Why is gastro so common on cruise ships?

Allison Yee

If there’s anything worse than being hit by a nasty bout of gastro, it’s falling ill while on holiday. In a very confined living space. Surrounded by hundreds of strangers.

Spare a thought then for the poor cruising souls – reportedly 200 of them – who have been struck down after an outbreak on a P&O cruise Sea Princess that has just arrived in Brisbane after setting sail from New Zealand a few weeks ago.

Consider reports of an outbreak on the Celebrity Solstice in October and almost 200 people falling ill on the Ovation of the Seas last month, and it’s enough to put you off cruising for life.

Afraid of heading on a cruise because of the gastro threat? This might ease your fears. Photo: Getty

With the most recent outbreak first detected on day two of the cruise and staffers immediately stopping the handling of food at the buffet, it has many holiday-goers wondering exactly why Norovirus – the virus that causes gastro – always seems to happen on ships.

Rather than cruises being a hotbed of disease, there’s actually a very simple answer – and it’s enough to ease your fears if you are thinking about booking your next holiday on the seas.

According to Cruise Critic, Norovirus is a problem in many close and contained areas like schools, theaters, and yes, cruises.

Over 40 people have been affected by the latest outbreak on a P&O cruise. Photo: Getty

However regulations require any outbreaks that take place on cruise ships to be reported – which is why you often hear about them in the media.

"The reason you hear about Norovirus on cruise ships is because they are required to report... gastrointestinal illness,” Cruise Critic reports a spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) saying.

Communal eating areas like a buffet are the perfect way to spread gastro. Photo: Getty

Another interesting thing to note, while we all know that the virus can be spread through physical contact with sick people or touching contaminated surfaces, if you’ve ever wondered where the illness originates – wonder no more.

“Norovirus outbreaks are the results of guests setting sail sick ... and passing it around,” explains Cruise Critic.

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