Fascinating and distressing look at cruise ship turnaround

Really interesting and distressing story in the New York Times a few days about: A Luxury Liner Docks and the Countdowns On by Jad Mouawad.  So many parts of this story have microbe-themed angles.  Some interesting tidbits (quoted from the story)

  • A treatment system handles all the wastewater generated by the passengers and crew. That system, which processes 1,200 tons of wastewater a day, uses bacteria to break down waste, then mechanical and chemical systems to remove solids, and finally ultraviolet light to disinfect. The water at the end is clean enough to drink but is discarded in the sea. Any remaining solids are held in special tanks to dry and be incinerated.
  • Bottles, cans and compost are crushed and frozen in cold-temperature rooms to prevent the spread of bacteria
  • 189 housekeepers can get more than 2,700 rooms ready by noon.
  • A norovirus outbreak is one of would-be cruisers’ biggest fears. Royal Caribbean said the virus was usually brought on board by passengers who were already sick. For that reason, there are hand-sanitizing stations throughout the ship …
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention counted at least eight instances of norovirus contaminations infecting more than 3 percent of passengers for ships arriving in United States ports last year.

The whole thing seems both fascinating (in terms of the complexity and engineering of the whole operation) and distressing (so little time is spent on cleaning – no wonder Norovirus is a problem).  It seems like Cruise Ships are just ripe (so to speak) for more details microbial ecology studies.

Leave a Reply

Jonathan Eisen

I am an evolutionary biologist and a Professor at U. C. Davis. My lab is in the UC Davis Genome Center and I hold appointments in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology in the School of Medicine and the Department of Evolution and Ecology in the College of Biological Sciences. My research focuses on the origin of novelty (how new processes and functions originate). To study this I focus on sequencing and analyzing genomes of organisms, especially microbes and using phylogenomic analysis (see my lab site here which has more information on lab activities).  In addition to research, I am heavily involved in the Open Access publishing and Open Science movements.