Port Turns Away Cruise Ship with G.I. Outbreak

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Published Mar 21, 2016 9:21 PM by The Maritime Executive

On March 18, port authorities in St. Maarten refused entry to the Norwegian Cruise Lines vessel Norwegian Gem due to a gastrointestinal virus outbreak on board, citing the "interests of public health.”

Following advance reports of an outbreak, a Port St. Maarten port control team boarded the vessel to inspect her. "While onboard, the Port Control Team were informed of additional cases and, based on this information and after further evaluation, it was decided in the interests of public health that the passengers and crew should not disembark. The causative agent at the time of inspection was unknown, and the Captain was advised to return to home-port for vessel sanitation procedures,” the port said. 

While it would not make a definitive statement as to the cause of the outbreak on the Gem, the port authoritiy said that gastroenteritis is a regular occurence in the cruise industry. 

“Norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships are common, and according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), outbreaks are found and reported more quickly on a cruise ship than on land,” the port said. 

Despite the response of Port St. Maarten, on March 19, authorities at Tortola, British Virgin Islands, permitted the vessel to dock and passengers to disembark. Some residents objected to the decision when they heard passengers’ stories of St. Maarten’s choice to deny entrance to the Gem. Port and government authorities for Tortola told local news that they were not aware of the norovirus outbreak. 

CruiseCritic reports that crew have stepped up sanitary procedures, and that several passengers have been quarantined. 

Norwegian put the fraction of passengers reporting as ill at two percent; American authorities (including the CDC) have to be notified if the fraction reaches three percent. 

The Gem is on a 10-day round-trip cruise out of New York City, with scheduled stops in San Juan, St. Thomas, Philipsburg and Tortola. She returns to New York on Tuesday.