Disclaimer: I am not a physician, epidemiologist, travel agent, credit counselor, or attorney. I am a frequent cruiser. Everything I write here is my opinion based on personal experiences – nothing more.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s chat about what’s been all over the news over the last day or 2. There has been an outbreak of a gastrointestinal illness aboard Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas. Whenever I’m talking to people who have not cruised, it’s a near certainty that I will get asked one question – “have you had that bad stomach bug?” My answer is always the same – I caught it at my office building a few years ago, but other than that, the answer is no. In fact, the only person I have ever known to be officially diagnosed by a physician with Norovirus contracted it in his college dorm. That’s the truth. The other truth-that outbreak of Noro on a college campus got a blurb on the local news, but I never had to endure mention of it every 15 minutes on all the news channels local and national. Why?

Speculatively speaking – it just sounds bad when hundreds of passengers on a cruise vacation are locked in their staterooms wearing a path in the carpet between the bed and the toilet. If you’re one of those passengers, it is bad. Noro can run through an office building, a dorm, a hotel, or a cruise ship. Anywhere there is a collection of people in a relatively small area can become a place where a virus like this spreads easily. Further, cruise ships are specifically required to report an outbreak of illness like this when it strikes 2 percent of passengers. Your local hotel, not so much.

That said, I don’t think 35 Noro-free cruises by yours truly is an accident. I’ve always said that I conduct myself on a cruise ship the same way I would in any foreign country – I don’t drink to excess, remain aware of my surroundings, relax, and enjoy myself. It would not be incorrect to say that I also conduct myself the same way I do in my own home. In other words, I behave like my momma taught me by washing my hands after bathroom visits, before meals, and I do not refill my personal water bottle by sticking it onto the public water dispenser where the sign says “do not refill personal water bottles,” etc. (Seeing people do that bugs me!)

Some day my luck may run out, and I will board a ship only to be hit by the dreaded Norovirus. If that happens you’ll be the first to hear about it. I’ll also assure you now that if it does happen, that will not be my last cruise. Explorer of the Seas is returning to Cape Liberty 2 days early where she will undergo what I am fairly certain will be an extensive scrub down. If I had the time off and a cruise booked, I wouldn’t hesitate to board Explorer of the Seas on her next cruise or any other. YMMV.

MJ, January 27, 2014