this and not just the outbreaks.

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