Have A Happy, Healthy Tourist
By Marie L. Monyak
June 17, 2006
I can appreciate the concern recently voiced by a local resident
regarding the Norwalk Virus. We are a protective bunch here in
Ketchikan and that's part of what makes our town and our life
here so great. But, there are two sides to every story. As someone
who works on the cruise ship dock every summer, allow me to spin
Great Aunt Bessie from Milwaukee has been planning her cruise
to Alaska for a long, long time, saving every dime for years.
Just six hours before she boards her cruise ship she unknowingly
comes in contact with someone with the Norwalk virus, which by
the way is nothing more than a fancy name for the stomach flu
or "gastroenteritis" according to the Centers for Disease
During Aunt Bessie's first day at sea she has severe stomach
cramps and all the usual stomach flu symptoms. The ship's medical
officer QUARENTININES her to her cabin. She will not see Alaska
after all, her shore excursions are cancelled and refunded and
most cruise lines will refund a portion of the cost of the cruise
or issue coupons to be used on future cruises AT THE EXPENSE
OF THE CRUISE LINE. Special steps are taken in the cleaning of
her room and laundry so as not to spread the illness to her fellow
passengers and crew.
While Aunt Bessie is quarantined on deck four, George and Mabel
from Texas are in their cabin on deck six having the time of
their lives enjoying their very first cruise and as the gangway
is lowered in Ketchikan they re the first ones off the ship.
Unfortunately they come in contact with a Ketchikan resident
in a local gift shop who has the stomach flu. Halfway back to
Seattle, George comes down with a full blown case of the Norwalk
virus, resulting in quarantine and a missed flight home.
Whether the illness came from New Orleans or Las Vegas, Juneau
or Ketchikan, when people are ill measures need to be taken to
contain the illness and prevent its spread. Sort of like the
chicken and the egg, does it really matter which came first?
It helps to understand that the Norwalk Virus is something most
every one of us has had at least once in our lives. The new name
has fooled many into thinking it's some new exotic illness never
experienced in Ketchikan. Not so.
I know that I appreciate the steps taken by the cruise industry
to avoid contamination. I'm sure a representative of the cruise
lines could explain all of this much better but allow me to share
what I do know of the precautions taken by them.
Before boarding their cruise ship, every passenger must complete
a very personal questionnaire about their health, recent illnesses
and contact with infected persons. All passengers are informed
about the Norwalk Virus and it is explained to them that because
they're in such close quarters on the ship, the possibility of
contagion is higher than if they were in their own homes. Passengers
are also advised to wash their hands frequently and thoroughly.
Crew members are to discreetly report anyone showing signs of
illness. The hand sanitizer dispensers that are so obvious at
the bottom of every gangway are used by both passengers and crew
alike when DEPARTING the ship to visit their ports of call and
when RETURNING to the ship. There may be even more measures taken
that I am personally not aware of.
What I do know is that the cruise lines are businesses and just
like any business in Ketchikan, they can't make a profit by canceling
shore excursions or giving refunds. If one of our local hotels
had to quarantine their guests they would lose money on their
rooms just as the Mercury did recently in Seattle. It is in the
best interest of the cruise industry to take whatever measures
necessary to prevent any and all communicable diseases or illness.
I do not know of any business in Ketchikan that questions their
employees about their health before beginning their work day
nor do they instruct their employees on proper hand washing techniques.
Now that just may make you feel bad for the tourists!
Let's try and remember that although we hear it countless times,
these people ARE on the trip of a lifetime -and they just want
to see the Great Land, meet her people and go home with wonderful
memories. A little empathy for our visitors should be in order.
Last but certainly not least, all of my fellow Ketchikanites
working on the dock or in the tourism industry should make every
effort to wash their hands as often as possible and try to avoid
friends and family members that are sick.
So here's to a happy, healthy, profitable tourist season, Cheers!
Marie L Monyak
Ketchikan, AK - USA
About: Year round local resident, seasonal worker on the cruise
ship dock, occasional freelance writer, singer of sad songs,
drinker of rare wines, ballroom dancer, dog therapist and cat
hypnotist. Sorry, I just got a little carried away with myself!
By Joan Hurilman - Ketchikan, AK - USA
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