Feces on the High Seas: Why People Lose Bowel Control on Cruise Ships


Last year the Golden Princess, a cruise ship sailing out of Melbourne, was forced to dock after hundreds of passengers fell ill with gastroenteritis.




What a crappy (forgive me) way to start a trip! However this is not an isolated incident, another cruise ship had 158 passengers experience some tummy troubles back in February:




But wait… there’s more!




Note that all of these turd flotillas seem to be in the general vicinity of Australia, which begs the question: what’s causing the intestinal thunder “down under”?

Norovirus has been on quite a hot streak recently, causing 3 gastro emergencies in the first 3 months of the year. Viral bugs like norovirus can be easily avoided in day-to-day life through practicing good hygienic behavior.

However in a closed environment like a cruise ship, dirty surfaces and poor hand washing habits can be costly.

“You’re really at the mercy of the cruise ship and the staff to ensure that they are cleaning the environment for you,” states Mary-Louise McLaws, professor of infectious disease at the University of New South Wales.

“You’ve got to have very, very good environmental cleaning in any toilets that are shared, and any surfaces where you are eating and preparing food.”

So while Australian cruise goers are “fruiting their looms” at sea, what precautions can you take to avoid norovirus abroad?


courtesy of cdc.gov:

  • Practice proper hand hygiene
    Wash your hands after using the toilet and when preparing food. Come on people, it’s not that hard. Don’t rely on alcohol based hand sanitizer, either. Stick to ol’ fashioned soap and water.
  • Rinse fresh foods and cook shellfish completely before eating.
    If you’ve brought food back on to a cruise ship while docked for the evening, make sure that it is completely rinsed/cooked before consuming.
  • Limit contact with common use surfaces.
    Try and avoid contact with communal objects when possible. Norovirus is very friendly and enjoys latching on to whatever it can


Even if you’re not on a cruise in Australian seas, gastroenteritis can still strike if you’re not careful. So be safe out there folks, and wash your hands!

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