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Cruise Ship Undergoes Scrubbing

The Amsterdam is sanitized after a virus sickens hundreds on its last four voyages. Avoid handshakes, the passengers were told.

November 22, 2002|From Associated Press

PORT EVERGLADES, Fla. — The cruise ship Amsterdam returned to port Thursday for a stem-to-stern scouring after more than 500 people on its last four voyages got sick with a stomach virus.

The ship had been scheduled to leave on a 10-day Caribbean cruise Thursday, but the voyage was canceled so the vessel could be sanitized.

After the latest passengers disembarked, 573 crew members began cleaning the ship, emptying garbage cans and wiping down remote controls, clock radios, even Bibles. During the next 10 days, crew members will replace 2,500 pillows and dry clean, steam clean and disinfect every surface aboard the ship, which is 780 feet long and has 690 staterooms.

The Holland America cruise line said that during the ship's just-completed 10-day voyage, 58 passengers and 18 crew members developed symptoms associated with the Norwalk virus.

Eighty-seven of the 1,305 passengers left the ship at various ports in the Caribbean and were flown home.

Many passengers said they enjoyed their vacation despite the problems and did not mind the frequent reminders from the crew to wash their hands and avoid handshakes.

"Rather than shaking hands, we rubbed elbows," said Joel Bennett, a bassist for a Tommy Dorsey orchestra that performed on board.

Other passengers said that they resented not being told of the virus and the precautions until just before they boarded the ship outside Fort Lauderdale.

"As far as I am concerned, they put us in harm's way," said Joseph Carbonell of New Britain, Conn.

In all, 454 passengers and 70 crew members have become sick within the last month during four successive voyages aboard the Amsterdam. The virus, spread through food and water and close contact with infected people or things they have touched, can cause diarrhea, stomach pain and vomiting.

The cruise line had spent more than 10 hours scrubbing the Amsterdam with a chlorine solution before it departed on its latest voyage.

On the cruise, passengers were barred from serving themselves at buffets or touching any food or drinks but their own.

"They were cleaning all the time. You'd see people and then they would not be there for dinner, so you knew they got sick," said Lori Druckeroff, a Boynton Beach retiree.

The cruise line is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Holland America Line is owned by Miami-based Carnival Corp.

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