By Elias Rodriguez
All aboard with Captain Clean! New York City is now the homeport of a brand new cruise ship, the Norwegian Breakaway, a ship that my family and I vacationed on this summer as noted in my earlier blog entries. The ocean liner was inaugurated in 2013 and is justifiably proud of a plethora of earth-friendly technology and energy saving bells and whistles.
As a first-time cruiser, I found one low-tech feature onboard to be tremendously prescient and comforting. Hand sanitizer stations are strategically located throughout the ship. The small discreet blue gel machines are a ubiquitous reminder to practice good personal hygiene and wash, wash, wash. Is a hand washing machine an odd thing to notice on a cruise across the Atlantic Ocean? Not if you potentially end up with diarrhea and vomiting.
Given the high media attention whenever there is a gastrointestinal outbreak on a cruise ship, I was gratified that our cruise line was extremely attentive to cleanliness and demonstrated a zeal for hand cleaning and disinfection. Sea sicknesses is largely weather contingent and a fact of life on the rolling and rollicking high seas. On the other hand, nobody wants to ruin their hard-earned vacation due to an avoidable illness.
In fact, the Centers for Disease Control has a comprehensive vessel sanitization program with tips on avoiding noroviruses. Sharing public areas with 4,000+ plus fellow mariners in a confined space over the course of a week can breed innumerable opportunities for contamination to spread and create an outbreak. To avoid potential illnesses onboard or on land, common sense tips include washing your hands often, especially before meals.
Norwegian takes this idea seriously and it shows. Besides the hundreds of hand sanitizing stands, a hand-washing station was built into the main entrance of the massive buffet area (Garden Café) that comprises a significant area of the aft portion of deck 15. On every floor, signs inside each restroom ask that one wash, use hand blowers and then use a paper towel to open the door handle upon exiting as an extra measure of safety. Waste baskets are located just outside the restroom for disposal of the paper towels.
As if this were not enough of a precaution, when entering or leaving the ship at port each passenger is greeted by (ever cheerfully smiling) crew members who hand you (by the use of tongs) a wet sanitized cloth towel for a quick hand cleansing. This cruise line leaves no excuse for anyone not to wash or sanitize their hands several times a day.
Without question, the cruise line’s philosophy on cleanliness was clearly conveyed. I kind of felt like placing hand sanitizers in every room at home, though it would be difficult to match my wife’s color schemes. Wherever you chose to vacation, I hope you keep it clean and have a healthy trip.
About the Author: Elias serves as EPA Region 2’s bilingual public information officer. Prior to joining EPA, the proud Nuyorican worked at Time Inc. conducting research for TIME, LIFE, FORTUNE and PEOPLE magazines. He is a graduate of Hunter College, Baruch College and the Theological Institute of the Assembly of Christian Churches in NYC.