Pacific Eden cruise ship rocked by claims it is a floating sick bay
Passengers aboard P&O’s newly-launched cruise liner say it is anything but a Pacific Eden, with a gastrointestinal outbreak affecting a number of passengers ahead of its return to Sydney on Monday.
The ship Pacific Eden, which docked in Sydney on Monday morning, has been accused of being a “floating disaster” and some passengers are seeking a refund. Several passengers have contacted the Herald, claiming a norovirus gastrointestinal outbreak has affected a large number of passengers. But a spokeswoman for P&O, which owns the ship, disputes the allegations. She said only 11 out of 1500 passengers aboard are ill, including five who were in isolation on Saturday. That number had reduced to two by Sunday. This is about the same rate as the general population at any time, she said. The departure of the 55,820 tonne cruise ship from Sydney on December 16 was delayed three to four hours to allow the crew to sanitise the ship after an outbreak of gastro on the previous trip. Yet the spokeswoman said she understood the previous cruise had a similar number of people who were sick with norovirus.
A former Holland Line ship that was bought by P&O and recently refurbished and launched, the Pacific Eden headed north to Cairns and the sunshine coast with its new “godmother”, radio host and television personality Kate Ritchie, and her family installed in the penthouse.
Ms Ritchie has posted several photos during the cruise, including with her husband, former rugby league player Stuart Webb.
After uploading one image of the Pacific Eden, a follower reminded her to “keep the sanitiser going”.
Ms Abbott said an announcement made by the captain in Sydney attributed the delays to a “significant” number of reported cases of norovirus on the previous cruise.
And while the ship was still in port, Ms Abbott’s room and others flooded, causing damage to passengers’ possessions. “Our bed nearly floated away,” said Ms Abbott, who was moved to another room. Her iPad was washed away and several suitcases were damaged, costing her nearly $1000 in damages.
During the announcement that she heard, the captain urged anyone who was ill to return to his or her cabin.
The captain said the outbreak was strongly suggestive of norovirus. “Success [in fighting the virus] depends on you and your fellow guests,” the announcement said.
He said the ship had launched a comprehensive disinfection program, which had been developed in co-ordination with several public health authorities.
A recent research paper by Griffith Institute for Tourism Research finds norovirus – a major cause of epidemics of acute gastroenteritis and diarrhoea – is one of the leading causes of illness on cruise ships.
Controlling outbreaks is difficult due to close living quarters and shared dining areas, as well as large passenger turnovers. The virus can easily be brought on board and its ability to infect surfaces can infect consecutive cruises.
The captain said the crew would continue to disinfect during the cruise.
Passengers have reported seeing crew wearing face masks and spraying disinfectant. The fourth and fifth decks were fumigated.
The P&O spokesman suggested that passengers could be misinterpreting the sanitation measures because the company “acted out of an abundance of caution”.
It took relatively few cases to be reported before the company increased sanitation measures. This included disinfecting high touch areas like railings and elevator buttons.
In a related incident, a woman who vomited in a pool caused it to be closed for cleaning.
Yvonne Hubscher of the Sunshine Coast said she had seen children running along a deck singing, “We’re all living on a spew ship.”
She said the captain had mentioned that there had been 247 cases of norovirus on the previous trip. Many others had been sick on this trip.
Other passengers also contacted the Herald with similar allegations, including Cherie Butcherine from Dundas Valley.
“The pool was closed the first two days because of the gastro outbreak from the previous cruise and they just kept asking for our patience,” she said.
“My daughter Alexa got gastro on the 23rd (of December) and was quarantined in her cabin for two days.”
She was grateful that she had not been charged for the doctor’s frequent visits to her ill daughter, nor for the medication prescribed.
The P&O spokeswoman said the pool closure was not due to the gastro but because a child who was not toilet trained had used the pool.
“It takes 24 hours to remove the water, clean and sanitise all surfaces, refill and then balance the pool chemicals,” she said.
Addressing the concerns raised by the passengers, she said “the overwhelming majority of guests are having a fantastic holiday.”
“As with any large hotel or ship with more than 600 rooms, operational challenges will arise from time to time but, importantly, we will always respond promptly and responsibly to matters raised,” she said.
Published By: The Age 28/12/15