How to Prevent Norovirus, as Told by a Cruise Ship Doctor

Sanitizing station on board Crystal Serenity, used to help prevent the spread of norovirus on board.

While cruising on board Crystal Serenity, we decided it was time to shed some light on one of the cruise world's most common concerns: norovirus. And after chatting the ship’s captain and resident doctor, we learned a few tips on how to prevent the virus from spreading—and how Crystal Cruises is taking their anti-norovirus agenda to impressive heights.

What’s the Deal With Norovirus?

For starters, if you’ve never contracted norovirus, here’s a not-so-gentle reminder of what you’ve gladly missed out on.

Think of this illness as the ultimate cruise party crasher—because that’s one of the most common places you’ll find it (hospitals and hotels are also noro- culprits). The virus can invade everything from your favorite foods to objects and surfaces and has the power to send even the most steadfast cruiser running to the nearest bathroom. It’s transmittable via touching a contaminated surface, ingesting a contaminated food or liquid, or even coming in contact with someone infected. People who fall ill with norovirus experience symptoms such as vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea. And while it usually doesn’t last more than a day or two, it can really put a damper on an otherwise ill-free vacation.

Is it a cause for concern when cruising? Naturally. And so many people wonder what are cruise lines actually doing to keep the virus at bay. Here’s the scoop, straight from the folks who combat the illness head-on.

Crystal Serenity’s Anti Hand-Shake Rule

While all cruise lines go above and beyond to avoid norovirus, we found that Crystal Cruises has a particularly diligent anti-noro agenda, and it all starts with the shake of a hand—or lack thereof.

During a media reception on board, we noticed that the Captain, Hotel Director and Cruise Director— three of the most popular people on every ship—did not shake hands with anyone. And that’s because for 15 years, Crystal Cruises has been a ‘no handshake’ cruise line for officers. Norovirus can be spread via physical contact with an infected person, so these three individuals (among others) could single-handedly create an epidemic on the ship with a simple hand-to-hand greeting.

Additional Measures Crystal Cruises Takes to Avoid Norovirus

Aside from the anti-hand shake rule, here are a few other preventative measures the cruise line takes to halt the spread of norovirus:

  • They clean the ship every single day. Early risers can see the crew polishing ever nook and cranny on board: public spaces, stair railings, elevators, etc.
  • There are automatic sanitizers at the entrance of every dining area.
  • Upon return from shore excursions or visiting ports, the first thing guests will encounter is a request to sanitize their hands. This ensures that none of the local germs find their way to the ship.
  • Anyone who becomes infected with the virus, whether it’s a guest or a crew member, is immediately quarantined for 24 hours.

This one’s less of a preventative measure and more of an advantage, but the size of their ships matters. Because Crystal ships are smaller compared to other cruise lines, there are less opportunities to contract the virus from someone on board.

Tips to Help Prevent Norovirus (Courtesy of Crystal Serenity's Ship Doctor)

While chatting with Dr. Ralph Sorbis, Crystal Serenity’s resident doctor, we learned some tips on how you can prevent contracting norovirus, no matter what ship you sail on:

  1. Use hand sanitizer and wash your hands throughout the day (Captain Birger Vorland, Master of Crystal Serenity, told us that he washes his hands 100 times/day).
  2. Specifically, make sure to wash hands before dining.
  3. If you do experience symptoms, notify the cruise staff as soon as possible. Dr. Sorbis revealed any guest who contracts norovirus on a Crystal Cruises ship can be reimbursed for days they are quarantined.


Now that we’ve addressed everyone’s norovirus fears, shake it off (or maybe don’t shake anything—better safe than sorry) and board your cruise with confidence.

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