Infections on Cruise Ships

Microbiol Spectr. 2015 Aug;3(4). doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.IOL5-0007-2015.


The modern cruise ship is a small city on the seas, with populations as large as 5,000 seen on large ships. The growth of the cruise ship industry has continued in the twenty-first century, and it was estimated that nearly 21.3 million passengers traveled on cruise ships in 2013, with the majority of these sailing from North America. The presence of large numbers of individuals in close proximity to each other facilitates transmission of infectious diseases, often through person-to-person spread or via contaminated food or water. An infectious agent introduced into the environment of a cruise ship has the potential to be distributed widely across the ship and to cause significant morbidity. The median cruise ship passenger is over 45 years old and often has chronic medical problems, so it is important that, to have a safe cruise ship experience, any potential for the introduction of an infecting agent as well as its transmission be minimized. The majority of cruise ship infections involve respiratory and gastrointestinal infections. This article discusses infectious outbreaks on cruise ships and suggests preventative measures for passengers who plan to travel on cruise ships.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Humans
  • Infections / epidemiology*
  • Infections / transmission
  • Ships*
  • Travel / statistics & numerical data*
  • Workforce