I have just returned, mostly unscathed, from a two week trip that consisted of a week of land travel and a week of cruise ship travel. I’ve never been on a cruise ship before.  What struck me most (other than the constant pitches to buy tanzanite) was the barrage of information about norovirus and the hectoring to constantly wash one’s hands.

I had no idea that cruise ships were gestation grounds for illness, but apparently they are.  The thing that they mostly talk about is norovirus. A pesky virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea and is more commonly known as “food poisoning.”

https://pbs.twimg.com/profile_images/530380355019104256/gxBOGdKA.jpegHundreds of people come down with this ailment on cruise ships every year. Indeed, rumor has it that 50 people on this cruise were quarantined due to noro. It can spread rapidly and will certainly put a damper on one’s enjoyment.

What’s less talked about is the fact that if you’re going to get sick on a cruise ship, what you’ll most likely get is a respiratory illness, primarily influenza. Or maybe Legionnaire’s disease, or maybe some unspecified bronchitis, or perhaps (like a family member traveling with me) you’ll get pertussis, aka whooping cough.

Take me, for instance. Two days before the end of the cruise, I woke up with a cough and aching joints. When I checked in with the medical staff, their tests diagnosed “unspecified flu” which means that it was a type of flu that my flu shot couldn’t protect me from. I wasn’t the only person I knew who came down with flu. A women I’d become acquainted with also got flu, but a different variety from mine.

So likely we were infected by two different sufferers, and probably at meal time at the forced shared tables. We were both grateful for tamiflu, which as far as I’m concerned is a miracle drug. Two days “isolation” and I was fine.  My brother-in-law, however, was less than fine. He acquired a severe case of pertussis. My sister, a mild case of norovirus. So out of a traveling group of four, three of us acquired unrelated illnesses on the cruise ship.

There was a lot to enjoy about the cruise. But I won’t go on a panamax ship again, and one of the reasons is the wonderful Petri dish a cruise ship is for diseases. Lots of people, recycling air, warm and cozy environment.  What more could a bacteria or virus want?

Go, by all means and have a great time.  But be sure you wash those hands every chance you get (for at least 20 seconds) and you might want to bring your own personalized face mask.