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Tidal Wave Of Illness Strikes The Cruise Industry

Bring It Onboard

by Patricia L Johnson

Her name is ms Veendam and she’s described by her owner, Holland America Line as “A masterpiece of the shipbuilder’s art”.

The Veendam is registered in the Bahamas, has a passenger capacity of 1,266, carries 560 crew members, has gross tonnage of 55,451, is 720 feet long, with a beam of 101 feet and a maximum speed of 22 knots.

What we also know about this ship is it returned to its home port of Tampa, FL on Friday night with approximately 230 sick passengers (click here). This was the second time passengers aboard the Veendam fell ill this month.

When the Veendam returned to port on January 15, 2005, seventy (70) of the 1,236 passengers aboard were also ill. For that reason, the new group of passengers was offered a refund if they chose to cancel before the ship left port.

The Veendam is not the only cruise ship having a bad month as 276 passengers, and 27 crew members aboard the Royal Caribbean ship, Mariner of the Seas, also became ill after leaving Florida on January 16, 2005 for a seven day cruise.

As a matter of fact, 2005 has not been a good year for many cruise ships.

Cruise Line
Ship Name
Sailing Dates
Causative Agent

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line
Empress of the Seas

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line
Mariner of the Seas

Holland America Cruise Line

Holland America Cruise Line

Princess Cruise Line
Sun Princess

Holland America Cruise Line

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line
Enchantment of the Seas

Source: Center of Disease Control

The month of January is not yet over and we’ve already had seven episodes aboard cruise ships. How does that compare to prior years?

Year Total Number of Reports
1994 5
1995 3
1996 3
1997 9
1998 8
1999 5
2000 6
2001 7
2002 24
2003 28
2004 36
January 2005 ……………… 7

Source: Center of Disease Control

From 1994 through 2001 there were 46 reported episodes, or an average of 5/year.
From 2002 through 2004 there have been 88 reported episodes, or an average of 29/year.

The causes of recent illnesses have not yet been confirmed, but in the past many have been attributed to Norovirus, a group of viruses that cause the “stomach flu”, or gastroenteritis.

Noroviruses are extremely contagious and people become infected by eating or drinking contaminated food or water, or having contact with a person or object that is infected.

Sanitizing the ship “after the fact” is obviously not the key to success as the cases are increasing at an alarming rate. Perhaps more time should be spent looking for the source of contamination, than cleaning the ship after passengers are already ill.


© 2005 Patricia Johnson

Patricia Johnson is a freelance writer and CEO of Articles and Answers. Visit us online at

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