Outbreaks on cruise ships aren’t overly common, but when they do happen, norovirus is usually to blame – and the gastrointestinal virus most recently struck on Celebrity Summit. 

Celebrity Cruises reported that there was an outbreak on the Millennium-class vessel’s 7-night cruise from Vancouver, Canada, to Seward, Alaska, which embarked on May 24, 2024, and concluded on May 31, 2024. 

According to the (CDC), norovirus is the leading cause of vomiting and diarrhea in the US. While this stomach bug is highly contagious, it typically only lasts for one to three days and resolves on its own without medical intervention.

Photo Credit: Carlos Yudica / Shutterstock.com

Throughout the sailing, 68 of the 2,264 passengers on board and five of the 943 crew members experienced gastrointestinal symptoms, which were subsequently diagnosed as norovirus. 

This equates to only 3% of the guests and less than 1% of the crew. Still, cruise ships are required to report potential outbreaks – even minor ones – to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) when the ship carries more than 100 passengers, the voyage duration is longer than three days. At least 3% of passengers are symptomatic. 

But the majority of passengers onboard Celebrity Summit may not have even known about the outbreak – and were able to enjoy the calls on Hubbard Glacier, Juneau, Skagway, Icy Strait Point, and Ketchikan in Alaska worry-free. 

While the major cruise lines have sanitation measures in place on every voyage to prevent outbreaks, passengers can take steps to further protect themselves from illness. For example, frequent hand washing, especially before meals or after touching high-contact surfaces, can go a long way. 

While the goal is for an outbreak to never occur, protocols are in place to quickly address them when outbreaks do happen in a way that limits the spread of disease as much as possible. 

Celebrity Summit, which weighs in at 91,003-gross tons, acted appropriately by seeking urgent advice from the CDC’s Vessel Sanitation program (VSP) – and the crew’s quick action likely contributed to the fact less than 100 people fell ill.

Measures taken onboard included increased sanitation of common areas, such as the buffets, and isolating all sick passengers and crew members. 

At the conclusion of the Alaska voyage, crew members utilized a staggered disembarkation process to keep contagious guests separate from healthy cruisers, and implemented increased sanitation protocols at the cruise terminal in Seward, Alaska. 

Celebrity Summit Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Deutschlandreform / Shutterstock)

Aside from some extra cleaning required at the start of the next sailing, the subsequent week-long sailing to Alaska has not been impacted. 

The next voyage, which is currently in progress after embarking from Seward on May 31, 2024, has already visited Hubbard Glacier, Juneau, and Skagway, and is still scheduled to call on Icy Strait Point and Ketchikan, Alaska, before disembarking in Vancouver on June 7.  

Read Also: Sick Cruise Guests Cause Flight Cancellations, Plane Cleaning

Celebrity Summit, will continue sailing between Seward and Vancouver for the remainder of the Alaska season, which concludes in mid-September for this 2001-built ship – hopefully without any future outbreaks. 

That said, outbreaks are relatively uncommon on cruise ships. According to Statista, an estimated 35.7 million people go on a cruise annually across hundreds if not thousands of sailings – and that number is growing as cruises become increasingly more popular. 

But according to the VSP, the outbreak on Celebrity Summit is only the seventh of 2024 – and the year is just about half over. 

The numbers also were low in previous years – with 14 outbreaks reported in 2023 and four in 2022. Looking back to 2019 before Covid-19 halted travel, only 10 outbreaks occurred. 

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