How can you stay well on a cruise
and avoid outbreaks of things
like the norovirus, the flu, and the coronavirus?
I'm Gary Bembridge,
this is another of my Cruising Tips for Travellers.
I want to talk about how you can make sure
that you stay fit and well on a cruise
and avoid any of the outbreaks of those viral things
like norovirus, flu, or even the coronavirus.
First of all, let's take a look
at the actual potential risks.
Overall, it's important to understand,
although it gets lots of publicity,
your risk of contracting any of these kind of viral things
is the same or even lower
than it is on land.
However, when these things break out on a ship,
partly because of the reporting process,
partly because of media,
partly because you do have a concentration in one space,
it does get a lot of publicity.
However, you're not putting yourself
necessarily at more risk by going on a cruise,
but it is very important
that you understand what the risks are,
and even more importantly,
that you know what to do.
The risk that you're facing
is three potentially, highly-contagious viral infections
which is the norovirus,
which is the stomach and vomiting bug,
influenza, which of course, most of you are familiar with,
which can be pretty serious,
and then, particularly more topically
and certainly getting much more publicity
is the coronavirus.
What's very important about these
is they are very contagious,
and they do spread really fast.
And also, there is no specific cure for them,
so if you get them,
it's really about your body fighting them off.
So, people who are at greater risk are
the very young, so young children,
people with compromised immune systems,
and, of course, people who are slightly more elderly.
So, it's really understanding
that these are very contagious,
and they can spread very, very easily,
so it's really important that you're prepared
and you know what to do.
Viruses are spread in four key ways,
and this again is very important to understand.
First of all, coughing and sneezing,
so people who've got the viral infection,
when they cough or sneeze,
little droplets of water
head out into the atmosphere around them
and can contain the virus.
So particularly if you're close to people,
within about six feet or so,
you can be at risk if they do have it.
Secondly is shaking hands,
so that's a really common way for people to spread it.
So they have the virus on their hands
because they sneeze in their hands or whatever,
they start shaking hands,
it passes to the person,
they touch their mouth, their eyes,
and it spreads that way.
Linked to that is if you're touching surfaces
which has the virus on,
and again, touching your mouth, your eyes,
so you're actually ingesting it.
The fourth way,
which is common for some of the viruses,
is someway coming into contact
with some kind of faecal matter.
That's often with people who perhaps
haven't really washed their hands
after going to the bathroom
and then touching surfaces,
or serving utensils, or whatever.
So those are the four key ways.
So really what's important to understand is
those are the four ways the virus spreads,
so being ready and prepared
to take actions against those four is critical,
and I'm gonna talk about that shortly in this video.
Also, what's really important to understand is
one person who has the virus can spread it.
So we've seen lots of examples,
for example there was the issue on Diamond Princess
where there was many cases of the coronavirus.
That appears to be brought on by one person who had it
and then spread it on.
Also, on land-based, for example,
there was one person
who'd gone to a conference in Singapore.
They'd brought it back.
They'd stayed in a chalet with a group of people.
They then spread it to those people.
So, it's very key that it's an individual
who can cause the infection to kick off and start,
and that's very important
as we look at how to prepare and protect yourself.
So what do you, as a cruiser,
need to know and be aware of?
Well first of all, it's really important to understand
that prevention is best.
The best way of avoiding these outbreaks
whether you're on land or at sea
is prevent, prevent, prevent.
And secondly, the key thing is to be prepared,
so if you do get affected,
know exactly what you're going to do.
Those are the most critical things,
prevention and being prepared.
So what should every cruiser do and be aware of?
Now these are my tips for avoiding and staying safe
and if you do get it, what to do.
The first and most important thing of all
is don't bring it on board,
and there's two people who have responsibility for that.
First of all, the cruise lines.
(mumbles) what cruise lines have done
is made you fill out a form when you check in
which asks things like,
"Have you been vomiting?
"Have you been suffering from diarrhoea?
"Have you visited certain countries in recent time?"
and that's particularly linked
to if there's any diseases around.
So they have a screen process
which is really a self-regulation process.
They're relying on the passengers
to really be honest about that.
The second thing the cruise lines are doing increasingly
is being even stricter.
So, in 2020, with the outbreak of coronavirus,
some cruise lines bought into really strict rules
where they said that any crew or passenger
that had a Chinese, a Hong Kong,
or Macau passport for example,
weren't even allowed to board the ship.
Anyone that had travelled through any of those places
wasn't allowed to board the ship,
or anyone that'd been in contact with people
from those places
weren't allowed on the ship,
and of course, these evolve and change.
So the cruise lines were
basically looking at stopping people
that were at risk of bringing it on board.
The other thing that's happened
is certain ports have stopped cruise lines
embarking and disembarking passengers there
to stop people bringing it on
or taking it off the ship.
And the same has been true of
people flying in and out of various places.
The other thing that cruise lines have started to do
is have actual screening processes.
So, anyone that they thinks at risk,
they will do things like check their temperature,
see if they have signs of fever.
So they are trying to stop people bringing it on board.
Then of course, what is the cruise's responsibility?
Well, a lot of people, as we know,
when they fill out those forms,
they go, "Yeah, I've been a bit sick."
They don't really fill out the form honestly
because they don't wanna stop coming on board.
As a cruiser, you have a huge responsibility
that if you aren't feeling well
or you think you're at risk to any of that,
whether it's influenza, norovirus,
or any of the coronaviruses,
you absolutely have to be honest.
What I recommend you do if you are feeling ill
is contact the cruise line,
and let them know that you think you're at risk,
and discuss with them what your options are.
As we've seen recently,
cruise lines are becoming much more flexible
as they understand
they need to stop these things coming on board.
Historically what they'll do, for example to him,
I'd just isolate you on board,
but they are becoming much more flexible.
If you think you're at risk,
do not bring it on board
because as we've seen,
one person can cause a whole ship
to go down with a norovirus,
or it can cause people to go around with coronavirus
and cause enormous problems.
The second area of things you really need to think about is
how can you make sure that you avoid catching it
once you're on board?
So, I always assume
that someone has brought one of these viruses on board,
and it's my job to stop getting it,
and there's a number of really critical things
that you should do.
The first of those,
and the most important of those,
is wash your hands all the time.
Just constantly throughout the day wash your hands.
And one of the tips that I was once given
by a captain on board is
as you wash your hands,
sing Happy Birthday once or twice
because that's enough time to wash your hands properly.
Yes, there are those gels, et cetera,
but washing hands is the fundamental thing to do.
Just keep washing hands
because if you haven't got the virus on your hand
and you're not then touching your mouth or whatever,
then you're not gonna catch it.
The second thing that I always do
is I try and avoid using any of the public toilets.
If I need to use the bathroom,
I'll go to my cabin.
Yes, it's a little bit less convenient,
however, you just don't know what people are doing
within those bathrooms.
If you do use one of the public toilets,
wash your hands,
and then use a tissue or something to open the door
because of course,
it's all well and good washing your hands,
but you're touching the door,
someone hasn't washed their hands,
and the virus is there.
The next thing to do is avoid touching, as much as you can,
surfaces which could have the virus on them,
so handrails and that kind of stuff.
So just try and avoid that,
or if you have been touching lots of those
wash your hands.
The other thing to do is don't shake people's hands.
A lot of cruise ships have that
as an ongoing thing because of norovirus.
Don't shake people's hands.
Give them a nod or whatever,
but just don't high-five, shake hands,
just don't do it.
If you do sneeze, really important,
carry around with you tissues,
or what some people recommend
sneeze into your elbow, for example,
so you're not getting it onto your hands,
but the best thing to do is try and catch it in a tissue.
Also think about surfaces in your cabin
that could be an issue.
The one to really watch out for actually,
which is also true in hotel rooms,
in the remote control.
Those generally aren't cleaned as often,
and they have lots of nooks and crannies.
What some people do
is actually take a little plastic bag,
and they put it over the remote
so that they're never coming in contact with it.
So basically, think about anything that's gonna
bring you and make you touch the virus, avoid.
The other thing that I actually do,
which I strongly recommend you consider,
is avoid the buffet.
Eat in the dining room and get room service.
The buffet is where people are touching lots of equipment,
they're touching plates,
they're touching the very serving things.
That is where I think there's a huge issue.
When I've been on ships that have had a norovirus outbreak,
I think it's connected to the buffet.
Like, I have been on ships where it's broken out,
I haven't eaten the buffet,
and I've managed to avoid it.
Of course I've used the other things.
So I strongly recommend,
if you possibly can
avoid using the buffet,
or when you go to the buffet,
be really disciplined about this.
I tend to use buffets on ships
where the crew serves the food
rather than passengers do it.
A lot of people ask me about masks.
There's very mixed views around
whether the masks do or don't work.
One of the key things is,
particularly if you have the virus,
or you have a cold or cough,
is actually wearing a mask helps protect other people.
But of course, a mask is a possibility,
particularly where you're in crowded spaces.
The next point is what to do if you think you've got it.
Now what you should absolutely do
is go to your cabin and call the medical centre.
Don't go and visit the medical centre.
Get into your cabin.
So if you think you've got norovirus,
you've got upset stomach, you're vomiting,
or you feel that you might have the coronavirus
because you've got those temperatures, et cetera,
go to your cabin and call the medical services.
The medical centre, normally,
will provide services for free
if they think you've got any of these viral infections.
They'll also normally provide medications for free.
So it's best to find out and say,
"Look, I think I've got this.
"What should I do?"
and you'll normally find
they'll ask you to stay in your cabin,
and they will come and see you.
But as soon as you think you've got it,
go to your cabin and alert the medical centre.
What happens if there is an outbreak,
or perhaps you've contracted it.
Couple of really critical things
that you should be aware of.
It it's norovirus,
you're normally going to be quarantined in your cabin
until you've had at least 24 hours
after your last upset stomach or vomiting,
so that could be a couple of days or longer.
If it's something, as we've seen with the coronavirus,
they are actually quarantining people
for up to two weeks in their cabin.
Very important, you must follow the quarantine.
I have been on ships
where they have thrown people off at the next port
because they didn't follow the quarantine,
and they had norovirus.
They are really, really strict about it
because that's a way of stopping it spreading.
So accept that you're gonna have to have that.
So what should you then do?
One of the things I recommend you do is go prepared.
Now, through my many, many years
of travelling for business,
I'm used to being stranded
because of flights or storms or whatever,
so I always travel really prepared.
So I always take with me, for example,
a couple of weeks of prescription medication
so I know that actually
even if I'm stranded for up to two weeks,
I have enough to cover myself.
And I also have a little first aid kit
where I have headache pills
and anti-diarrheal re-booster things,
and anti-diarrheal medicines
so that also tides me over
if I have any of those things.
I also always travel with lots of entertainment ready,
so I have my iPad loaded up with shows,
I have eBooks there,
so actually if I am stranded I have stuff.
And that's just from years of hanging around at airports
or being kind of stuck for a couple days.
So I always have enough stuff that's going to keep me busy.
I also make sure that my mobile phone
has a roaming plan.
For example, I've signed up to one
which is actually giving me free roaming
in most of the countries in the world
within my minutes,
but make sure you've got a good roaming plan
so at least you can be calling people
or using your data,
because often if you can find
you might be in port during the day, for example.
Another thing that you may want to consider,
now this is pretty extreme, is
bear in mind, if you're confined to your cabin,
think about the kind of cabin
you may want to be confined in.
So, if you're thinking about people
who are on Diamond Princess, for example,
for two weeks those people who had an inside cabin
were stuck in an inside cabin.
Those people who had a balcony cabin or a suite
had much more space.
Now this could be quite an extreme way
of justifying going with a balcony,
but certainly, it would make a massive difference
if you do have that kind of cabin.
So that's one thing you may want to think about
is whether that's something
you want to almost build in
or do as a sort of insurance policy
if you are ever confined to your cabin.
The other thing, of course,
is make sure you have good travel insurance.
Now, if you do have a big outbreak,
such as the coronavirus,
the cruise line will normally make lots of plans to help.
But if you have other illnesses, influenza,
or you perhaps have the norovirus
and you actually end up having to
disembark the ship or whatever
because you're feeling that ill and poorly
you need to go to a land-based hospital,
make sure you've got really strong travel insurance
because you're probably not gonna be covered
by the cruise line in those situations,
and it gives you much more flexibility.
Another great advantage or to think about is
if you've actually booked through the cruise line,
or you've booked with a travel agent
who've arranged all of your arrangements,
it's probably going to be much easier
if these things happen
because it's going to be one call or one email,
and someone else can sort out all of the hassles
of redoing flights, transfers, that kind of stuff.
So that's something to also think about.
These are my tips and advice
in how to prepare for it, deal with it,
and make sure that you have the greatest chance
of staying fit and healthy on a cruise.
I have many more videos
packed full of cruising tips and advice,
so why don't you watch another one of those right now.