I have a friend that calls herself the “Queen of Cruises.” She books them for a living; and true to her profession, swears by them.

I’m sure she’d never sell short the value of vacationing via cruises – even in the face of the recent norovirus outbreak onboard the Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas; which had to cut short its planned excursion in the eastern Caribbean.

I’ve been on that ship, and it’s a beautiful boat. But being as big as a city, I can just imagine the horror of coming down with a virus where all you do is puke and straddle the porcelain throne.

It’s not a fun thought at all to be onboard a floating sick bay with nothing to do but puke and, well….you know!

Thousands of passengers, tired and weak, struggled to pull along their luggage at the Bayonne Cape Liberty Cruise Port terminal yesterday afternoon after the Explorer of the Seas docked.

The Royal Caribbean cruise ship cut short its trip to the Caribbean after nearly 630 of the 3,071 passengers, plus 54 crewmembers, were stricken with a gastronomical illness that left many vomiting and with diarrhea.

Pastor Sue Rogutski, of Bloomsburg, Pa., said she got so sick she was quarantined for three days. She said her husband, Leonard, a nurse who only fell ill toward the end of the trip and less severely than her, had to carry her down from their room to the sick bay.

“When we were in the sick bay, people were getting nervous and they started showing up there to try to get help,” she said “Suddenly, there was influx of 150 people. That puts into perspective what this crew was facing — that it was an epidemic.”

Rogutski said the ship’s buffets were all covered and no passengers could touch them. They had to be served by crew members wearing gloves and masks, including entertainers who pitched in. Sick passengers were brought food to their rooms.

Other passengers, however, had different thoughts.

“I think they did a great job,” said Ellen Goetzman of Port Crane, N.Y., who got sick and was in bed for two days. “I found out the second day that people were getting sick but I managed to recover.”
Goetzman, who traveled with her husband Arthur, said she and her husband were both sidelined temporarily, but said the experience wasn’t enough to deter them from booking another cruise trip.
“We’ve actually booked another cruise trip with the same ship,” said Goetzman.

Jill Schweighardt, of Ho-Ho-Kus, who managed to avoid getting sick said, “They did everything to accommodate us. They said they would refund us half our money back.”

“I’ve never seen a captain be so involved with all the passengers,” said Schweighardt.

Jane Wordsworth, of Yarmouth, Mass., and Schweighardt’s sister, added, “The captain was very sincere to all of us.''

Here’s what I have my doubts about. I know the ship’s turnaround time is very limited. A cruise ship will stay in port for a very short time, reload with supplies, take on its next boatload of passengers and set sail for wherever.

Is that really enough time to sanitize the boat? Not by my reckoning.

And as much as I’ve enjoyed the couple of cruises I’d been on – both on Royal Caribbean ships – I’d have to rethink whatever vacation plans I had after hearing about this.