If you’re familiar with cruising, you’re probably familiar with the term norovirus. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention): “Norovirus is a very contagious virus that can infect anyone… The virus causes your stomach or intestines or both to get inflamed.” The way I understand it is that if a cruise has over a certain number of people or over a certain percentage of passengers with norovirus, then they have to report it to the CDC. The CDC then does something. Personally, I have never been on a cruise that had to report norovirus so I only had a vague idea of what happens. However, this year I got to experience what it was like to go on a cruise right after it had to report the norovirus. It was interesting.
The Disney Wonder had to report norovirus for it’s cruise that took place 04/27/16 to 05/01/16. I was on the Disney Wonder Panama Canal Cruise that started on 05/01/16. We did receive notification prior to the trip informing us that the prior cruise had reported norovirus. We were not going to cancel our trip and decided to move forward as planned.
We had never boarded a cruise ship from the Port of Miami so we weren’t familiar with the terminal or how long it usually takes. We were dropped off by bus and there was a long line outside that we had to wait through. Once we got inside the terminal, we went to the Disney area and waited in another line to check in. We did notice quite a few people with CDC t-shirts on that were wiping everything down – counters, hand rails, etc. There were also some stationed near and in the bathrooms wiping everything down. We were in boarding group 9 and tried to find a place to sit while we waited to board the ship. There were no seats and so we stood for a little while then decided to sit along the wall. As some time passed, we realized that boarding should have started by now yet nobody was getting on the ship. The waiting area began to fill since people were still checking in but had nowhere to go since boarding hadn’t started. More people opted to sit on the floor and we met a nice couple sitting down next to us. It really wasn’t too bad of a wait except I was starting to get hungry since we figured we would eat as soon as we got on board.
I think it was near or just past 2pm when they announced they would start boarding and everybody cheered! The personal navigator had said lunch would only be served until 2:30pm so we were hoping they would keep it open since we probably wouldn’t be on board until after that. When we finally made it on board, the food places were kept open so we headed straight for food. Instead of a regular buffet, cast members were at every food item and would serve the food for you. There were lines to get food since it did take a little longer but it really wasn’t bad at all. We had never seen them do this before and later realized they would be doing it for the first five days of the cruise just to be sure the norovirus didn’t come back. They also didn’t serve food in the lounges for a few days and cast members served ice creams and sodas to people which are usually self service. It really wasn’t bad but it was different.
The safety drill on the first day ended up being postponed since we were delayed in getting on the ship. We were told we probably wouldn’t leave port until 6pm, then it was changed to 7pm. We really didn’t start moving away from the port until around 9pm, we were at dinner at the time and people started cheering once they saw we were actually moving! Because of the craziness of the day, everyone was given a $25 credit! That was awesome!
One cast member told us that the reason for the delay in boarding was because they had to fully sanitize the ship from top to bottom THREE TIMES after the last cruise passengers got off and before we were able to get on. Another difference of those first few days was that after trivia, we were told not to return the little pencils back to the jar but to throw them away. So overall, it was an interesting experience. After the first few days, everything returned back to normal and we were able to serve ourselves at the buffet, soda station and ice cream machines. Food also returned to the lounges and we returned out pencils after trivia.