One of the hottest topics among travelers is concern over the recent increase in hotel room bed bugs. The finest luxury hotels, resorts and spas are not immune; these creepy little uninvited guests can show up anywhere and once they settle in there are hard to get rid of. As cruise ships are in essence floating hotels it is logical that they too confront the same foibles as land-based properties. With people coming and going every few days how does the industry keep you safe from these critters?
I put that very question to several Chief Housekeepers representing various cruise lines. The answer was always the same – vigilance! First thing that you as the traveler need to know is bed bugs (cimicidae) are tiny parasitic insects whose bite can cause rash, inflammation and allergic reaction. They have been on the rise primarily because of the increase in travel and mobility, and perhaps too, the resistance to commercial pesticides. They can be introduced via clothing, furniture, carpeting and bedding and can be carried by people, pets and luggage. Though you may never have seen a bed bug in your life, if your suitcase is stored next to an infested suitcase in the hold of an airplane you could now be the carrier that introduces these pests into a hotel, cabin or your home. Ick!
What to be aware of? First of all, know that on-board cruise ships housekeeping staff are well trained in the monitoring and treating of potential threats. Bed bugs are most active at night; signs to look for are molted body shells, fecal matter and spots of blood, as they are parasitic. As both the bug and larvae are easily killed by heat, bedding and linens are always laundered at appropriately hot temperatures.
What to do if you suspect your room may have bed bugs? Contact housekeeping. If there is any cause for concern you will be relocated and your room will be treated with effective, environmentally-friendly pesticides. Luckily, I can report that of the three chief housekeepers with whom I spoke, none have ever had an incident of bed bugs in their 27 years of combined experience. That is good news and testament to the proactive nature of the cruise industry. Yippee!