JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Queen Elizabeth 2 made its way into Honolulu Harbor early yesterday morning. During its journey, the ship was hit with a norovirus outbreak on its Acapulco, Mexico-San Francisco leg and was met by the CDC after it docked in Honolulu. The stomach flu outbreak sickened at least 276 passengers and 28 crew members amid its around-the-world journey.
CDC greets cruise ship
A stomach flu virus seems to be under control aboard the Queen Elizabeth 2
Passengers and crew members aboard a cruise ship in which hundreds fell ill with a highly contagious stomach flu arrived at Honolulu Harbor early yesterday saying the spread of the virus had slowed.
The Queen Elizabeth 2, on a stop here from San Francisco, docked at Pier 2B about 7 a.m. When the ship left the mainland Wednesday night, only six guests were still being treated on board for norovirus, a gastrointestinal illness.
"It was not that bad," said Leonard Ciupak, 54, a Kahala resident who got sick but improved after taking some medicine.
"You wake up and, obviously, you have to make it to the bathroom and you get real dehydrated," added Ciupak, a television manager at the 963-foot vessel. "You have aches and pains for about a day, and then you are fine."
The QE2, operated by the Valencia, Calif.-based Cunard Line, departed Jan. 8 from New York on the first leg of its 106-day trip around the world. The Centers for Disease Control reported 276 passengers and 28 crew members had come down with the virus by the time the ship docked Wednesday in San Francisco for a regularly scheduled stop, though only four passengers remained sick.
CDC officials said they would meet with the ship's doctor yesterday. Cunard spokesman Brian O'Connor said enhanced sanitation measures led to a rapid decrease in the number of cases.
"We have been informed that norovirus is currently circulating widely throughout North America and the United Kingdom, and we suspect the illness was inadvertently brought on board by embarking passengers," O'Connor said.
ALEXANDRE DA SILVA / ADASILVA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Security officials at Honolulu Harbor directed passengers of the Queen Elizabeth 2 yesterday after the vessel docked at Honolulu Harbor.
Yesterday, some passengers, who were scheduled to re-board the vessel at about 9:30 p.m., declined to be interviewed and quickly left in cabs or in tour vans to enjoy the island for the day.
Janice Okubo, spokeswoman for the state Department of Health, said the outbreak seemed to be under control.
"Many of the people were going to be well by the time they reached Hawaii," she said.
While the vessel was being fumigated on the mainland, Stan and Leone Pollard, a Burlingame, Calif., couple, said they got free tours of a farmer's market and the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
"It was very, very serious," Stan Pollard said about the outbreak, noting that amenities like peanuts stopped being served. "They sanitized the complete ship. Now it seems to be fine, because they started serving snacks at the cocktail lounge."
The CDC boarded the QE2 on Jan. 19 in Acapulco, Mexico, to investigate the infections, which affected nearly 17 percent of the ship's 1,652 passengers, a particularly high percentage. The agency defines an outbreak as an illness that affects more than 3 percent of a ship's passengers.
Investigators said enhanced sanitation measures such as disinfecting casino chips, confining sick guests to their rooms and halting self-service at the ship's buffet were working.
The scare did not spoil the trip for June McRoberts, who boarded the vessel Jan. 10 at Fort Lauderdale, Fla. In fact, the Batavia, Ill., resident already signed up for another cruise with the company for next year, this time with the ship Queen Victoria.
"It was blown up a lot bigger than it really was," said McRoberts, who was met at the harbor by friend Ruth Johnsen, also a Chicago resident, who happens to be in the island visiting her daughter.
The two planned to see Pearl Harbor and Waikiki before McRoberts returned to board the ship, which was scheduled to leave for Lahaina last night. After its Maui stop, the QE2 heads to Tahiti, New Zealand and Australia.