GALVESTON — When a cruise ship carrying more than 3,000 people arrives here Saturday, its departing passengers might look a little green around the gills.
The Crown Princess, a Princess Cruise Lines ship, will undergo a “comprehensive disinfection” when it reaches its final port of call, after more than 100 people on board contracted norovirus during their 20-day cruise. The ship left Venice, Italy, Dec. 2.
Ninety-six passengers and six crew members were affected by the illness, according to a news release from the company. The cruise line suspects the infection was brought onboard by a passenger.
Norovirus is a very contagious virus that can infect anyone, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It inflames the stomach or intestines and can cause stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. It is spread mainly by having poor hygiene.
Princess Cruises spokeswoman Karen Candy said the number of sick passengers on the ship has already returned to a normal level.
“We’re of course currently cleaning the ship, but when the passengers are all off, we can do more of a thorough cleaning of all public spaces and surfaces, including soft furnishings and carpets, railings, doors handles and the like,” Candy said. “Each stateroom will be sanitized multiple times before making up the rooms with fresh linens and towels on Saturday morning.”
The ship stopped in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., on Wednesday where passengers could disembark and receive medical attention if needed.
Both the Port of Galveston and the University of Texas Medical Branch were briefed on the situation, but officials said that few special preparations were being made in advance of its arrival. Ships are required to report illnesses once a certain percentage of its passengers are affected.
“This happens a couple of times a year,” said port director Mike Mierzwa. “It’s not that big a deal.”
Mierzwa said that he will bring in additional janitorial staff to help clean areas of the terminal that ships’ passengers will pass through as they disembark.
After being disinfected, the Crown Princess will begin a season of weeklong cruises to the Caribbean, which will continue until April 2013.