Cruise secrets: Never touch this one thing on a cruise ship – you run a huge risk

By | November 7, 2019


Cruise ship holidays are an excellent opportunity to travel the world in comfort without ever having to unpack. Guests on cruises can enjoy all sorts of activities onboard as well as venture to shore on excursions. However, there are also things you shouldn’t do on a cruise ship to prevent unpleasant consequences.

Self-professed veteran cruiser Dave Dutton shared one of his top tips in his book How to be a Crafty Cruiser.

He explained that touching one thing on a cruise ship is inadvisable for a nasty reason.

“Healthwise, I avoid touching the staircase rail with my bare hands if at all possible – especially if there is an outbreak of norovirus onboard,” said Dutton.

Norovirus, also called the “winter vomiting bug”, is a stomach bug that causes vomiting and diarrhoea.

Cruise Ship Illness - cruise ship norovirus cruises holidays sick ill health lift stairs -

Cruise: There are things you shouldn’t do on on a ship to prevent unpleasant consequences 

Cruise: “Healthwise, I avoid touching the staircase rail with my bare hands if at all possible” (Image: Getty Images)

Cruise Ship Illnesses - cruise ship norovirus cruises holidays sick ill health lift stairs

According to the NHS, the symptoms start suddenly within one to two days of being infected.

The main symptoms of norovirus are: feeling sick, diarrhoea and being vomiting, explained the heath body.

You may also have: a high temperature of 38C or above, a headache and aching arms and legs. Dutton continued: “I realise this will be difficult for lots of people and I am not suggesting that you do the same but it makes me cringe when I see people running their hands all the way down the rail.

“When you think of all the people who have touched that rail before you: people who may not have washed their hands after using the loo or people with colds; it makes sense to have as little contact as possible with the bare surface.”

Dutton elaborates that he doesn’t just apply this rule to staircases but also to lifts. “In a lift I always use my knuckle to quickly tap the floor button,” the cruise expert wrote.

“If this seems excessive, let me say that we were on the fated Aurora cruise [a P&O ship – in 2003, 500 out of the 1,800 on board suffered serious stomach upsets] on which the virus took hold and became world news.

“People were falling like flies. I said to a friend, ‘Don’t touch the rail if you can avoid it.’

“He did. He got the bug and was ill for days. I’m not saying he wouldn’t have got it if he hadn’t touched the rail but my wife and I didn’t and we were fine.”

“Don’t worry though. Most cruises are trouble free, it’s just something to bear in mind.” Dutton encourages those heading off on a cruise to pack antibacterial hand wash and hand sanitisers to mitigate the risks.

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“Use them frequently onboard and ashore,” he wrote. “I have been on cruises when the hand gel wasn’t brought into use before it was too late and the norovirus started affecting some passengers.” Ex cruise ship crew member Joshua Kinser has also urged passengers to avoid shaking hands with staff in a bid to prevent the spread of norovirus.

“[Passengers] may not realise how much sickness spreads through the crew on cruise ships, and many employees don’t keep up with proper hygiene,” he told “This is partly due to the fact that many crew members are working such long hours out on the ships and also due to cultural differences in what is considered good and proper hygiene.”

Doctor Ben MacFarlane revealed in his book Cruise Ship SOS what happens when norovirus breaks out on a cruise. 

“At Code Red, almost every member of the 1,000 strong crew will play some part in the fight-back procedure, even if it’s only washing their hands a few more times every hour,” he wrote.

“In the meantime, pre-arranged teams of workers will begin a forensic clean-down service. Every surface that is ever touched will be disinfected almost the moment the last person has passed it.

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