Those on board the Lady Anne expected to be sleeping and dining in luxury while sailing calmly through the picturesque Rhine River Valley. Instead they were treated to widespread vomiting and diarrhea as the highly infectious norovirus worked its way through the enclosed space.
The captain of the Lady Anne, which was carrying 110 passengers and crew, called for emergency help after dozens of people on board began experiencing symptoms of a nasty stomach bug. At least 39 people appear to have been infected with the virus, according to the River Cruise Line, the Leicester, UK-based company which operates the ship.
Some of the sick were sent to local hospitals for emergency treatment , meanwhile remaining passengers – including the ship's cook – are being treated on board.
As long as the quarantine is in effect, no one may board or leave the ship without permission. German health authorities have been on board the boat, now anchored near the town of Boppard, as well as a disinfection team.
The ship's operator says those in the hospital are recovering and will rejoin the cruise on Wednesday morning.
"We would like to offer our sympathy and apologies for those affected," the River Cruise Line said in a statement. "We are liaising closely with family members of those passengers on board."
The source of the infection is not yet known. The norovirus is the most common cause of gastroenteritis around the world and is easily transmitted from one person to another. It can be transmitted by contact with an infected person; by consuming contaminated food or water or by coming into contact with contaminated surfaces or objects.
The virus can cause sudden nausea, projectile vomiting and watery diarrhea.
The illness is not generally dangerous most people make a full recovery within one to two days. But the very young or elderly are at greater risk of becoming dehydrated and may require hospital treatment. Experts recommend that those who have been infected be isolated for up to 48 hours after symptoms have disappeared.