Nearly 100 Passengers Fall Ill With Stomach Virus on Princess Cruise

A Princess cruise ship sailing the South Pacific on the cruise of a lifetime has had dozens of passengers and crew fall ill with norovirus, an unpleasant stomach bug that results in diarrhea and vomiting.

Sapphire Princess, sailing in the South Pacific, has seen nearly 100 passengers fall ill with norovirus according to the CDC.

Sapphire Princess is on a month-long journey round trip from Los Angeles. The cruise is taking passengers around the Pacific, with stops in Hawaii, Samoa, Fiji, and French Polynesia before returning to the United States.

Unfortunately, an unwelcome guest also seems to be aboard. According to the CDC, Sapphire Princess has been hit with the spread of norovirus on the ship.

A reported 94 passengers and 20 crew members have come down with the gastrointestinal illness. That comes out to 3.7% of the 2,500+ passengers on the ship and approximately 1.8% of the 1,066 crew members. Note that these figures are the total number of people impacted during the course of the outbreak, not the number of current cases.

The symptoms reported by the CDC include diarrhea and vomiting.

Currently, the ship is en route to Papeete, Tahiti according to It won’t return to Los Angeles until May 7. The CDC update says the cruise ship has isolated the ill persons on board and also “increased cleaning and disinfection procedures according to the ship’s outbreak prevention and response plan.”

A Common Virus on Land and at Sea

Norovirus is a relatively common stomach illness. According to CDC data, there are between 19-21 million cases annually in the United States and about 2,500 outbreaks. Most cases occur between November and April.

According to the health agency, most cases occur when infected people have direct contact with one another. That can make cruise ships susceptible to outbreaks given the large number of people in a relatively small space.

In fact, the CDC tracks outbreaks aboard cruise ships that sail to or from the United States. Ships are required to report any cases (even if zero) before arriving at a U.S. port. Ships must also report to the CDC when 2% or more of passengers or crew have a gastro illness within 15 days of arriving in the United States or at anytime when 3% or more of passengers or crew have an illness.

When ships covered under the CDC’s watch see 3% or more of passengers or crew report an illness, they are posted to the agency’s “Outbreak Updates for International Cruise Ships” page to alert the public.

So far this year, six cruise ships have had reported outbreaks. In addition to Sapphire Princess, this includes:

  • 100 passengers and crew aboard Celebrity Constellation
  • 154 passengers and crew aboard Queen Victoria
  • 121 passengers and crew aboard Koningsdam
  • 29 passengers and crew aboard Silver Nova
  • 69 passengers and crew aboard Radiance of the Seas

There were 14 gastro outbreaks reported by the CDC on U.S. cruise ships in 2023.

What to Do on a Cruise to Reduce the Risk

Given the millions of cruise passengers that sail each year, the risk of an individual falling ill to norovirus or other stomach bug is relatively low. But cruise ships are known for seeing outbreaks.

That’s why the CDC suggests several steps to stay healthy:

  • If you do get sick, alert the ship’s medical team
  • Wash your hands often, especially after going to the bathroom and before eating
  • If you see someone get sick, leave the area

Remember, norovirus is spread via contact. Reducing the amount of physical contact, such as touching shared surfaces and keeping your hands clean can help you reduce the risk of getting sick.

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