Guests will be boarding P&O Cruises’ Ventura later than originally planned on Friday, December 29, 2023, after an outbreak of gastrointestinal illness onboard the current cruise has led to the need for more thorough deep cleaning and disinfection.

This is standard procedure to mitigate transmission of any illness, but does delay embarkation for the ship’s next sailing as a precautionary measure.

P&O Cruises has reached out to guests booked on the next sailing of Ventura to notify them of a later-than-expected embarkation due to illness reported onboard. This will require a slight delay as the ship is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before new guests board.

“During the last cruise some cases of gastrointestinal illness were reported to the Medical Centre. To control the spread of illness, we have proactively stepped up our already robust disinfection measures,” the notification explained. “As a result of these measures, embarkation will begin later in the afternoon, and we ask that you arrive 2 hours later than the arrival time published on your boarding pass.”

While the exact disinfection measures have not been detailed, this will likely include extra deep cleaning of public areas and high-touch surfaces throughout the ship, including railings, doorknobs, and elevator buttons. Deeper cleaning of guest cabins is also likely, particularly any cabins where passengers had reported illness.

“These protocols were developed in conjunction with leading global health authorities and are designed to adapt to changing health situations,” the email said.

The cruise line has not disclosed how many cases of gastrointestinal illness have been reported, nor whether or not those cases are among guests, crew members, or both. That information may be made available to local health authorities if required by law, but it could be some time before it becomes publicly available.

Photo Credit: Sterling Images / Shutterstock

Read Also: Cruise Ship Illness – How to Protect Yourself

The exact illness has also not been confirmed, as many different communicable diseases include nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea as common symptoms. Norovirus is one of the more common diseases to be noted on cruise ships and in other public settings, but is not the only possibility. There is no indication that this outbreak has any respiratory connection, such as RSV or COVID-19.

Ventura is currently finishing a 12-night Christmas cruise that departed Southampton, UK on Sunday, December 17, to visit Portugal and the Canary Islands. The next cruise is a 5-night trip to Amsterdam and Zeebrugge, departing Southampton on Friday, December 29 and returning to the UK on Wednesday, January 3.

The 116,017-gross-ton, Grand-class ship can welcome 3,192 guests onboard for each sailing.

Ventura is not the only P&O Cruises ship to have an outbreak in 2023. During the 100-night World Cruise from January to April, Arcadia had an outbreak impacting just over 100 people out of the more than 2,500 passengers and crew aboard. Arcadia had also had a smaller outbreak on the previous sailing.

Ruby Princess Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Ritu Manoj Jethani)

Many other cruise ships around the world have had disease outbreaks with varying degrees of severity. In late February and early March, Princess Cruises’ Ruby Princess experienced a gastrointestinal illness outbreak, with more than 200 guests and crew reporting symptoms. In mid-November, Grand Princess had a similar outbreak that delayed embarkation.

Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady also had an outbreak in mid-October, with approximately 3% of guests experiencing symptoms.

This does not mean, however, that such outbreaks are common aboard ships – many, many sailings are successfully completed without any significant sign of illnesses.

Passengers can protect themselves from exposure by washing their hands thoroughly with hot, soapy water after using the restroom and before eating, or liberally using hand sanitizer if available. Minimizing touching public surfaces can also be helpful to minimize the risk of contracting an illness that could put a damper on a cruise vacation.

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