Sunday 24 June 2018

Cruise ships ban captains from shaking guests' hands (but fist bumps are OK)

Fist bumps at sea

Stock Photo: Cruise ship at anchor.
Stock Photo: Cruise ship at anchor.

Natalie Paris

As one cruise line prevents captains from giving handshakes for hygiene reasons, another asks them to "fist bump" passengers instead.

Stepping on board a huge cruise ship is exciting - so much so that cruise lines hold meet and greet sessions for passengers wanting to get to know the captain in charge.

While nearly every cruise line holds such introductions, the fear of stomach bugs like the norovirus spreading has scared some into banning captains from shaking the hands of passengers they meet.

One even asks its captains to "fist bump" passengers instead.

Cruise writers for the Daily Telegraph newspaper have confirmed that passengers are asked not to get too close to their captain.

“No shaking hands – or pecks on the cheek for that matter,” said Adrian Bridge, who recently returned from a historic Atlantic ocean crossing with Cunard and saw a sign that forbade contact.

“But you are allowed to stand together and have your photo taken.”

Cruise expert Jane Archer said luxury cruise line Azamara decided to introduce an alternative greeting style for its captains for hygiene purposes, one that is more commonly used by hip-hop artists.

“Ships are no more a hot bed for norovirus than anywhere else where people gather but cruise lines would be remiss if they didn’t do everything they could to guard against an outbreak,” she explained.

“I was on a river cruise where norovirus was brought on board by a passenger and spread to others, including the captain. There was no hand-shaking during the captain’s welcome so it must have spread through touching infected implements in the buffet. Around 12 people caught the bug but a swift crackdown, with crew serving in the buffet instead of allowing us to help ourselves, stopped the germ spreading further.

“To avoid being seen as rude, maybe a few other captains should try the Azamara Club Cruises ‘handshake’. Instead of touching hands, the Captain greets passengers by touching knuckles.”

Crystal, another cruise line, also implements a no handshake policy.

A spokesman told Telegraph Travel that it implements sanitation procedures “in accordance with Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations, including thorough disinfection of public areas, and high-touch surfaces like railings, door handles and elevator buttons".

“Other measures involve encouraging guests to use the complimentary anti-bacterial wipes before boarding the ship. And while the captain is very pleased to meet all our guests at the Captain’s Welcome Aboard and Farewell parties, he refrains from shaking hands as research shows most common gastrointestinal ailments are easily transmitted from person-to-person contact.”

Rules banning handshakes are down to individual cruise lines, said the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).

"Norovirus can remain viable on hands for hours thereby giving hands the potential to spread the infection both directly and indirectly," he added. "Hand washing is therefore the single most important procedure for preventing the spread of infection."

Azamara said that its crew use a "fist-bump" rather than a handshake as, "in continuing to improve our hygiene standards, we wanted to encourage a similar friendly meet and greet gesture that maintains physical contact whilst allowing us to limit the spread of germs and bacteria. As another hygiene related measure, the buffet is not self-service on the first day of the cruise," a spokesman added.

Travel Editor Pól Ó Conghaile adds:

Norovirus is a very common and highly contagious virus that causes gastroenteritis (a stomach bug). It's not a 'cruise ship virus', however - but a virus that can spread rapidly wherever there are lots of people in a small area.

After the publicity surrounding recent outbreaks at sea, cruise ships have been cracking down on potential transmission. I've noticed bathroom signs requesting guests to touch door handles using paper towels, and staff at the entrance points to restaurants inviting passengers to use hand sanitizers before they hit the buffets.

If you do experience symptoms, report them immediately - passengers are typically quarantined to their cabins to prevent Norovirus spreading, but that's deemed a whole lot preferable to an outbreak across the ship.

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