Silver Wind Flunks USPH Sanitation Inspection

Silversea Cruises Silver WindSilversea Cruises' Silver Wind cruise ship recently failed a sanitation inspection by United States Public Health (USPH) inspectors, in March. 

On March 18, 2018, the USPH inspected the Silver Wind in San Juan and found numerous unsanitary violations. Repeated problems were noted in the ship's potable water treatment. Inspectors located over two dozen flies in the galley, food preparation and dish washing areas. (This seems to be some type of record; it certainly is the most flies I have ever seen recorded in a cruise ship sanitation inspection report).

Inspectors located food items and food service equipment hidden in crew member lockers inside a changing room near an engine and air conditioning unit.

You can locate the report, read about other unsanitary conditions and the corrective action report by searching for Silver Wind here.

Five years ago, in 2013, Silversea Cruises was caught ordering its crew members to hide perishable food in crew quarters aboard the Silver Shadow. CNN aired a special program about the "hide and seek" games which crew members were ordered to play on the Silver Shadow cruise ship, where the ship routinely hid trolleys of food items in crew members cabins to avoid detection by USPH sanitation inspectors.

Our blog was the first to cover the story in our article Silver Shadow Fails Sanitation Inspection After Caught Hiding Filthy Conditions from Health Inspectors.

Silversea engaged in an intentional, calculated scheme to hide food and galley equipment in the crew cabins. Crew members on the cruise ship alerted our firm that they (galley workers) were being ordered by their supervisors to take trolleys of perishable foods (eggs, fish & cheese) to the crew quarters and hide the food from inspectors during bi-annual CDC inspections. We advised the "whistle-blower" crew members to notify the CDC. As a result of a surprise inspection, the CDC discovered that the cruise line hid "over 15 full trolleys" of food and food equipment, pans, dishware and utensils in "over 10 individual cabins" in order to avoid scrutiny of vessel sanitation inspectors. It flunked the Silversea ship with a score of 82.

You can see photos of the cruise line's practices on our Facebook page here.

You can watch the CNN video here.

But Silversea didn't learn its lesson.  In 2015, two years after the disastrous Silver Shadow inspection, the Silver Shadow failed again, with a score of only 82. 

Its current score of 79 is even lower than its failed scores back in 2013 and 2015.  It is only one point higher than the recent failed score of the infamous Kydon ferry, operated by Ferries Del Caribe, which received scores of 78 (May 2018) following even more pitiful scores of 61 (December 2017) and 58 (July 2017). The Silver Wind and the Kydon are the only two cruise ships to have received failing USPH scores so far in 2018. 

It should be embarrassing for a high-brow Silversea cruise ship like the Silver Wind to fall into the ranks of an old tub of a ferry like the Kydon.

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May 15, 2018 Update Silversea issued the following statement today regarding the inspection:

Silver Wind’ March 18 Inspection Report

On March 18, 2018 Silversea’s ‘Silver Wind’ received an atypical score of 79 during an inspection by the US Dept of Health CDC in San Juan, Puerto Rico. This score compared with the score of 93 out of 100 achieved some 2 months earlier on January 6, 2018, caused the Company to initiate an immediate investigation into the result.

Following the investigation, it was established that a small number of staff had not followed the robust standards expected of Silversea employees. The Company, therefore, undertook a vigorous training and re-training programme related to the relevant issues on-board its cruise vessels which are at the heart of its service to all passengers.

All Silversea ships have comprehensive and rigorous training programs in place to make certain its staff and crew implement best onboard practices. The company has taken measures ensuring that future inspections on this vessel result in higher scores in line with the usual Silversea standards and achieved on all its vessels. The most recent CDC scores on Silversea vessels were Silver Spirit 99, Silver Muse 97, Silver Shadow 95, Silver Explorer 90. Silver Wind has consistently achieved very good scores in all previous inspections.

Photo credit: eGuide Travel - Flickr: Silver Wind, CC BY 2.0, commons / wikimedia.

Oasis of the Seas Passes USPH Sanitation Inspection with a Score of 95

Oasis of the SeasThe Oasis of the Seas passed today's sanitation inspection by federal inspectors from the United States Public Health (USPH) Department. 

The USPH inspectors inspected the Oasis for sanitation as part of the Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP).  

The Oasis was last inspected on September 3, 2017 and passed with a score of 97

Today the Oasis received a passing score pf 95. The inspection score has not appeared yet on the official VSP/CDC inspection database. A crew member who wishes to remain anonymous provided this information. 

Port Canaveral has been a tough place for cruise ships to pass USPH inspections. A number of Carnival cruise ships have recently failed. Several cruise ships operated by Royal Caribbean have also barely passed USPH inspections, such as the Allure of the Seas and the Grandeur of the Seas.

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Photo credit: @PA via Daily Mail

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Recent USPH Sanitations: Allure and Grandeur Nearly Fail Inspections

Carnival Cruise Lines has been in the news lately with four of its cruise ships failing sanitation inspections in the last two months and a total of five ships failing USPH inspections in the last year. 

The Carnival Vista (79), Carnival Breeze (77), Carnival Triumph (78), and the Carnival Liberty (80) all recently failed USPH inspections, The Carnival Paradise (83) also failed the VSP inspection last year. Last year also saw the Carnival Conquest (89), Carnival Dream (87), Carnival Fantasy (88) and Carnival Imagination (89) receiving very low sanitation scores. This year, the Carnival Vista received a low score of only 88 during its re-inspection (although the CDC has still not officially posted the score on its data base yet), following its disastrous score of 79 in December 2017 where USPH inspectors caught Carnival hiding food and galley equipment in crew member cabins.

You can see all of the most recently published USPH sanitation scores in the CDC's Vessel Sanitation Programs' (VSP) "Green Sheet" (warning the CDC often delays the publishing of sanitation scores online). 

Grandeur of the SeasBut Carnival is not the only cruise line suffering from failing or low sanitation scores. 

In the last month, two Royal Caribbean cruise ships have received scores barely above the failing score of 85. The Grandeur of the Seas received a score of 87 in an inspection which took place on January 5, 2018 which was only recently published. There were deductions for various unsanitary conditions as well as heavily corroded and difficult-to-clean steel counters in the galleys of the ship which you can read here

Several major newspaper reported that several dozens of passengers were sickened with gastrointestinal sicknesses on the Grandeur earlier last month. 

Some people may point out that the Grandeur (photo right) is an older ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet, having come into service well over 20 years ago and showing obvious signs of external rust and lack of maintenance. But the Allure is obviously a newer and arguably better maintained ship.  

But the recent USPH report involving the Allure of the Seas shows that it received a barely-passing score of only 86. The acute gastroenteritis (AGE) logs indicated that a Royal Caribbean food handler who was symptomatic with acute gastroenteritis symptoms returned to work before the completion of the mandatory 48 hour isolation period. A second crew member exhibited acute gastroenteritis symptoms continued to eat meals in the crew mess and did not report to the ship infirmary until over two days later. Another crew member who was symptomatic with AGE symptoms proceeded to eat in crew mess and attend a work meeting, and reported to the ship's medical department only later.

Even more disturbing is that the USPH inspectors found the following:

"Seat cushions had storage under them in the Windjammer and decks 3, 4, and 5 of the main dining room. These storage areas were heavily soiled with debris, had raw wood, and were located above carpet and/or concrete decks. In these areas, the inspection team found: two closed gallon bottles of Allure of the Seasdrinking water, several bags of neatly folded and bagged linen napkins, a bucket full of silverware, a box of gloves and wiping cloths, wrapped salad stands, several bottles of kitchen degreaser, chlorine bleach, biogel, wet plastic containers, and a large bag with dozens of serving utensils. These were also found along with brooms, dust pans, vacuum cleaners, and other nonfood equipment."

This sounds like a crew member or crew members tried to hide cleaning materials along with napkins, eating and serving utensils in obviously improper locations which were described as heavily soiled area in the Windjammer Cafe and main dining room. It is difficult to believe that the USPH did not fail the ship for this intentional type of unsanitary conduct. The purpose of USPH cruise ship inspections is to prevent the spread of shipboard disease outbreaks.

Perhaps coincidentally (or not), in December of 2017, Royal Caribbean notified its oncoming passengers that "some guests onboard experienced gastrointestinal illness. In an abundance of caution, we are conducting enhanced sanitizing onboard the ship and within the cruise terminal to help prevent any illness from affecting your cruise."  

The questions arises why so many cruise ships operated by both Carnival and Royal Caribbean are receiving low and sometimes failing sanitation scores. Crew members hiding food or eating utensils  and working while ill are hardly new. Are USPH inspectors more vigorously inspecting the ships? Or this the result of too much work and too few crew members who are responsible for cleaning the ship, as some people say?

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In 2015, I publsihed an article about the "hide and seek" games played on the Liberty fo the Seas in Did Royal Caribbean Dupe USPH Inspectors? On our Facebook page, I asked: Do cruise lines hide pots & pans, galley equipment and food from USPH Inspectors? A. Yes. B. No.  The overwhelming response was yes. 

Photo credit: Grandeur of the Seas (in Miami) and Allure of the Seas (in Jamaica) - Jim Walker. 

Carnival Vista (Barely) Passes USPH Sanitation Re-Inspection

After miserably failing the December 2, 2017 sanitation inspection by the United States Public Health (USPH) last month, the USPH re-inspected the Carnival Vista today at the port of Miami. The Carnival cruise ship passed the re-inspection with a score of only 88, three points above the failing score of 85.

The December 2nd sanitation inspection found that Carnival Vista crew members were caught hiding perishable food and galley equipment in crew quarters. The report stated that "an organized effort was made to physically move several containers and trolleys of food equipment, utensils, spices, potentially hazardous food items, raw produce, and decorations to a crew cabin hallway and a crew cabin in order to avoid inspection by VSP staff."

Last month, the USPH sanitation inspection resulted in a failing score of only 79.

The USPH concluded that crew members moved trolleys filled with lexan boxes of perishable food and galley equipment in order to hide the items from the inspectors. Included on the trolleys were lexan boxes filled with butter, buttermilk, whipping cream, raw salmon, raw lamb and other meats. Inspectors discovered a skillet of lasagna near a crew member bed. Mixed with this food in the lexan boxes were galley machine equipment and batteries, among other items. Flies were found in some food containers.

In addition, the inspectors found incomplete and/or inaccurate acute gastrointeritis logs, soiled lexan boxes and galley equipment, incorrect time control labels, and raw meat and fish contaminating salad items. 

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) delayed from December 2, 2017 until January 16, 2018 - a period of six weeks - before publishing the failed score and disclosing the intentional misconduct by Carnival to the public.   

The re-inspection score of only 88 is one of the lowest scores, without failing, of a ship operated by a major cruise line in the past year. Unfortunately, the CDC does not have the leadership to punish Carnival for its deliberate wrongdoing, such as ordering the Vista cruise ship not to sail.

The re-inspection today found more unsanitary conditions, to be officially disclosed by the CDC to the public at some time in the future. 

The Vista is one of four Carnival cruise ships to have failed the inspection by the Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) in the last four months, including the Carnival Breeze (77), Carnival Triumph (78), and the Carnival Liberty (80). The Carnival Paradise (83) also failed the VSP inspection last year.

A crew member who wishes to remain anonymous sent us the draft report today.

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CDC Sanitation Draft Report Carnival Vista

 

  

In 2017, 14 Cruise Ships Failed USPH Sanitation Inspections

The purpose of the Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is to assist the cruise ship industry to "prevent and control the introduction, transmission, and spread of gastrointestinal (GI) illnesses on cruise ships." VSP operates under the authority of the U.S. Public Health Service Act.

USPH sanitation inspectors conduct inspections twice a year on cruise ships when they are in a U.S. port. The inspections are supposedly a surprise, although many crew members have stated that federal inspectors sometimes give advance notice of the inspections to the cruise ships. A score of 85 or below constitutes a failed sanitation score, and often leads to the firing of the shipboard Food & Beverage department heads and/or managers and always result in increased work by the shipboard employees.

Market Watch just published a comprehensive article, by reporter Jacob Passy, titled Record Number Carnival Libertyof Cruise Ships Failed Health and Safety Inspections in 2017, concluding that there were 14 instances where a cruise ship failed a sanitation inspection last year.  The article found that  Carnival Cruise Line cruise ships received five failing grades, in addition to one one failure this year.

Carnival claims that its food handling and preparation are of the "highest quality, which seems questionable regarding the details of the scores like on the Carnival Breeze (77), Carnival Triumph (78), Carnival Vista (79), Carnival Legend (83), and Carnival Paradise (83). The Carnival Liberty failed this year with a score of only 83.  

The Carnival Vista was re-inspected yesterday and receive a score of only 88, a passing but not a good score coming off of such a spectacular failure last year.  The CDC has not published the re-inspection score yet.

Carnival also claims that it "immediately" corrected the unsanitary conditions found by the inspectors. (Carnival ships failed inspections 4 times in the last 2 months). But the truth is that Carnival has still not even filed a "corrective actions" report for the Carnival Vista which failed the USPH inspection last year. The report found that not only did Carnival try to intentionally hide food and dirty galley equipment in crew quarters, but the the USPH noted that a Carnival supervisor disciplined a food handler who was experiencing acute gastrointestinal virus symptoms when he did not report to work.

The VSP requires cruise lines to correct the non-conforming conditions and file a "corrective report" promptly after the violation. The Vista failed its inspection over six weeks ago, but Carnival has still not filed a corrective report as of today's date, January 27, 2018. 

Market Watch state that the CDC can advise a ship not to sail if "particularly egregious violations are uncovered," which may be true in theory but never occurs in reality. It's difficult to imagine more egregious violations than what the USPH found on the Vista last month, but there is no evidence that the cruise line has even bothered to file a report admitting to its violations and outlining its corrective actions. 

Part of this problem is that there is often a cozy relationship between federal inspectors and cruise line officials where unsanitary conditions are sometimes not noted or enforced. Indeed, it took over a month for the CDC to even publish the failed inspections on the Carnival Breeze and Carnival Heath Inspection - ClosedTriumph last month on its official website. 

A shore-side restaurant with a failed health inspection will quickly find a "closed due to health inspection" placard (photo right) taped on its front door. For health violations on cruise ships, however, the public has to search the online database, which is often not current, for information. 

A cruise ship which is caught intentionally hiding food and galley equipment in its crew quarters, or which does not timely submit a corrective report, should be barred from sailing.  A local shore-side restaurant would be shut down in a minute for such unsanitary conditions. But the USPH often bends to the cruise line's the-show-must-go-on mentality. 

Market Watch interviewed cruise expert cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein who noted that a failed CDC inspection is all the more questionable when looking at the details of the reports for cruise ships that have actually passed inspections. According to Dr. Klein, “you can get 100% but there can still be a number of citations for things that were not up to standards."

Market Watch wrote that one ship which received a 100% score was cited for storing boxes of fruit juice near raw egg shells and for one crew member was working while showing symptoms of gastroenteritis.

Dr. Klein also noted that the Vessel Sanitation Program applies only to cruise ships calling on U.S. ports. Few countries outside of the U.S. inspect cruise ships for sanitation problems.

Which cruise ships which flunked the USPH sanitation inspections last year? See the list below:

  • Carnival Breeze (77);
  • Carnival Legend (83);
  • Carnival Paradise (83);
  • Carnival Triumph (78);
  • Carnival Vista (79);
  • Ferries Del Caribe Kydon (55, 61);
  • Japan Cruise Line's Pacific Venus (76); 
  • Japan Grace Line's Ocean Dream (82);
  • Oceania Regatta (84); 
  • Paradise Cruise Line's Grand Celebration (84);
  • Ponant's Le Boreal (84);
  • Princess Cruises Crown Princess (84); and
  • Victory I Partners, Ltd.'s Victory 1 (78);

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Photo credit: Carnival Liberty - Workman - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia.

Another Carnival Cruise Ship Fails USPH Sanitation Inspection: 4 Ships in Just 2 Months

Carnival Liberty Another Carnival cruise ship officially failed a recent sanitation inspection today.

I first learned that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) finally published the failed score for the Carnival Liberty upon reading the Miami Herald's article written by Chabeli Herrera titled Another Carnival cruise was caught with dirty conditions. That makes four in two months.

I first learned that the Liberty failed the sanitation inspection by the United States Public Health (USPH) on January 6, 2018 when a crew member notified me of the failure of the inspection which took place on two days earlier, on January 4th. 

This is the fourth failed USPH inspection in under two months, following the failed inspections of the Carnival Breeze (77 score), Carnival Triumph (78 score) and the spectacular failure of the Carnival Vista (79 score) where crew members were caught hiding food and galley equipment in crew members quarters from USPH inspectors.  

The official report of the failed inspection of the Liberty (with a score of only 80), which can be retrieved here, reveals that the Liberty failed the inspection for all of the reasons which a cruise line could possibly fail such an inspection - soiled galley surfaces, dirty equipment, files in the galley's food preparation areas, dirty plates with food residue, broken dish and pot washers, improper food temperature systems, contaminated foods, corroded ovens, lack of sneeze guards, improper (low) temperatures of dishwashers, improper sanitation standards for whirlpools, and a sick crew member who continued to work although he was experiencing acute gastroenteritis (AGE) symptoms.

As we have mentioned before, it is difficult to understand why the CDC fails to timely publish the failed scores of its USPH sanitation inspection of the Carnival ships. It has been three weeks since the Carnival Liberty failed the inspection and the CDC finally published the failed score only today.  Carnival has not still bothered to prepare a "corrective action" report as required by the Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP). 

The CDC is supposed to protect the public from disease and infections due to unsanitary inspections but it does not timely publish its reports nor demand compliance by Carnival with the VSP requirements. 

As I have stated in prior articles regarding the recent rash of guests going over the rails of its cruise  ships, Carnival has a reputation as providing affordable "fun ships" for the masses. But, in truth, it is a recalcitrant cruise line that has a history of non-compliance with the few U.S. laws which apply to the foreign-flagged cruise industry. In the last year, it was been fined $40,000,000 for lying to the U.S. Coast Guard regarding the widespread oil pollution from its fleet of cruise ships. More recently, the Carnival Vista was caught engaging in deceitful conduct of trying to hide food and galley equipment   from USPH sanitation inspectors. It's the one cruise line which refuses to hire lifeguards, when other lines (Disney, Royal Caribbean and NCL) have finally done so. So perhaps it's no surprise, when it come to the issue of its guests going overboard, that Carnival refuses to implement automatic man overboard technology ever since the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA) went into effect.

Does the U.S. federal government have to assign permanent sanitation inspectors to prevent the ship managers from ordering crew members from trying to hide food and unsanitary equipment from the USPH? After the Carnival Vista was caught trying to play hide and seek from USPH employees, the question was how many other Carnival ships routinely engaged in this sneaky practice? Should VSP representatives treat Carnival like the U.S, Department of Justice (DOJ) has done by placing it on probation for years with routine audits of its ships?

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Photo credit:  Workman - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia.

Carnival Glory Scores 99 in Yesterday's USPH Sanitation Inspection

Carnival GloryYesterday, the Carnival Glory received a score of 99 by the United States Public Health sanitation inspectors at the port of Miami. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has not officially published the score on its Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) database yet.  A draft report, sent from a crew member who wishes to remain anonymous, is below.

The passing score is good news for Carnival which has recently seen three of its cruise ships receive failing scores from USPH sanitation inspectors (the Carnival Triumph, Carnival Breeze and Carnival Vista). The USPH caught Carnival intentionally trying to conceal food and galley equipment from sanitation inspectors by placing the food and galley items in crew member cabins and hallways during an inspection of the Vista in December. 

A number of newspapers, including the Miami Herald, covered the stories of the failed Carnival sanitation and health scores. This was particularly embarrassing for Carnival as the Triumph, which infamously earned the nickname as the "poop cruise" for unsanitary conditions following an engine room fire which disabled the ship several years ago, received a score of only 77 out of 100. 

There was a considerable delay by the CDC in posting the failed scores of the Carnival cruise ships on its VSP database. In the case of the Vista, the CDC did not post the failed sanitation score until over six weeks after the failed sanitation inspection. Carnival claimed that it immediately addressed the problems, but it had still not filed a corrected actions report, indicating that the cruise ship corrected the sanitation deficiencies, when the report was finally posted the following month.

The cruise industry's trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), and several travel publications which cater to the cruise lines, have recently tried to counter the bad publicity caused by the three failed scores for the Carnival ships, by issuing press statements or articles pointing out that 33 cruise ships earned perfect 100 scores in the past year. 

The last USPH inspection of the Glory occurred last April and resulted in a score of 97.

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Photo credit: Carnival Glory -  Sunnya343 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia.; USPH report - anonymous. 

Carnival Glory CDC USPH Score

Carnival Vista Caught Hiding Food and Galley Equipment in Crew Quarters, Flunks USPH Sanitation Inspection Along with Carnival Breeze

Hidden Foor and Galley Equipment Cruise ShipsToday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finally issued a report regarding the United States Public Health Inspection (USPH) inspection of the Carnival Vista which took place six weeks ago, on December 2, 2017.  The USPH sanitation inspection resulted in a failing score of only 79.  Any score of 85 or lower is a failing score according to the U.S. Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP).

Most significantly, the sanitation inspectors found that the Carnival crew members were caught hiding perishable food and galley equipment in crew quarters. The report stated that "an organized effort was made to physically move several containers and trolleys of food equipment, utensils, spices, potentially hazardous food items, raw produce, and decorations to a crew cabin hallway and a crew cabin in order to avoid inspection by VSP staff."

The USPH concluded that crew members moved trolleys filled with lexan boxes of perishable food and galley equipment in order to hide the items from the inspectors. Included on the trolleys were lexan boxes filled with butter, buttermilk, whipping cream, raw salmon, raw lamb and other meats. Inspectors discovered a skillet of lasagna near a crew member bed. Mixed with this food in the lexan boxes were galley machine equipment and batteries, among other items. Flies were found in some food containers.  

In addition, the inspectors found incomplete and/or inaccurate acute gastrointeritis logs, soiled lexan boxes and galley equipment, incorrect time control labels, and raw meat and fish contaminating salad Hidden Foor and Galley Equipment Cruise Shipsitems.  

This is not the first time that crew members were caught hiding food and galley equipment. In 2013, crew members on the Silver Shadow hid food, dirty pots & pans and cooking equipment from U.S. health inspectors. The Silversea cruise ship eventually received a failing score of 82. CNN aired a special on the story. Photographs of this practice are to the left, above left and lower left. 

Over the years, we have heard from thousands of crew members from around the world about the tremendous amount of effort they spend trying to get the cruise ships ready for USPH Inspections. USPH inspections in theory are suppose to be unannounced, but in reality they are rarely a surprise, crew members tell us. Cruise lines routinely hire people in a supervisory position from federal agencies like the USPH, FBI and Coast Guard. In turn, the cruise lines sometimes receive a head's up from their friends in the federal government when the ship will be met by a team of USPH inspectors.

When a USPH inspection is about to happen, the food and beverage workers will literally work 18 to 24 hours on the days right before the cruise ship arrives in the port where the inspection will take place. There are certain types of baking pans and sheets used everyday for frying greasy food which are extremely difficult to get clean and probably won't pass inspection. There are hundreds of these pots and pans which the crew try and clean in the pot wash room but it's difficult to get them all spotless. So what happens is that the galley cleaners are sometimes instructed to rack the pans and sheets in large trolleys and then hide the trolleys down in the crew quarters.

When the USPH inspection is truly a surprise, crew members tell us that there is often a mad scramble to dump everything dirty into lexan boxes and cartons and then stash the stuff in crew members Hidden Foor and Galley Equipment Cruise Shipscabins and corridors on the crew-only areas on the lower decks. 

A bad USPH score is a kiss of death for a cruise ship F&B department head and his supervisors. Ships cut corners to pass inspections.

Over the years, many crew members send us photos of the food and equipment which they are ordered to hide in the crew quarters (photo right from the MSC Poesia).  

What I can only conclude from the report regarding the Carnival Vista is that the USPH inspection was in fact a surprise inspection that caught Carnival doing what it and other cruise lines regularly do - hiding food and galley equipment from sanitation inspectors. 

You can see additional photographs of this practice from the from the Silver Shadow here.    

In addition to the Carnival Vista, the Carnival Breeze also officially flunked its USPH inspection which took place five weeks ago. Last month, we were tipped off of the failed inspection score of only 77 by crew members and we published the news on December 11, 2017.  The official CDC report was finally published today and the Vista did in fact receive a failing score of only 77.

There was a long list of unsanitary conditions found by the inspectors on the Carnival Breeze. Inspectors documented 25 red garbage bins which were "full and overflowing with food waste in the provision corridor on top of wooden pallets and directly outside a lift labeled for food."  Most troubling was evidence that crew members on the Carnival Breeze were working even though the medical records indicate that they were suffering from signs of acute gastroenteritis (this was also the situation with the Vista). Meanwhile, food handlers aboard the Vista who did not work while ill with gastrointestinal symptoms were disciplined on several occasions for not working. 

As I stated in Are Failed USPH Cruise Ship Sanitation Inspections Really Rare?, approximately 20 cruise ships have  Hidden Foor and Galley Equipment Cruise Shipsfailed USPH inspections in the last four years. 

Neither the Vista nor the Breeze submitted corrective action reports, indicating that they have corrected the deficiencies noted by the USPH inspectors last month. 

It's discouraging that the USPH does not promptly publish reports when a cruise ship fails an inspection. As I previously stated, It seems disconcerting that if the CDC is really concerned about preventing disease on cruise ships, that it would sit on reports of potential public health hazards on several cruise ships for well over a month.

Photo credits: Anonymous crew members aboard the Silver Shadow and MSC Poesia.

The Miami Herald covered the story earlier this afternoon - Inspectors caught Carnival crew hiding dirty conditions. It’s their third ship to fail.

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Are Failed USPH Cruise Ship Sanitation Inspections Really Rare?

Today, the Miami Herald covered the delayed story of the Carnival Triumph flunking a November 2017 USPH inspection when it received a score of only 78.

The reason why I called the story "delayed" is because Carnival crew members on the Carnival Triumph  talked about the failed USPH score about six weeks before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published its official report. The news first broke about the Triumph flunking the inspection when the crew members tipped off the popular Crew Center web site which first reported USPH Cruise Inspectionsthe story in mid-November of 2017. 

We have also received tips of failed USPH inspections, such as when the Carnival Breeze failed a USPH inspection (receiving a 77) and when the crew members aboard the Silver Shadow his food and galley equipment in crew quarters. 

The Herald characterizes the failed USPH score as "rare," but that seems entirely debatable. The article quotes cruise fanatic Stewart Chiron saying that “as far as a large ship, I couldn’t tell you the last time this happened. That’s how rare this is.”

But the cruise fans forgot about over ten USPH failed inspections in the last few years, starting with the Carnival Breeze just last month (which Carnival has not even acknowledged to date). Then there was also the Carnival Paradise scored just a 83 in June 2017, which the article briefly mentioned.

In addition, the following cruise ships failed USPH inspections in the last four-five years: RCCL's Empress of the Seas- 80 (2016), P&O Oceana - 80 (2016), Carnival Fascination - 84 (2016), Balearia Bahamas Express Bahama Mama cruise ferry - 69 (2015), Silver Shadow - 82 (2015). Norwegian Star - 82 (2014) as well as Celebrity Century - 77 (2013), Celebrity Summit - 81 (2013), and the Silver Shadow - 84 (2013)(yes, it failed twice in two years), Carnival Fascination - 84 (2013, yes it failed twice in three years) and the Golden Princess - 81 (2013), Sea Dream Yacht Club's Sea Dream II - 81 (2013), and the Caribbean Fantasy - 81 (2013). In addition, as the Miami Herald reported, Ponant’s Le Boreal - 84, Peace Boat’s Ocean Dream - 82, Victory Cruise Line’s Victory I - 78, and the Caribbean ferry, Kydon, - 58 all received failing scores in 2017.

20 cruise ships flunked surprise USPH sanitation inspections in five years. That does not seem particularly "rare" to me.

Also, remember that that Carnival crew members stated that the Triumph failed the USPH inspection about six weeks before the agency finally produced the official report. The same thing happened with the Carnival Breeze where crew members have talked about the failed inspection last month to the crew-center website but the CDC has not even published its report yet. 

It seems disconcerting, to me at least, that if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is really concerned about controlling and preventing disease on cruise ships, that it would sit on reports of potential public health hazards on several cruise ships for over a month.

January 5, 2018 Update: A reader left a comment below that the Regent's Seven Seas Navigator received a failing score of 79 (2013) raising the total number of cruise lines which flunked USPH inspection to 21 in the last five years.

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Photo credit: Jim Walker via Ship Life - The Pot Wash Blues

Carnival Triumph Officially Fails USPH Sanitation Inspection

Carnival TriumphThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finally published the report of its sanitation inspection for the Carnival Triumph.  As you can read in the official report posted on the CDC website, the Carnival cruise ship received a failing score of 78. During its November 11, 2017 inspection, USPH inspectors numerous "heavily soiled" food preparation and storage surfaces among other shortcomings in the ship's food service areas. 

A score of 85 or lower is considered a failure. 

Over six weeks ago, the popular Crew Center reported that the "Carnival Triumph failed to pass the recent USPH Inspection. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Inspectors boarded the vessel on November 11, at the port of New Orleans, Louisiana, and found multiple violations.  (The) CDC has not yet released an official report on their website, however, several crew members have reported that the final USPH score was 78."

The Triumph has still not filed a corrective actions report with the CDC. 

Earlier this month, we received a similar tip from Carnival crew members after on the Carnival Breeze, failed a USPH inspection in Galveston. According to these crew members, the USPH gave the ship a failing score of only 77. However, as was the case with the Triumph, the CDC did not disclose that the Breeze received a failed score nor did it publish the inspection report.  

We have received similar tips over the years from cruise ship employees, including from crew members on the Silver Shadow where crew members were instructed to hide food, dirty pots & pans and cooking equipment from U.S. health inspectors. The Silversea cruise ship eventually received a failing score of 82. CNN aired a special on the story.

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Photo credit: Whiskey5jda  CC BY-SA 4.0

Carnival Breeze Receives Failing USPH Sanitation Score

Carnival BreezeAccording to crew members on the Carnival Breeze, the Carnival cruise ship was in Galveston Sunday  when the United States Public Health (USPH) came aboard the ship for a semi-annual sanitation inspection. According to these crew members, the USPH gave a failing score of only 77, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  has not published its official report yet. 

A score of 85 or lower is a failing grade, according to the CDC.

The low score is highly unusual for this ship, which received scores of 97, 100, 98, 100 and 97 on the last five USPH inspections over the last several years. The Breeze has not received a score less than 90 since it came in service in 2012. 

But the low score of a Carnival ship is not unprecedented. A month ago, the popular Crew Center reported that the "Carnival Triumph failed to pass the recent USPH Inspection. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Inspectors boarded the vessel on November 11, at the port of New Orleans, Louisiana, and found multiple violations. CDC has not yet released an official report on their website, however, several crew members have reported that the final USPH score was 78." The CDC has still not published its report on the alleged failed USPH inspection.

This is not the first time that we have received a tip from a crew member of a cruise ship with a failed USPH score. In 2013, crew members on the Silver Shadow hid food, dirty pots & pans and cooking equipment from U.S. health inspectors. The Silversea cruise ship eventually received a failing score of 82. CNN aired a special on the story.

Stay tuned for the official reports.

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Photo Credit: Whiskey5jda - BY 3.0, commons / wikimedia. 

Lawsuit: Passenger Contracts Legionnaires' Disease on Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas

Majesty of the SeasA passenger from Ohio who sailed aboard the Majesty of the Seas last November and developed Legionnaires' disease has filed suit against Royal Caribbean. The passenger alleges that only after he boarded the cruise ship in Miami, and the ship had set sail, did the cruise line notify him, via a notice placed under his door, that Legionella had been discovered in the ship's water system on prior cruises.       

Legionnaires' disease is one of the most serious diseases a passenger can contract on a cruise ship. Legionnaires’ disease is a severe pneumonia caused by inhalation or possibly aspiration of warm, aerosolized water containing Legionella organisms. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), contaminated ships’ whirlpool spas and potable water supply systems are the most commonly implicated sources of shipboard Legionella outbreaks. Symptoms include a cough, shortness of breath, high fever, muscle aches and headache. Although prompt antibiotic treatment can kill the bacteria, 5% to 30% of people infected with Legionella will die from the infection.  

After the cruise ended on November 13, 2015, Royal Caribbean sent an email to the disembarking passengers, stating that they may have been exposed to Legionella during the cruise. It stated that if passengers become ill, they should seek medical attention and undergo testing for Legionella. 

Royal Caribbean stated that two passengers had been confirmed to be infected with Legionnaires' disease from the cruise ship, and that one person was possibly infected. One person was infected during a cruise in July 2015 and one other person was infected during a cruise in October 2015. The email stated that Royal Caribbean had shut down the whirlpools on the ship after it confirmed the first case of Legionnaires' disease associated with the July sailing. The cruise line claimed that it treated the ship's water supplies with extra chlorine (the email mentions "two rounds of treatment with chlorine"), but water samples taken from showers confirmed the presence of Legionella.

Royal Caribbean also sent the email to those people who had booked cruises on the Majesty on future dates, advising that the risk of illness is "low but not zero" and suggesting to future cruisers that they may want to reschedule their cruises for a later date depending on their individual risk factors.       

A few days after returning home, the passenger began experiencing symptoms consistent with Legionnaires' disease. He visited his doctor on an urgent basis and he was immediately hospitalized. His lawsuit lists kidney, heart and pulmonary failure among other complications which he suffered as a result of the disease which he contracted on the cruise ship. 

The lawsuit alleges that Royal Caribbean was on actual notice of Legionella on its ship but notified the passengers only after Majesty sailed and was at sea. In addition to alleging that the cruise line was negligent, the lawsuit states that the cruise line "acted with deliberate and wanton recklessness" in refusing to advise passengers of the Legionella prior to the cruise. Royal Caribbean, the lawsuit alleges, acted in "callous disregard" of the dangers to the passenger's health in order to promote its economic interests.

The lawsuit seeks punitive damages, in addition to compensatory damages, due to the cruise line's intentional misconduct.  

The lawsuit was filed by Miami maritime lawyer Domingo Rodriquez

There was a discussion regarding Legionnaires' disease and this particular cruise last year on the Cruise Critic boards. If the comments are accurate, some of the passengers apparently were not notified of the Legionella on the ship during the cruise but were notified only after the cruise was over. At least one person commenting said that he sailed on the cruise ending November 13, 2015 but never received an email from the cruise line. One poster mentioned that a family member who was on the cruise was allegedly admitted to the hospital with Legionnaires' Disease. She stated at the time: "we did not get the email about the ship being contaminated until the afternoon of Nov. 13, after we had just gotten off the ship . . . This was very irresponsible and unethical on Royal Caribbean's part."  

In my opinion, it is outrageous that Royal Caribbean kept sailing the Majesty if it knew that the ship's water supply was still contaminated with Legionella after multiple "extra-chlorine" treatments. It is Legionellaprobable that some of the passengers or crew members would become sick because, obviously, passengers are going to shower during cruises. Unfortunately, we have seen this cruise line take the "show-must-go-on" attitude to extremes over the years, whether it is recklessly sailing into hurricanes or repeatedly exposing its passengers to noro virus on successive cruises.

There have been a number cases of Legionnaires' disease on cruise ships over the years. The most infamous case involved the Horizon cruise ship operated by Royal Caribbean's sister cruise line, Celebrity Cruises (before it was purchased by Royal Caribbean), back in 1994.

Following a deadly shipboard outbreak which caused Celebrity to cancel cruises and fly passengers back from Bermuda, passengers sued Celebrity alleging that the company defrauded them by refusing to disclose that Legionella was present on the cruise ship. An Associated Press writer wrote that: "on Saturday passengers on the cruise ship Horizon were told the risk of contracting Legionnaires' disease on board was low. On Tuesday they were hustled off the ship in Bermuda as a precaution." (Numerous passengers were nonetheless infected). The AP quoted passengers as saying at the time: "everyone is entitled to a worry-free vacation and this has been anything but that" and "the people who operate this line should be chastised" and "what they did to the passengers is unconscionable."

Celebrity subsequently sued the manufacturer of the ship's pool and whirlpool equipment, alleging that extensive press coverage of the disease outbreak stigmatized the company, thus hurting its reputation and reducing its profits. Celebrity obtained a $193 million verdict, although an appellate court subsequently reduced the verdict.

Regarding the recent outbreak, if Royal Caribbean was uncertain whether the Majesty of the Seas still had Legionella in its water system, merely warning future passengers that the risk of illness was "low" but not canceling cruises was, at a minimum, irresponsible. Not informing passengers who cruised on the ship of the disease until after they sailed is truly reprehensible conduct. 

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Photo credit: Top -  CC-BY-SA-3.0/Matt H. Wade at Wikipedia; bottom - By CDC (PHIL #1187) - CDC Public Health Image Library, Public Domain.

Legionella Royal Caribbean Email

Legionella Royal Caribbean Email

 

Outbreak on the Silver Spirit Found to be Caused by E. Coli

A gastrointestinal sickness outbreak on the Silver Shadow in March was found by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to be caused by Enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC).

The outbreak occurred during a cruise from March 3 - 21, 2016. The outbreak sickened 37 people according to the CDC report on the incident. The CDC concluded that 24 of 388 (6.19%) passengers and 13 of 366 (3.55%) crew members fell ill due to the disease.

Outbreak News Today said that "according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Silver SpiritETEC is a major bacterial cause of diarrhea among travelers and children in the developing world. ETEC is increasingly recognized as an important cause of foodborne illness in developed nations, such as the United States. Infection occurs when a person eats food, or drinks water or ice contaminated with ETEC bacteria. Human or animal wastes (e.g., feces) are the ultimate source of ETEC contamination."

Silversea Cruises was last in the news several years ago when the USPH caught crew members hiding perishable food and galley equipment in crew quarters on the Silver Shadow and flunked the cruise line. CNN covered the scandal. You can see the video here

The Silver Shadow failed another USPH inspection last year as well. 

The Silver Spirit, on the other hand, has always scored highly by the USPH (93-100) in the last 6 years, and it scored a 98 during the last inspection in January. However, in a lawsuit filed by a Silversea crew member (aboard the Silver Spirit and Silver Wind) in 2011, the crew member alleged that his employment as a bartender was terminated after he complained that he was required to fill expensive, premium top-shelf brand liquor bottles with cheaper brands and to fill empty expensive French champagne bottles with cheaper Italian sparkling wines. The case is Marin Asenov v. Silversea Cruises, Ltd., Case No. 0:11 CV 62360 WJZ. You can read the allegations in the lawsuit here.   

Photo credit: This image photographed by Brian Burnell with permission was uploaded to Commons by George Hutchinson. CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15252523

P&O Oceana Flunks CDC Sanitation Inspection

P&O OceanaA month ago, a crew member aboard the P&O Oceana notified me that the cruise ship failed a sanitation inspection by the enters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) while the ship was in port in Charleston, South Carolina.  Oceana received a score of 82; 85 or lower is considered a failure.

I have been checking the CDC's online inspection scores since then. I have been asking the CDC when it will release its report on the Oceana.

The report was finally released today. You can read the report here. The report indicated that several back-flow prevention devices, to prevent the contamination of potable water, did not have test results and appeared not to be tested. The ship's Riviera swimming pool and Crystal whirlpool did not have adequate levels of chlorinated and bromine, failed to have hair and lint strainers / filters and were not disinfected. The inspector closed the recreational water facilities on the ship.   

The report also revealed that a food handler had an onset of Acute Gastroenteritis (AGE) and exhibited symptoms at 9:00 A.M. in the morning but did did not report to the medical center until 11:20 A.M. A review of the crew member's work history indicated that this crew member worked, notwithstanding his illness, from 7:30 A.M. until 10:30 A.M.

The ship's galley appeared dirty. There were comments like "the tile grout in this area was soiled and in disrepair."  "The deck below under counter refrigerator . . . had a significant buildup of more than a week's accumulation of food debris, dirt, equipment parts, and what appeared to be insect remains." Food service equipment was broken or out of service and many operational ovens and ice-makers were overflowing their drip pans and/or leaking onto the floor.

Oceana has not prepared a "corrective action report" in response to the failed score, as required by the CDC.

In an era when cruise lines are quick to blame every single norovirus outbreak on the passengers, this CDC report provides an insight into how deficient water sanitation and disgusting food handling practices by a cruise line can jeopardize the health of the traveling public.  

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April 4, 2016 Update: The CDC vessel sanitation inspectors inspected the P&O Oriana in February.  Although the cruise ship passed with a score of 90, there were several significant sanitation problems including dirty and out of service galley equipment.  Also food handlers working while ill with gastrointeritis: "A Chef de Partie experienced onset of GI symptoms on 20 January 2016 at 6:45 am. This crew member worked from 7 am to 11 am, took lunch at the crew mess, then returned to work from 1 pm to 5 pm. The chef reported his symptoms to the medical center at 6 pm."   You can read the report here

April 5, 2016 Update:  Cruise Law News was quoted today in the Southampton's Daily  Echo and the U.K.'s Daily Mail.  

Fortune magazine also covered the story, writing that it "raises questions about the industry’s squeaky-clean image, and indeed, that there may be more unreported cases that were either ignored or dismissed by the sickened passengers or the cruise lines themselves."

April 6, 2016 Update:  FoxNews covers the story today - Health inspectors find cockroaches, 'potentially hazardous' food aboard two luxury cruise ships.  The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) interjects the blame-the-passenger-wash-your-hands excuse but ignores the fact that crew members were handling food while contagious and the ship's galley was found to be unsanitary and potentially hazardous to the guests' health. 

Photo credit: Piergiuliano Chesi, CC BY 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

CDC: 137 Sick with Norovirus on Norwegian Gem

Norwegian GemEarlier this week, we reported that health officials banned the Norwegian Gem from calling on St. Maarten because a number of passengers were ill with a gastrointestinal illness. The NCL cruise ship then sailed on to Tortola where it called on the port there.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now officially reporting that 128 of 2,882 cruise passengers (4.44%) and 7 of 1,100 of crew members (0.64%) on the Gem have been ill during the cruise with norovirus. 

Although it was suggested on the cruise ship that the cause of the outbreak may be contaminated water, there has been no information released to the public confirming or excluding this possible cause. Norovirus is primarily a food-borne disease. Outbreak News Today correctly states that "norovirus is typically spread through contaminated food and water, touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus and then putting your hand or fingers in your mouth and close contact with someone who is vomiting or has diarrhea."

Unfortunately, the CDC has limited resources and does not attempt to conduct an epidemiology assessment regarding the source of the norovirus outbreak.    

Photo credit: Corgi5623 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0.       

Another Gastrointestinal Outbreak on Leading GI-Outbreak Cruise Line, Princess Cruises

Ocean PrincessThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that there is a gastrointestinal outbreak on the Ocean Princess cruise ship, with 43 of 603 (7.13%) of passengers ill during the cruise and 5 of 387 (1.29%) crew members sick.

The Princess cruise ship is currently sailing on a February 13 - March 7, 2016 itinerary. The cruise ship is scheduled to go into dry dock on March 7th. 

Princess has 50% of the four cruise ship norovirus that meet the CDC's criteria so far this year. This should be no surprise to anyone who follows gastrointestinal outbreaks on cruise ships.

As I pointed out in my last article about a gastrointestinal outbreak on a Princess cruise ship (the Crown Princess), during the six year period from 2010 to the current date, Princess Cruises experienced the most norovirus outbreaks on its cruise ships calling on a U.S. port, according to the CDC. Including this most recent outbreak, Princess has reported twenty (20) cases to the CDC during this time period.

In contrast, Carnival cruise lines reported just two (2) cases during the same time period.

Celebrity Cruises reported 15 cases (and Royal Caribbean reported 9). HAL also reported a high number (12) during the 2010 to 2016 time period. Cunard reported 4; NCL -3; Oceania - 3; and Crystal - 2. 

Anyone have an explanation why there have been 10 times as many CDC-reported GI outbreaks on Princess cruise ships compared to Carnival cruise line ships?

 Photo Credit: Pjotr Mahhonin - CC0, Wikipedia

Pukefest on the Crown Princess - Why Does Princess Cruise Have So Many Norovirus Outbreaks?

The first norovirus outbreak on a cruise ship calling on a U.S. port this year has been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And, no surprise to anyone that follows cruise ship outbreaks, it involved a Princess Cruises cruise ship. 

The Crown Princess just returned to Los Angeles following a two week cruise from January 3 - 18, 2016. 180 of the 3,060 passengers (5,88 %) aboard the cruise ship were sick with symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea. 24 of 1,168 crew members (2.05%) became ill with gastrointestinal symptoms which the CDC confirmed were due to norovirus.  You can read the CDC report here.

During the six year period from 2010 to the current date, Princess Cruises experienced the most Princess Cruise Ship Norovirus Outbreaknorovirus outbreaks on its cruise ships calling on a U.S. port, according to the CDC. Princess reported nineteen (19) cases to the CDC during this time period. Carnival cruise lines reported just two (2) cases during the same time period.  

Celebrity Cruises reported 15 cases (and Royal Caribbean reported 9).  HAL also reported a high nummber (12) during the 2010 to 2016 time period.

Cunard reported 4; NCL -3; Oceania - 3; and Crystal - 2.  

The Crown Princess alone has suffered through five (5) norovirus outbreaks since 2010 to the present. Before the current outbreak, the last outbreak on the Crown Princess was from October 18 to November 16, 2014. Prior to that, it was February 5 to 12, 2014. It also experienced back-to-back outbreaks from January 29 to February 4, 2012 and February 4 to February 9, 2012 (photo above).

The Crown Princess alone experienced two and one-half time more norovirus outbreaks that the entire fleet of Carnival cruise lines from 2010 to the present!

So why is Princess Cruises far more prone to norovirus outbreaks than Carnival cruise lines, for example?

The cruise industry always blames the passengers for bringing the virus aboard, rather than its food handlers, or contaminated food or water. So are Princess Cruises customers the sickest and the least hygienic cruisers around? Do they wash their hands the least of any cruisers?  That seems like a absurd argument to make.

Is there a correlation between the age of the cruise ships and gastrointestinal outbreaks?  Are different food sources and food handling techniques a more reasonable explanation?  How about different sanitation procedures?  I'm not sure. The CDC doesn't have time to determine the source of the norovirus outbreak (sick food handlers versus contaminated food or water or a sick passenger) so it is of no help.  

But blaming the passengers when one cruise line (and one cruise ship in particular) has far more gastrointestinal outbreaks than its competitors is certainly not the answer.  

CDC Expands Zika Travel Warning

Zika VirusThe U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added eight (8) more destinations to its recent Zika virus travel alert yesterday.

In addition to the 14 countries already on the CDC list (Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti , Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, Paraguay, Suriname, and Venezuela), the CDC added these 8 more countries:

Barbados, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guadeloupe, St. Martin, Guyana, Cape Verde, and Samoa.

The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) states that the move to add countries where a traveler could be injected "follows the CDC's initial Jan 15 travel advisory recommending that pregnant women and those trying to become pregnant consider postponing travel to countries where Zika virus is circulating, and if they must travel to the destinations they should follow strict steps to avoid mosquito bites."

As we explained in our first article, there is a risk of to pregnant women of having a baby with a small, underdeveloped heads (microcephaly).

This latest development comes at a time when "three travellers who returned to the UK from South and Central America have been diagnosed with the Zika virus."

So far, we have heard of some cruise lines which are cruising to one of the countries subject to the CDC warning are refusing pregnant women to cancel their cruises.  We do not know whether those travel insurance companies are providing coverage when a pregnant cruiser cancels and submits a claim.

The CDC's Recommendations for Pregnant Women Considering Travel to an Area of Zika Virus Transmission

Because there is neither a vaccine nor prophylactic medications available to prevent Zika virus infection, CDC recommends that all pregnant women consider postponing travel to areas where Zika virus transmission is ongoing. If a pregnant woman travels to an area with Zika virus transmission, she should be advised to strictly follow steps to avoid mosquito bites. Mosquitoes that spread Zika virus bite both indoors and outdoors, mostly during the daytime; therefore, it is important to ensure protection from mosquitoes throughout the entire day. Mosquito prevention strategies include wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, using U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA - registered insect repellents, using permethrin-treated clothing and gear, and staying and sleeping in screened-in or air-conditioned rooms. When used as directed on the product label, insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, and IR3535 are safe for pregnant women. Further guidelines for using insect repellents are available online (http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/avoid-bug-bites).

January 26, 2016 Update: The CDC added  the United States Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic to the list of destinations with Zika virus disease outbreaks.

Photo Credit: "Aedes aegypti CDC-Gathany" by James Gathany - PHIL, CDC. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons Wikipedia

Are Cruise Lines Warning Pregnant Passengers of the Zika Virus?

ZIKA VirusThe New York Times published an article yesterday that should alarm women who are pregnant and thinking about taking a cruise calling on ports in the Caribbean or South America or Central America. CDC May Warn Pregnant Women Against Travel to Countries With Zika Virus written by science and health reporter Donald G. McNeil Jr., says that test results from the CDC seems to establish a link between the mosquito-borne virus and Brazil’s rise in babies born with abnormally underdeveloped heads (microcephaly).

According to Helen Bramswell, an infectious diseases and public health reporter from STAT News, there have been  "at least 3,530 cases of microcephaly and 46 deaths in Brazil since the increasing number of cases was recognized last October. The country saw fewer than 200 cases of microcephaly annually over the previous five years." 

The CDC is thinking about issuing a warning for pregnant travelers against travel to Brazil, as well as other Latin American and Caribbean countries where the virus has spread.  According to the Times, the virus has been located in 14 countries in the Western Hemisphere: Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti , Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, Paraguay, Suriname, and Venezuela.   

The Times spoke to corporate communications representatives of Carnival. Princess and Royal Caribbean cruise lines who reportedly denied knowing anything about the Zika virus and directed inquiries to their trade association, the Cruise Line International Association.  CLIA suggestions include the same general things suggested to prevent the infection with the chikungunya virus - using mosquito repellents and wearing protective clothes.

According to Caribbean 360, the Zika virus was first detected in humans about 40 years ago in Uganda. It is spread by the same Aedes aegypti mosquito as dengue and chikunguya. The disease was first identified in the South Americas less than two years ago and has spread rapidly across South and Central America.

January 15 2016 Update: It's Official. U.S. issues travel alert over Zika virus in Latin America, Caribbean.

January 16 2016 Update: CDC alert for Zika virus may curb Caribbean 'babymoon' vacations. "The CDC had been urging all travelers visiting areas of Latin America and the Caribbean to take extra precautions against mosquito bites to avoid contracting the virus. But officials upgraded the warning late Friday to a Level 2 travel notice and are now advising pregnant w.men and women trying to become pregnant to consider avoiding travel to the affected areas out of concern that Zika may cause a catastrophic birth defect called microcephaly.

"We likely will see a significant decline in trips by women who are pregnant or trying to conceive to these regions in light of the apparent link between the virus and birth defects,"

CBS Pregnant women warned about Zika virus

Photo Credit: "Aedes aegypti CDC-Gathany" by James Gathany, CDC, licensed under Public Domain via Commons / Wikipedia.

Bahama Mama Flunks CDC Sanitation Inspection

Bahamas MamaThe  Bahama Mama cruise ferry, operated by Balearia Bahamas Express, recently failed a bi-annual sanitation and health  inspection conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

I first read about the Bahama Mama flunking the CDC inspection in an article by Theresa Norton Masek in Travel Pulse titled Bahama Mama Ferry Fails CDC Inspection.

The official CDC report chronicles a disgusting list of filthy conditions (with the requisite dead flies and crawling insects) on the ship as well as disturbing failures to comply with health procedures designed to avoid food contamination. The report indicates that the ship did not even have acute gastroenteritis surveillance logs for each voyage, although there were ill crew members on the ship.

You can read the report here.

The ship has not complied with the CDC and submitted a corrective action report. 

The ship sails between Port Everglades and Freeport, Bahamas. 

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Photo credit: Vicens Gimenez / © Vicens Gimenez via Sun Sentinel

Noro on the Princess Cruises' Star Princess

News sources in Hawaii are reporting that dozens of Princess cruise ship passengers have been quarantined on Maui after a norovirus outbreak.

Newspapers are saying that Princess Cruises' Star Princess is ported at Lahaina. According to the local health department, around 30 people are quarantined in their rooms. Health officials report that the virus originated in San Francisco. 

Princess Cruises notified the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  

There is no official CDC information  because there is no need for the CDC to make a report to the public unless 3% or more of the cruise passengers or crew are ill. 

This week 8 Canadian doctors published a blockbuster article confirming that norovirus can be transmitted in an airborne form.

Unfortunately, given the short time that cruise ship are in port, no health officials ever determine whether the outbreak is caused by contaminated food and / or water versus a sick food handler versus poor hygiene practices by the cruise ship or passengers. I expect the cruise line will still publicly blame the passengers, whatever the true cause. 

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Star Princess Noro Virus

Photo Credit: Jim Walker in Seattle

 

Norovirus Spreads by Air on Cruise Ships

Researchers in Canada have concluded that norovirus can spread by air, according to a publication in the highly respected Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Eight doctors participated in a study of norovirus and determined that norovirus can be transmitted in an airborne form. They published an article titled "Detection and Quantification of Airborne Norovirus During Outbreaks in Healthcare Facilities."  

Researchers collected air samples (about 3 feet away from the sick patients) and then tested areas Norovirusfurther away, such as by the door of patient rooms and down at nursing stations.

"Airborne noroviruses were identified at six of the eight facilities included in the study. These germs were found in 54 percent of the sick patients' rooms. They were also found in 38 percent of the hallways leading to these rooms and at 50 percent of the nursing stations."

A reporter for HealthDay News / U.S. News and World Report wrote an article titled 'Cruise Ship' Norovirus Bug Can Spread by Air, Study Finds, saying that "notorious bugs that have infected scores of people and ruined countless cruise ship vacations -- can spread through the air and infect people several feet away, according to new research."

"The measures applied in hospital settings are only designed to limit direct contact with infected patients," the study's leader, Caroline Duchaine, a professor at Universite Laval's Faculty of Science and Engineering in Quebec, Canada, said in a university news release."

The medical experts concluded that rules need to be reviewed to take into account the possibility of airborne transmission of noroviruses. She suggested the use of "mobile air-filtration units" or the "wearing of respiratory protection around patients with gastroenteritis" should be considered. 

The news article said that concentrations of norovirus "ranged from 13 to 2,350 particles per cubic meter of air."  As few as  20 norovirus particles can infect someone.

The cruise industry's lobbying team at the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) has been lecturing the public for decades that passengers not washing their hands is usually the cause of the virus' spread. I have always thought that blaming the passengers was malarkey.

Now we have reliable information that norovirus can spread in the air. It can easily be blown throughout the ship by the cruise ship's air-conditioning.  

I wonder how CLIA will spin this new clinical study?

Silver Shadow Fails CDC Sanitation Inspection Again

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) flunked Silversea's luxury cruise ship, the Silver Shadow, for unsanitary conditions. 

The Silversea cruise ship received a failing score of only 82. The inspectors determined the ship had improper medical protocols for crew members with acute gastroenteritis. The inspectors found 40 unsanitary conditions such as improper temperatures for stored food, improper sneeze guards at the ship's buffet stations, and unsanitary whirlpools.  

Incredibly, Silversea refused to submit a corrective action report.

Two years ago, this cruise ship engaged in an intentional, calculated scheme to hide food and galley equipment in crew cabins.Crew members on the ship alerted our firm that they (galley workers) were being ordered by their supervisors to take trolleys of perishable foods (eggs, fish & cheese) to the crew quarters and hide the food from inspectors during bi-annual CDC inspections. We advised the "whistle-blower" crew members to notify the CDC. As a result of a surprise inspection, the CDC discovered that the cruise line hid "over 15 full trolleys" of food and food equipment, pans, dishware and utensils to "over 10 individual cabins"  in order to avoid scrutiny of vessel sanitation inspectors. It flunked Silversea with a score of 82.

We were interviewed by CNN regarding Silversea's scam.

We found Silversea Cruises to have acted deliberately and unethically. It was obviously not committed to safe food practices, a conclusion which is reinforced by this latest series of violations.

Unfortunately, the CDC can't enter significant sanctions against renegade cruise lines like this even when the cruise ships intentionally violate CDC sanitation protocols. Our government should impose meaningful monetary sanctions and shut cruise ships down when they threaten the health of passengers. 

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The CNN video of the last CDC failed score is below:

 

Whooping Cough Outbreak on the Voyager of the Seas?

Whooping CoughThe operator of a fan Voyager of the Seas Facebook page (not operated by the cruise line) posted the following:

"If you where on the Voyager of the Seas relocation cruise from Singapore to Sydney cruise and you have a really bad cough, then I suggest you got and see a Doctor as you may have Whooping cough . . . "

A large number of passengers have posted comments in response to this post. Many passengers on the cruise say that they are ill.  Many people say that they are having their blood drawn and are seeing doctors to have their throats swabbed. Others say that it has been confirmed that they have been diagnosed with whooping cough.

Passengers complain that they have hear nothing from Royal Caribbean. One person who heard back from the cruise line remarked: "I've heard from RC and they told me they are not compelled to notify all passengers . . . "

Whooping cough, also known as "pertussisis," is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the bacterium bordetella pertussis.

Pertussis is known for uncontrollable, violent coughing which often makes it hard to breathe. Pertussis most commonly affects infants and young children. It can be fatal, especially in babies less than 1 year of age.

The best way to protect against pertussis is immunization.

Voyager of the Seas

Photo Credit: Antimicrobe.org / Wikipedia (Corgi5623)

Did the Freedom of the Seas Fail a USPH Sanitation Inspection?

On November 27, 2014, I received a communication directly from a Royal Caribbean crew member indicating that the United States Public Health (USPH) conducted a surprise health inspection of the Freedom of the Seas on November 23rd. The crew member said that the USPH flunked the cruise ship for being unsanitary.  

The crew member, who is still working on the ship and wishes to remain anonymous, said that the USPH gave Royal Caribbean a failing score of "84" (85 or below is a failing grade).

A failed USPH score is a big thing. Only two major U.S. based cruise ships (the Ocean PrincessFruit Flies and Silver Discoverer) failed such an inspection this year. It's embarrassing to the cruise line. It has sometimes ended a F&B (food & beverage) manager's career.  

Since communicating with the crew member, I have checked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (USPH) database daily for the official report.

Today, the CDC report was finally released. To my surprise, the official score was an "86," one point above failing.  So what happened between November 23rd and today?

The crew member's account of the inspection seems credible to me. The crew member indicated that there was a great deal of controversy over the failed inspection when the government inspectors left the ship. The crew member mentioned particular aspects of the failed inspection. I tend to believe the account.

Did the inspectors reconsider and change the score after leaving the ship? If so, why? Was this a good faith reconsideration and recalculation based on objective criteria? Or were there behind-the-scenes shenanigans and arm-twisting that resulted in the score being changed to a passing score? There can be no doubt that Royal Caribbean has a cozy relationship with the federal agencies; it routinely hires from the CDC, USPH, FBI and USCG.

So what does the official report say? Here are a few of the findings:

  • Two crew members working with symptomatic acute gastroenteritis;
  • Improper cooling logs for food, risking illness;
  • Cases of food stored on heavily soiled decks;
  • Trolley with plates stored in elevator lobby;
  • Food soil in Sorrentos galley; and
  • Live fruit flies in Windjammer buffet, Chops galley, Windjammer pot wash, Sorrentos bussing station, Cafe Promenade bar, Diamond Lounge buffet, and Crown Viking bar.

The last cruise ship I recall flunking a USPH inspection for fruit flies was the old Monarch of the Seas

If the Freedom's score was not really a "F," it sure sounds like a solid "D-."  

 

Have a thought?  Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Photo Credit: Batzner Pest Management

Silver Shadow Fails Sanitation Inspection After Caught Hiding Filthy Conditions from Health Inspectors

Last December, I wrote an article about the practice of certain cruise lines which hide dirty pots & pans and cooking equipment from U.S. health inspectors. The article, which focused on the MSC Poesia, is entitled "Hide & Seek" - Cruise Lines Play Games With USPH Inspectors.

After I published that article, several former crew members from Silversea Cruises left comments alleging that the Silver Shadow also played "hide and seek," concealing food and galley items in crew hallways and cabins, away from the sanitation inspectors in the galley.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) conducted a surprise inspection of the Silver Shadow on June 17th while it was in a port in Skagway, Alaska. The inspectors found the food and galley equipment in crew quarters as described by the former Silversea ship employees.  The CDC flunked the cruise line, issuing a score of 82. 

Silversea Silver Shadow Sanitation CDCThe inspection occurred after former Silversea Cruises' crew members contacted our office and, in turn, complained to the CDC about disgusting conditions aboard the Silver Shadow cruise ship.

The crew members complained that the cruise line forced the crew to hide food, cooking utensils, cutlery, and pots and pans in their cabins to avoid detection by U.S. health inspectors.

Crew members aboard the Silver Shadow allege that were forced to store raw meat, salami, fish, cakes, and every kind of culinary preparations in their cabins and remote hallways to avoid inspections by the U.S. Public Health (USPH). The crew members claim that they had to sleep with the food and galley items in cabins with no windows or operational air conditioning. According to crew members, some spoilable food items were kept out of the refrigerator in cabins and hallways but were served the following day to the cruise passengers. 

Other complaints included the alleged use of out-of-date ingredients which were served to the guests, according to the former crew members. The crew also complained that they were forced to Silversea Silver Shadow Cruise Shiphide food infested by flies and insects in cabins where the toilet flush was out of order for days.

We received photographs (above and below) from the crew members which they state were also sent to the CDC. You can see additional photographs on our Facebook page.  

An epidemiologist at the CDC thanked the crew members for the information, writing: "The pictures and information you provided were very accurate and reflected what was seen and experienced by the inspectors yesterday on the ship . . . Thank you for passing along all of this information and protecting the health of passengers and crew on the ship. We appreciate your help!"  

Although the failed inspection occurred one month ago, the CDC has still not posted the failed score or its report of the inspection on its internet site.  

Silversea Cruises holds itself out to the public as a premiere "ultra-luxury" cruise line and charges correspondingly high fares to its cruise passengers.

One former crew member stated that the crew on the Silver Shadow were forced to use tap water to top off expensive bottled water.  

These claims are similar to the allegations in a lawsuit filed by a Silversea crew member (aboard the Silver Spirit and Silver Wind) in 2011 that his employment as a bartender was terminated after he complained that crew members were required to fill expensive, premium top-shelf brand liquor bottles with cheaper brands and to fill empty expensive French champagne bottles with cheaper Italian sparkling wines. The case is Marin Asenov v. Silversea Cruises, Ltd., Case No. 0:11 CV 62360 WJZ. You can read the allegations in the lawsuit here

The Silver Shadow cruise ship has always scored high on the CDC's Vessel Sanitation Program. Its scores have ranged from 92 to 99 (out of 100) since 2000.  

This latest news brings into question whether the Silver Shadow's high scores over the years may have been a result of the cruise line playing hide and seek with the sanitation inspectors at the USPH.

We reached out to Silversea Cruises and asked for the cruise line's comments about the failed inspection. We have not received a response. 

Have a thought about this issue? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.  

July 17, 2013 Update: Silversea Cruises just issued this PR statement which was posted on the Cruise Critic site:

Silversea Cruises Statement

On June 17, Silversea’s Silver Shadow received an atypical score of 84 during the Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) inspection in Skagway. Silver Shadow has scored in the high 90s on its previous VSP inspections where the maximum achievable score is 100. Silversea is deeply disappointed by this specific and only unsatisfactory score and has taken immediate measures to address the issues identified in the inspection report.

The company takes very seriously its responsibility to maintain the highest standards in all areas of its operations. Silversea has an excellent track record when it comes to sanitation, which can be verified on the CDC's website. Silversea ships have achieved perfect scores of 100 on several VSP inspections, including Silver Spirit's most recent inspection in April, which is testament to the company's commitment in this area.

Following a thorough review of Silver Shadow's procedures, we have taken the necessary measures to ensure that the standards are the best in the industry. All Silversea ships have comprehensive policies and rigorous training programs in place to make certain its staff and crew implement best practices to ensure shipboard safety. Silversea is sincerely sorry for the shortcomings in Silver Shadow's evaluation and is committed to ensuring that future inspections result in higher scores in line with the usual Silversea standards.

Saul Fonseca | Area Sales Director

July 21, 2013 Update:  Read our article:

How Many Cruise Lines Play Games with USPH Inspectors? 

And don't miss the results of our Facebook poll: Do cruise lines hide pots & pans, galley equipment and food from USPH inspectors?

Of the first 100 crew members who answered the poll (admittedly unscientific), around 90% said yes, cruise lines hide galley items from inspectors. One crew member said: "There will be more equipment in the crew cabin during the inspection then in the galley that's for sure!!!" 

July 22, 2013 Update:  The CDC finally released its report on the failed Silver Shadow inspection. Here is our article.  You view the official CDC report, click here.

Silversea Silver Shadow CDC Vessel Sanitation Inspection

Liberty of the Seas & Legionnaires' Disease - Disease of the Seas?

The Miami Herald reports today that a tourist from the U.K. who died from Legionnaires' disease had previously sailed on a seven-day Caribbean cruise on Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas.  

The newspaper identifies the English cruise passenger as Mr. Tore Myhra. 

Previously, there was speculation that Mr. Myhra may have contracted the disease at a local hotel here in Miami, the luxurious Epic Hotel & Residences.  However, the U.S. Center for Disease Control ("CDC") said that the hotel was not implicated in his death because another person who died of the same strain of Legionella had not stayed at the hotel. 

The Herald's article today raises the issue whether Mr. Myhra was exposed to Legionella on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship.  The newspaper quotes the medical examiner's report that Mr. Myhra became sick on the cruise ship and suffered "nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory difficulty and dry cough.''

The newspaper reports that when the Liberty of the Seas ship returned to port in Miami on October 31st, Mr. Myhra was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital. His symptoms worsened and he died of "Legionella pneumophila pneumonia" on November 1st at the hospital. 

Royal Caribbean's PR spokesperson, Cynthia Martinez, is quoted as saying that the cruise ship "reacted quickly" to the report of the Legionnaires' case.  It is less than clear what this means, because the cruise ship kept the sick passenger on the ship and did not request a medevac with the Coast Guard.

The Herald also interviewed a spokesman from the Center for Disease Control.  The newspaper reports that the CDC has investigated "five or six cases of Legionnaires' disease aboard cruise ships going in and out of South Florida in the past three months."

The CDC representative appears to be assisting the cruise line in damage control, based on the CDC's quotes in the newspaper: 

"All appropriate steps have been taken.'' 

"Cruise ships are very aggressive in responding to such outbreaks." 

Cruising is "a very safe endeavor.''

The CDC refused to identify the cruise ships where passengers contracted Legionnaires' disease, which is unfortunate because this should be public information. The obvious question remains - did the Liberty of the Seas have prior cases of Legionella?

It makes me nervous when a Federal agency acts like a cheerleader for the cruise lines while refusing to disclose public information regarding which cruise ships may have Legionella.

UPDATE:

The South Florida Business Journal has an excellent article today "Legionnaire's May Be Linked to Ship."  The articles refers to comments posted on the popular CruiseCritic site that a passenger on the Liberty of the Seas had been diagnosed with Legionnaire's, so the H20 Zone and hot tubs were closed . . .

 Liberty of the Seas

Cruise Ship - Legionella Information:

Legionnaires' Disease During Cruise Linked to Water Supply

Legionnaires' Disease Is Cited in Cruise Death On Celebrity Cruise Ship

CDC: What is Legionnaires' disease?

 

 

Credits:

Legionella cells                     scienceblogs.com

Legionella in lungs               nalcoeurope.com

Liberty of the Seas                hassocka5489 (via wikemedia commons)