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The outbreak of Swine Flu in Mexico has caused many to go into a state of panic. As of today’s date, there are confirmed infected persons in Canada, Scotland, New Zealand, Spain, and Israel. In the U.S., confirmed infections have been noted in ten states.  Therefore, it should not be a surprise to anyone that Travel and Tourism will be at the mercy of this crisis.  Over the last three days, travelers cancelled their flights and land based all inclusive vacations citing concerns over Swine Flu.  While the cruise lines have suspended all stops to Mexico out of caution, their historical records indicate that the Cruise Lines are, and have always been, better prepared to respond to viral outbreaks when compared to land based destinations.

Since the 1970s the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a division of the U.S. Public Health Service, and the cruise industry established a good cooperative relationship through the establishment and implementation of a Vessel Sanitization Program (VSP).  The simple goal of the VSP is to assist the cruise ship industry to prevent and control the introduction, transmission, and spread of gastrointestinal illnesses (GI) on cruise ships.  The VSP is implemented through a program which consists of Inspection, Monitoring, Training, and Providing Education.

During an inspection, the CDC inspects the medical facilities, portable water systems, swimming pools and whirlpool spas, galleys and dining rooms, children activity center, hotel accommodations (rooms and suites), ventilation systems, and common areas of the ship.  The CDC utilizes electronic monitoring of illness on cruise ships, and must be notified of illness onboard prior to the ships arrival at a U.S. port.    Most importantly, all cruise lines must develop and maintain an Outbreak Prevention and Response Plan (OPRP).  In the event of an outbreak, the cruise ship is required to increase daily cleaning and disinfection frequencies; stop high-risk activities, such as self-service buffet tables and handshaking; isolate ill people; collect clinical and/or environmental specimens for analysis; and provide daily updates to VSP that include case counts and reports of what the ship has done to establish control.

As you can see, the cruise line industry has been trained and prepared for more than thirty years to handle and manage infections like the Swine Flu.  In fact, some cruise lines have successful done so over the years.  In addition to all the precautions, all cruise ships, unlike many all inclusive vacations destinations, have medical infirmaries, with the appropriate staff to manage acute situations.  Additionally, to bridge the gap, cruise lines, and their agents, usually recommend the purchase of travel insurance to cover medical expenses, emergence air transportation, and other important items, in the unlikely event that illness interrupts your vacation.

Is your all inclusive vacation destination prepared to respond to the Swine Flu in a manner comparable to the cruise line industry? Cruising is the clearly the best vacation value.  If you disagree, I would love to hear from you.

Theo Alleyne is a Cruise and Royal Specialist with Cruise & Rail Travel LLC, a travel agency that specializes in Cruises, Rail Vacations and All-Inclusive Resorts. He can be reached at or (973) 968-400


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