Norovirus on the high seas
20.05.2011 - 20.05.2011
We now interrupt our previously scheduled cruise review for this important safety message:
Wash your hands. Use the sanitizer. Don't lick your fingers and then handle the serving tongs. Don't reach into the container of raisins by the oatmeal with your fingers, use the spoon instead. Don't pick up strips of bacon that have fallen on the floor and put them back into the serving pan.
Thank you. We now return to our cruise review. You'll forgive the lack of illustrative photos for this portion of the review, I hope.
It's now Friday morning, our second full day at sea, on our way to a two day stop in Alexandria, Egypt. Over the past year, we've made big plans for Egypt, having arranged a private tour for two with Egypt Private Excursions, to see Saqqara, Dahshur, Memphis, and the Pyramids of Giza, with an overnight stay at the luxurious Mena House Oberoi.
They say that if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.
I wake up at 6:30 Friday morning with a dawning suspicion that all is not well. That's confirmed a few moments later when I bolt to the bathroom. Chills, fever, and severe gastrointestinal distress are the order of the day.
I try to convince myself that it was overindulgence in pizza and cookies, but the medical team onboard disagrees. I am diagnosed with probable norovirus, and confined to my cabin until they decide otherwise. I'm not really in any condition to argue.
Mrs. Z is feeling fine, and is not under any restriction, so at my urging she steers clear of the room as much as possible today. My room steward, Roberto, is replaced by a tag team of specialized hazmat stewards, and my dining selections, such as they are, are limited to the "Light and Healthy" room service menu, delivered by a dedicated, blue-gloved attendant.
By 9pm, I'm starting to feel more like a human being than a howler monkey. I check in with the medical center, but I'm still running a fever. I'm concerned, naturally about my excursion tomorrow. The staff sympathizes, but will not release me to go ashore until I am symptom free. Mrs. Z and I debate about what to do. There's a possibility I may be released in the morning, but then again, perhaps not. We inquire about the incubation period for norovirus. 8 to 32 hours seems to be the consensus. That means she could come down with this as well at any time.
We make the very difficult decision of trying to reach H. David, our tour operator, by Skype, but the call won't go through. I send him an email, explaining our predicament, and requesting that he cancel the tour and try to intercept the guide. I hope he gets the message before morning. His cancellation policy is 5 days in advance, unless the ship doesn't dock, so we fully expect to be on the hook for, at the very least, the cost of the hotel room and transportation.
Mr. David responds a short time later, confirming our cancellation. Since I won't be allowed off the ship, he waives all fees, which was really very kind of him. The wife and I are despondent. On-again-off-again Egypt was the centerpiece of this trip, and the driving reason we booked this cruise, over a year ago.
We got to bed that night, miserable on many levels.