Maybe it is a seasonal complaint, but it seems that the dreaded Norovirus is afflicting a large number of passengers aboard several cruise ships. Clearly we have come a long way since a ship would arrive with the plague flag flying, one of the symptoms (still asked in orals when I took my second mate’s ticket) being “unusual mortality among the rats”.

It was clearly not referring to the passengers, but it was only thirty years ago that the grim infectious diseases hospital remotely situated on the Kent marshes on the way in to London was pulled down. I can remember a pilot telling me that nobody ever left the sinister place alive, but he was probably exaggerating. Some ports, like Sydney, have made a tourist attraction of their plague hospitals, now terribly popular with cruise passengers, other than those suffering from what appears to be a modern plague.

Cruise companies don’t like to alienate their customers by frank speech about these personal matters,  but it would seem that there is little doubt that these mass epidemics arrive up the passenger gangways, rather than those reserved for the crew. The crew go berserk trying to keep everything clean and hygienic and then some septic passenger stumbles up the gangway and it all goes downhill rapidly.

Why do they insist on coming, to spread their germs around and wreck the cruise for dozens or even hundreds of others? It is simplicity itself and we can place virtually all the blame upon the insurance industry, which makes it deliberately difficult to claim for a cruise voyage not taken because of illness. The crew can scrub the ship until it shines with an antiseptic gleam, but as long as passengers are forced to jump through hoops to get their money back through their insurers, the diseased will take the risk and keep coming, causing mayhem in their wake

Author: Michael Grey                         Source: