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Virus forces cruise ship cancellation

Posted: Thursday, August 01, 2002

SEATTLE (AP) -- The Holland America Line has canceled a seven-day Alaska cruise by its ship Ryndam, which had been scheduled to start the voyage Thursday, because of a virus that has sickened more than 400 people over the last two trips.

The gastrointestinal ailment, described as a Norwalk-like virus, affected 165 passengers and nine crew members on the July 18 week-long cruise from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Alaska and back.

On the July 25 voyage of the Ryndam, due to end Thursday in Vancouver, 212 passengers and 31 crew members fell ill, said Rose Abello, Holland America vice president.

Cruise-line officials here said the ship would skip one cruise so steps can be taken to prevent a recurrence of the illness, whose symptoms include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

The Ryndam will resume normal operations Aug. 8.

The cruise line's medical staff has been working on the outbreak with officials from Health Canada and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Holland America has been ''very proactive in dealing with this unfortunate virus,'' said Dave Forney, chief of the CDC's vessel-sanitation program.

Person-to-person contact is considered the most likely means of spreading the Norwalk-like virus, rather than foodborne transmission, Abello said.

Other recent cases have been reported in Canada and Alaska.

At the end of the July 18 cruise, Holland America and CDC officials hoped that protocols then in place would be able to contain the virus, Abello said.

''Our efforts were not as successful as we hoped,'' she added.

Holland America decided to cancel the upcoming cruise to provide time ''to break the cycle of the virus,'' Abello said, adding the CDC had reviewed the ship's food service and water procedures and found no problems.

Seattle-based Holland-America said those scheduled to sail on the Aug. 1 cruise will get a full refund and a discount from a future fare.

Cruise ships must report an illness when more than 3 percent of passengers on board are affected, Holland America spokesman Erik Elvejord said earlier. On the July 18 cruise, about 9 percent of the 1,882 people on board were affected. On the July 25 cruise, the figure was about 13 percent of 1,907 people, Abello said.

The ship's crew previously disinfected all rooms and common areas of the ship.

A Norwalk-like virus also is believed to have sickened 100 of 170 campers at a Christian children's camp on British Columbia's coast.

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Editor's note: Passengers and agents can call 1-800-577-1728 for more information.



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