Coffee, tea and me…Tom’s worries about cruising…What about Norovirus in today’s news?

Beach view.

In this morning’s news its reported that two ships, Royal Caribbean’s owned Celebrity Infinity and also our upcoming ship, Legend of the Seas, have been stricken with hundreds of cases of the dreaded Norovirus. 

Here’s a portion of the article with the full article here:

“Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. has two ships at sea along the west coast of California and Mexico, where passengers are experiencing gastrointestinal ailments that include vomiting and diarrhea.

An outbreak on the Legend of the Seas, on a two-week cruise ending tomorrow, sickened 114 passengers, about 7 percent of the total, and two crew members said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Infinity, part of the company’s Celebrity line, reported 106 sick passengers, or about 5 percent of the total, on a cruise ending Monday.

Outbreaks of norovirus on cruise ships aren’t uncommon during the winter season. Cruise line operators are required to report the total number of gastrointestinal cases, with online updates posted when they account for more than 3 percent of passengers and crew.”

Tattoo shop in Kapaa.

By the time I sat down to start my computer, Tom had already sent me the article. However, while I was getting ready to begin my day, Tom mentioned the following to me, “When we’re on the ship, take extra teabags each time you make a cup of tea. On this long cruise, they’ll probably run out of your favorite tea.”

I giggled aloud. That had never occurred to me. Once, a few cruises ago when they ran out of Earl Grey, my choice over their other options, a tea I never purchase when we’re “landed.” It was no big deal. 

Café along the Kuhio Highway, the main highway in Kauai from the north where we’re located to the south past Lihue where the airport is located.

A few days later, Earl Grey tea bags magically appeared. Either the ship picked it up at a port or someone bothered to go into the storage area to finally open an awaiting supply. 

My dear husband remembers these three days that I didn’t have Earl Gray tea. I drank Lipton. It was no big deal. But, for him, he was concerned that I didn’t have what I wanted. (I only consume tea with a jolt of caffeine so those fruity flavored herbal teas have never appealed to me).

Clothing store in Kapaa.

Drinking hot tea is only important to me a few times a day while on a cruise, once in the morning, two mugs full, and the same around 4:00 pm each day. The remainder of the time I drink iced tea or water.

My first choice of morning beverage is always coffee which we now have every morning using real cream. My way of eating prevents me from using half and half which contains too much milk sugar. Rarely do the ships have real cream available. On a few occasions, I’ve been able to get it. Instead, in the mornings on the ships, I drink plain tea. It’s no big deal.

Rainy day, sandy beach view.

Tom’s suggestion to take extra tea bags to save in the event they run out is pointless to me. Why would I always want my small pockets filled with tea bags, which are always full anyway with business cards, my phone, a tube of lipstick, and a cruise ID card?

Plus, it drives me nuts to see others loading up on supplies that they want to save to take home. We don’t do that. We can buy our own tea bags and stir sticks when we get to our next location. 

Mountain view with a fire nearby.

Of course, Tom worries about the norovirus. Based on the small percentages that actually become ill and the zillions of times per day we wash our hands and avoid touching anything, we’ve never had norovirus on these past 10 cruises. 

On three prior cruises, we did come down with the “cruise cough.” It’s hard to avoid someone coughing on the elevator or even in one’s face. On the last ship, on our way to Hawaii, while I was getting my breakfast (using a cloth napkin wrapped around my hand which I tossed in the bin before eating), I saw a man sneeze on a bunch of clean white plates and then walk away.

Views out to sea.

I stood at the plates to prevent anyone from taking one until a staff member walked past me so I could report it. I watched as they cleared every plate and washed the general area. How much of this actually occurs that we don’t know about?

Based on this, why would anyone choose to cruise? For us, it’s plain and simple. We have a blast doing our thing each day and basically attending a party each night when we meet six or eight new people at our dinner table from all over the world with whom we engage with considerable laughter and animated conversation. It’s so much fun! 

A trip to Kapaa on a sunny day.

Plus, stopping at various ports of call either on small group tours or on our own, is an enriching and rewarding experience. How else can one possibly see so much of the world in a relatively short period of time?

Worry? Yes, he’ll worry. But, not me. Until I’m eating onion sandwiches and sewage is running through the halls, I’m not about to worry.

                                              Photo from one year ago today, April 14, 2014:

The winding roads and fast driving by our driver made me car sick for the first time in decades. I was grateful when we finally returned back to the riad after cutting the trip short by a few days. For details, please click here.

Norovirus and the sun…

Last night while dressing for dinner we heard an announcement over the loudspeaker. Inaudible from our cabin, we brushed it off as most likely a promotion to spend money, dismissing our inability to hear it as insignificant.

Last night, while dining in the formal dining room, the Grand Restaurant, comfortably seated by the window at “our table” number two (the best waiter on the planet) with our over-sized navy blue cloth napkins on our laps, we were content. Suddenly, the boat seemed to lurch sideways, rocking from side to side for several minutes.
Tom reassured me, when he noted my obvious concern, that everything was in order and that in moments the ship would straighten out, back on course. Returning to a lively conversation with a lovely couple next to us, we never gave it a second thought.

After dinner, we scurried to the Celebrity Theatre for the 9:00 pm musical/comedy show, a medley of impersonations of past and current “divas.” I was reminded of Simon Cowell berating performers on both “American Idol” and “The X Factor” as to sounding comparable to a “second rate cruise ship act.”

However, cruise-ship-like the performance, we enjoyed every moment, chatting all the way back to our cabin as to the professional performances.  As we entered our cabin we noticed an envelope sitting atop the well-turned down bed.  Hum, we both thought, “another promo” as I tore open the envelope.

Not the case. Inside the envelope was a letter that began:
“January 7th, 2013

Dear Celebrity Century Guest,
During this sailing, there has been a small percentage of guests onboard who have experienced gastrointestinal illness, thought to be Norovirus.”

The content of the letter continued to make an earnest effort to minimize the potential hazards of such an outbreak on board, extol the virtues of frequent hand washing and inform us that attendants will be standing outside each restaurant, restroom, and elevator equipped with an ample supply of hand sanitizer.

We were encouraged to immediately contact the ship’s medical facility for a “complimentary consultation and treatment” should symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea be experienced to any degree.

As a captive audience, we can hardly jump into our car and head far away. Nor can we really stay away from other guests and public areas.  Caution on our part will prevail but, there were 11 days on this particular cruise.
This morning, while attending the second in a series of five seminars on the building of the Panama Canal, its history, its culture, its politics, and its people, an announcement was made before the presentation:  Last night, at dinner time, the ship was turned around subsequently heading to the nearest port of Acapulco to “emergency evac” of an unknown number of sick passengers.

That event was what distracted us during dinner, the sudden turning of the ship, and eventual landing at a pier to drop off the ailing passenger(s) to awaiting medical professionals. Do we need to worry? 

We’ve decided that we will exercise caution by excessive hand washing, avoiding touching our faces, frequent washing of our mugs both inside and out, washing our sunglasses, and making every effort to avoid touching railings, doorknobs, tabletops, and chair rails. 

It’s evident that the ship’s staff is on high alert while we also take responsibility for remaining diligent every step of the way including reminding each other of potential risks.


Growing up in California, sunning has always been a favorite pastime of mine. Living on a lake in Minnesota these past 26 years has provided limited periods of time to lounge in a lawn chair, unpredictable weather a frequent deterrent during the short summer months.

Mindful of the dangers of excessive sun exposure these past few decades, I’ve limited my sun time to a few hours each week during the summer and weather permitting.  Tom, on the other hand, a pale Irish boy, burns easily, preferring to stay in the shade, slathered in sunscreen.

On occasion, we’d lounge together in the row of crisp white lounge chairs that lined our yard, laughing, talking, and taking in the warming effects of the sun. In less than 30 minutes, he’d be a rosy pink while I tanned easily.

As a vital part of “cruising life,” time spent lounging on the comfy padded lounge chairs by the various pools is both relaxing and enjoyable with some of the finest people-watching to be found. 

With many tropical locations as part of our worldwide adventures, we discussed how we’d manage our sun exposure to avoid the risks while enhancing our exposure to much needed Vitamin D. Besides, a bit of a healthy glow of a tan works well with our skimpier warm weather clothing.

We’ve mutually agreed that daily exposure of a maximum of one hour would not only be safe and healthful but would free us to enjoy other activities if we so choose. Today, day #5 aboard ship, we spent our usual one hour by the pool accompanied by a live band commencing their act with the song, “Love Boat.”

Lying on our stomachs to “work the backside” our faces squished into the navy blue cushions we looked at one another smiling, the little crinkles around our eyes accentuated by our positions, our sunglasses perched atop our heads. Tom asked, “Do you know that song?” as the well-played music blared from the nearby stage.

“Yes,” I laughed aloud.  “I know that song.” 

For a moment, time stood still as we gazed deeply into each other’s eyes, knowing that at exactly that moment we were thinking the same thing. “This is our new life. Not a vacation. Not a trip. But a new life that ends only when we want it to or, when it must end due to unforeseen reasons.

Whether its Norovirus or the hot sun, (soon we’ll be only 9 degrees north of the equator), cautious we shall be, not to the point of diminishing the quality of our experiences but enough to ensure we’ll make every effort to avoid these and other risks that we surely will face in this “new life” of ours.