Noro virus on a cruise ship
Sometimes vacations go wrong. In our case, our cruise on the Holland America Noordam was literally the cruise from hell. And what Holland America management then did is a classic example of how to take a bad situation and make it worse.
In 2008 we decided to go on another Holland America cruise. We had been on one, on the Veendam, in 2001 and it was delightful. We were expecting something similar from the Noordam. What we got was a miserable cruise, an apathetic crew handling a dangerous situation, and management that appears to be of the mindset “we have your money and you cannot do a thing about it.”
Our first premonition that Holland America’s quality had deteriorated was their handling of fuel surcharges. In 2008 the price of crude oil had soared and the cruise lines were adding surcharges to the price of the cruise to justify the increased costs. We understood that, and it was fair. But there was a crack in the high prices, the recession had begun and fuel prices had begun to enter a free fall. Holland America made everyone an offer. If the price of crude were above a set amount for the thirty days before the cruise, they would cancel the fuel surcharges. Well, at the 30 day mark, the prices had slipped below this threshhold. But on day 28 they rose again to 12 cents above the “no fee” mark before beginning a rapid slide downward. Holland America decided that since that for one day the price was above the threshhold, they would impose the fee on everyone. Now, technically they were in the right. In spirit, they were taking advantage of everyone. It should be noted that we were the last people to be saddled with the fuel surcharges and if the ship had sailed 3 days later, we would have had no charges.
But that was just the start of things. Three days in to the cruise I got the Noro virus. Noro is miserable. Your body wants to expel everything from both ends. There is only one place you want to be- and lets leave it at that. We reported the problem to the ship and we were put on immediate isolation. I could not leave the cabin, only my wife was allowed to enter and leave, and all of my food needs would be handled by room service. There was no taking care of the room until the nurse cleared me of any sign of the illness. The nurse who came to check me out gave me a packet of Gatorade and said that I was to keep hydrated as much as possible.
What this meant was that the ship found a perfect opportunity to take advantage of a passenger. There were no expenses from the ship’s point of view since I could not enjoy the food, entertainment, or anything else on the ship. Our housekeeping expenses were nonexistent since the room attendant was not allowed in the room.
Remember the Gatorade that was given to me? What they did not provide was any method of mixing it other than the bottle of water in the room. That was a $5.00 charge to the room bill. Sodas are not free on ships, even when Sprite and ginger ale were the only things that the passenger could hold down. Those were, if memory serves me right, $2.50 per can. And what is a person to do besides watch satellite broadcast TV from Venezuela? The answer is “watch DVDs at $3.50 each”. The ship had a captive audience and the only thing I could do was pay.
And just like the fuel surcharges, they stuck to the letter of what they said. The last day under quarantine I was finally getting a bit an appetite back, and all I wanted for breakfast was some French toast. They had it in the buffet, all they would have had to do was have room service go up there and bring a few slices down. Nope. It was not on the room service menu. They could give me toast, they could give me eggs, but French toast was not on the menu so they could not provide it. I ended up having my wife go up to the buffet and bring it down to me. Wish the ship had exhibited the same resourcefulness.
In retrospect, in their greed the ship provided a perfect vector for the spread of Noro. The DVDs that we rented were for single day rentals so we had to return them the next day. I handled the DVDs putting them in the player. I then put them back into the cases. My wife took the DVDs back to the library where they were then checked in and given to other people. At no time did my wife see the librarian wipe down the DVD cases or DVDs. Noro is spread by contact. Enough said.
But that was just the beginning. Things got a lot worse.