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Cruise Sailing Interrupted After Suspected Cholera Outbreak

Gastrointestinal ailments aren’t uncommon onboard ships, but cholera isn’t a common concern onboard cruise ships or in the world’s developed economies.

Update 8:00 pm EST via Spokesperson for Norwegian Cruise Line:  “Upon Norwegian Dawn’s arrival to Port Louis Mauritius on Feb. 25, 2024, there were a small number of guests experiencing mild symptoms of a stomach-related illness.  Despite previous reports and speculations, there were no confirmed cases nor any evidence of cholera on board the vessel.  Although only six guests were being monitored due to mild symptoms of a stomach-related illness, the government of Mauritius required testing in an overabundance of caution, thereby delaying the ship’s original disembarkation scheduled for Feb. 25, 2024.

Following the results of the regulatory testing by the government of Mauritius and their confirmation that no trace of cholera was found during their testing, Norwegian Dawn has been cleared for entry into Port Louis, Mauritius, and disembarkation of all guests will commence early morning Feb. 27, 2024 local time.”

Passengers planning to board Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) Norwegian Dawn in Mauritius on Sunday found there was no ship for them to board. Norwegian Dawn anchored off the island nation in the Indian Ocean after authorities refused to allow it to land and disembark passengers following reports of stomach-related illnesses onboard the ship’s 12-day cruise, which had originated in South Africa. 

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Other news outlets reported the Mauritian authorities feared the stomach ailments were in fact cholera after several recent outbreaks in Southern Africa. 

In a statement, Mauritian port officials noted that “The decision not to allow the cruise ship access to the quay was taken in order to avoid any health risks. The health and safety of passengers as well as that of the country as a whole are of the utmost importance to the authorities.”

Over 2,200 passengers expecting to embark on their cruise in Mauritius have been impacted; NCL has assisted in find accommodations and rebooking.

American journalist Suzie Dundas is one of those waiting to board the ship in Mauritius. She has been keeping a post updated about the status of the ship, noting that NCL provided hotel rooms and is covering expenses because of the delay, but that all of the planned port calls in Madagascar have been cancelled. 

Officially, it’s now being called a cholera “scare,” after Mauritian officials allowed the ship to dock in Port Louis after those passengers demonstrating symptoms were tested and found not to have cholera. Dundas notes, however, that in NCL’s communications they appeared to blame Mauritian officials for preventing the ship from docking, citing an unspecified “health issue”. In a later update, they admitted that the concern from the Mauritian officials was that the ship had been suspected to have been impacted by cholera.

The news comes on the heels of an NCL sailing earlier this month that cancelled planned scenic cruising in Antarctica. Passengers on that ship were not informed of the change in itinerary until just prior to sailing. It’s unclear whether NCL has offered any compensation for that itinerary change. Passengers on the Norwegian Dawn were offered onboard credits, plus a discount off a future NCL cruise, in addition to hotel accommodations and reimbursement of expenses, and refunds for any days missed on the shortened sailing. 

Gastrointestinal ailments aren’t uncommon onboard ships, but cholera—a bacterial infection caused by poor food or drinking water sanitation—isn’t a common concern onboard cruise ships or in the world’s developed economies. If left untreated, it can be fatal, but modern treatments are effective. 

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control inspects passenger ships, including cruise ships calling at U.S. ports or entering US territorial waters. Passengers can search CDC inspection reports to learn if there have been any recent concerns about sanitation onboard their ship prior to booking and sailing.

Norovirus is more common than cholera on cruise ships, but widespread outbreaks still remain the exception, rather than the rule. 

The CDC advises that passengers on cruise ships can avoid both bacterial and viral infections during their travels with frequent handwashing and sanitizing, avoiding contact with passengers who appear to be sick, and isolating in their cabins when feeling unwell. Passengers should also notify the ship’s medical facilities as soon as they notice symptoms, for onboard medical facilities not only treat illness, they also track onboard trends among passengers and crew.

vickiadams8512 March 2, 2024

I was on the ship.  NCL may have known about a handful of people but a lot more people contracted "it."  Most people are not going to medical for a bout of diarreha especially if they have the right drugs with me.  Yes, I had it.  I took my antibiotics and it was over in less than 12 hours.  100% back to normal.  Self quarantined for about 36 hours.  Talked to other passengers who did the same.  From everything I read, symptoms between noro-virus and Cholera are similar so it was an understandable concern give there is an significant outbreak of Cholera in South Africa and Madagascar - two of our stops.

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jacketwatch February 28, 2024

Cholera is a severe illness and far worse than noro virus so the symptomalogy is much worse and to confuse the two is a head scratcher.