Cruise Line Officials Address Recent Health And Safety Issues

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — From fires to power outages to rapidly spreading illnesses, it’s been tough sailing for the cruise industry these last few years.

And it’s been especially tough for passengers leaving out of Baltimore.

Derek Valcourt explains one Baltimore-based cruise ship has had two illness outbreaks in two weeks.

That ship is now back out at sea after its last two cruises each saw about 100 people sickened. It has cruise line officials vowing health and safety are their top priorities.

When the Baltimore-based Grandeur of the Seas returned this weekend, 99 of the more than 2,100 people on board had reported norovirus-like symptoms, including diarrhea and vomiting.

“Oh my God, we got so sick. I mean, a stomach virus like I’ve never had before,” passenger Kim Serio said.

A fire erupted on board the same ship in May of last year.

“It was very intense. There was one point that we thought were going to die,” one passenger said.

Also last year, the Carnival Triumph lost power, stranding 4,200 passengers in the dark with overflowing toilets and drain pipes.

“Everybody was using buckets to do what they had to do,” a passenger said.

And in 2012, the Costa Concordia disaster off the Italian coast killed 32 people.

“This has been two or three tough years for the industry,” said Adam Goldstein, Royal Caribbean Cruises C.O.O.

Goldstein appeared on “CBS This Morning,” pointing out the fires, power failures and other disasters are rare.

And while norovirus sickened a total of 1,238 passengers in 2013, it’s a fraction of the industry’s total passengers–far fewer than the 20 million cases that originated on land.

“We’re the only industry, segment, business, area of life that has to tell people officially if there are any illnesses on board, so it’s easier to know,” Goldstein said. “But the care and the attention that we give on board the ship in this area is second to none.”

In fact, this week’s departure for the Baltimore-based Grandeur of the Seas was delayed while crews spent extra time sanitizing and decontaminating the ship.

Passengers say they were ready for the risk.

“I mean, I have medicine and I’m just excited. This is my first cruise, so I can’t let it stop me,” Michelle Mwoha said.

With all the bad publicity they have gotten in the last few years, cruise line officials say the toughest challenge they are up against right now is convincing the 75 percent of Americans who have never taken a cruise to come on board.

Despite the bad publicity, the Cruise Lines Association says 21.7 million people worldwide are expected to take a cruise in 2014. That’s up 400,000 from last year.

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