Celebrity Mercury has had an unusually bad run of gastrointestinal illness on board. So bad, in fact, that The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has made a no-sail recommendation for at least four full days for the ship to investigate recurring outbreaks.
The latest bout of illness is the third on the ship since the middle of last month. The source of the first two outbreaks was identified as norovirus, which causes vomiting and diarrhea. Members of the CDC's Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP), which works with the cruise industry to prevent and control illnesses on cruise ships, boarded Celebrity Mercury Monday to look for the source of the current outbreak. CNN reports that CDC spokesman Ricardo Beato stated, "The CDC and the cruise line corporate staff have not yet determined why the controls that they were following have not been effective."
After the first February outbreak, in which more than 20% of passengers became ill, a VSP team inspected the ship and made preventative recommendations. Celebrity Mercury's next sailing was delayed for a day while a full cleaning was undertaken. Nevertheless, about 10% of passengers on that subsequent cruise were felled by norovirus. On the latest sailing, approximately 19% of passengers became ill. As a cautionary measure, Celebrity Mercury has skipped a scheduled port call in Tortola this week, cutting the current cruise short by a day, and the ship will return to Charleston, SC, on Thursday morning.
Passengers have been compensated for the abbreviated itinerary, according to Celebrity Cruises spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez. "Guests currently on board Celebrity Mercury received an onboard credit in the amount of one day of the cruise fare paid for their sailing, as well as a future cruise certificate for 25 percent of the cruise fare paid," she said in an email to CNN.
According to a statement issued Monday, Celebrity Cruises has delayed the cruise scheduled to depart from Charleston on Friday, March 19, for two days so Celebrity Mercury can undergo enhanced cleaning and disinfecting:
Itinerary Change Celebrity Mercury: During Celebrity Mercury's last sailing, a number of guests on board experienced a gastrointestinal illness, thought to be a norovirus. In an abundance of caution, we are conducting extensive and thorough sanitizing on board the ship and within the cruise terminal, as recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, to help prevent any illness from affecting the next sailing.It is our understanding that passengers who choose not to sail on March 21 will be issued a refund; those who do sail will receive a pro-rated refund for the shortened cruise in the form of an on board credit.
Regrettably, in order to conduct the extensive sanitizing, it is necessary to delay the departure of Celebrity Mercury March 19 sailing by two days. Boarding is now anticipated to take place on Sunday, March 21 between 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. Seating in the cruise terminal at the Port of Charleston is very limited. Therefore, we ask that guests scheduled to depart on this sailing not arrive at the pier on Sunday before 4:00 p.m. We apologize for this delay and any inconvenience it may cause our guests.
Due to the delayed departure, it was necessary to make some adjustments to the planned itinerary. Celebrity Mercury will now departed Charleston on Sunday, March 21, be at sea Monday; visit Key West, Florida, Tuesday; Cozumel, Mexico, Wednesday; Costa Maya, Mexico, Thursday; at sea Friday; Nassau, Bahamas, Saturday; and at sea Sunday.