A 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.
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.