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By PAUL MOTTER
When 100 people on a cruise ship carrying 3000 people (including crew) come down with a virus it gets picked up by the national media, including AP and CNN, but when a Royal Caribbean ship rescues three men who had been stranded at sea for 11 days, three of those days without food or water, it barely gets a mention?
A lone article in the Baltimore Sun speaks of three men who attempted to sail from Baltimore to Key West when a storm ravaged their sailboat off of the infamously treacherous Cape Hatteras. The wind destroyed their sails and their radio antenna leaving them stranded at sea - their boat dead in the water.
When they sighted the enormous Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas on the horizon (140,000 gross tons and 20 stories tall) they were able to use weak batteries to power a radio and notify the ship of their plight. The ship, 45 minutes away, sailed to their rescue, brought them onboard and transported them to Puerto Rico. They gave the men a free cabin and food, and even paid for their plane tickets to anywhere they wanted to go. The men chose Key West.
And so, this story of a cruise ship saving the lives of three men was picked up by one newspaper, yet when 3% of the total population of a cruise ship gets a virus, it merits 186 articles in the media.
In fact, many cruise ships go out of their way to save lives, and let's not overlook the Coast Guard who assists in many of these rescues. Several times a year a cruise ship will hail the Coast Guard to send out a rescue helicopter to retrieve a sick passenger at sea and fly them to a land-based hospital.
Just this week we had a story of a person who died on a plane alledgedly because the oxygen tanks were not functioning. This story is all over the national news, so why isn't this dramatic rescue at sea getting more coverage?
About Norovirus at Sea
Norovirus is a serious virus, but it is rarely ever life-threatening. Similar to the flu the few victims are usually elderly patients with challenged immune systems who suffer from dehydration. In this recent case, one such person was hospitalized.
While norovirus is often associated with cruise ships, the truth is that it is more common on land than it is at sea, but only cruise ships get any notoriety for the virus because they are the only entities required to report it to the national Center for Disease Control (CDC). The number of cruise ship passengers who get the virus annually in the last couple of years has been reduced to just over 2% of all cruisers. This is a dramatic improvement over the approximately 4% of passengers who were afflicted by the virus a few years ago.
According to the some Ryndam passengers quoted by the San Diego Union Tribune, the crew was spectacular in the way in which it handled the outbreak. Workers wore masks and gloves and kept ill passengers isolated in their cabins. Letters of information were distributed to all staterooms and the captain advised all passengers entering the ship after port visits to take sanitary precautions.
The bottom line is - the manner in which these outbreaks are handled has improved greatly in the last few years, and the number of occurences has been reduced by 50%. The cruise lines deserve a lot of credit for getting things "right" these days, but "right" doesn't make the national news.