Celebrity Cruises Gives Mercury Cruise Ship a 72-Hour Cleaning

Celebrity Mercury to get 72-hour cleaning after third straight outbreak at sea.

ByABC News
March 17, 2010, 4:04 PM

March 18, 2010— -- With one in every five passengers getting sick on its last cruise Celebrity Cruises is taking the highly unusual step of taking the tainted ship, the Celebrity Mercury, out of service for 72 hours.

The Mercury has started its last three cruises from Charleston, S.C., and large numbers of passengers got sick on each. So, to combat what is suspected as norovirus, Celebrity is taking the extreme step of ending one cruise early, starting the next late and doing a thorough cleaning of the entire ship.

Norovirus outbreaks are common in colleges, nursing homes, prisons and on cruise ships. It is a gastrointestinal illness that causes vomiting, diarrhea and general nausea. It generally passes in a day or two with no lasting effects.

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Cruise ship outbreaks often get a lot of attention because of stringent government reporting requirements and because nobody likes the thought of having a day or two of their week-long vacation ruined by illness.

This year has turned out to be worse than past ones for cruises.

There have already been eight outbreaks of gastrointestinal sickness on cruise lines in the first two and a half months of this year. Compare that to 2009 and 2008, when there were just 15 outbreaks each during the entire year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"This year's strain seems to be unusually strong and easy to transmit," said Dave Forney, the former head of the Vessel Sanitation Program at the CDC who is now a consultant for the Cruise Lines International Association, the cruise industry's trade group.