While we wait and see what the fate of the cruise lines will be after several accidents, crimes and disappearances have been reported in the past few months, it has become apparent that not only are the ships themselves becoming a breeding grounds for maritime incidents to occur, but the ports are also reporting issues as well.
The Grand Turk Cruise Center, a popular cruise destination in Turks and Caicos was shut down for three weeks, but has finally reopened. Several cruise ships stopped calling at the port, which was developed and operated by Carnival Corp. (not surprising), after cruise lines noticed an increase in the number of passengers who began suffering from symptoms of gastroenteritis during visits to the island in mid-March.
Gastroenteritis, a more formal name for Norovirus, is an issue many cruise lines face. The illness is passed on via person-to-person contact or through contaminated surfaces. Cruise ships are ideal for spreading the virus due to the confined spaces and thousands of people onboard. Once someone becomes sick with Norovirus, they will display symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, which usually go away on their own within three days.
However, the problem with Norovirus is the fact that there is a risk of the virus becoming fatal. If the patient does not keep themselves hydrated or if other complications arise, they may die as a result of the virus – especially if cruise line medical staff failed to provide adequate medical care when the patient displayed symptoms of the virus.
Once a virus outbreak is discovered, cruise lines have a responsibility to thoroughly decontaminate the vessel that has been compromised and quarantine anyone who is showing symptoms in order to prevent the further spread of the illness. Crews must also wear masks and gloves while serving food and take other precautions to prevent others from becoming ill.
Although Norovirus can strike onboard any vessel or at any port, at this point, it’s not surprising that a Carnival Corp.-owned terminal would be making headlines for another maritime disaster.
Between the Carnival Triumph cruise ship fire in February, the mechanical problems onboard the Elation, Dream and Legend, as well as several other incidents that have been reported, the world’s largest cruise operator isn’t doing too well these days.
Is the liner just doomed or do all these mishaps come down to a pure lack of cruise ship safety?
While we can’t predict when the “Fun Ship” company will become fun once more – without harboring a threat for accidents, crimes and illnesses – we can rest easy knowing that the Grand Turk port has been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized.
This is great news, but there has yet to be any proof that there was a direct link between the Norovirus outbreaks and visits to the island. This may just be another ploy by the cruise industry to divert the blame for incidents onboard so they can save face in front of the media.
It wouldn’t be the first time – nor the last – that cruise ships have tried to avoid taking responsibility for their own mistakes and lack of safety protocols, but because Norovirus can spread so quickly, it will be hard to tell at what point exactly the first outbreak occurred.
According to port authorities, “extensive tests on all aspects of the operation, including procedures, systems and equipment” have been performed and the terminal has been cleared of the virus.
Carnival Corp.’s subsidiaries, Carnival Cruise Lines and Princess Cruises, have both been scheduled to resume calls at Grand Turk this week after rerouted ships to ports in Key West, Puerto Rico, Bahamas, and other Caribbean islands while the terminal was closed.
Local news reports explain the terminal’s closure has cost the Grand Turk tourism industry millions of dollars, but for the cruise lines, profits just keep rolling in. After all, someone has to take the fall for all these maritime incidents, and it might as well be anyone BUT the lines themselves.
Even though cruise ships may try to avoid taking the blame for the many injuries and illnesses that occur on a daily basis across their fleets, anyone who has been the victim of a serious accident, crime or medical emergency has a right to turn to a cruise ship lawyer to file a case and make sure their rights are fully protected.