According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Royal Caribbean's Empress of the Seas flunked a surprise sanitation inspection conducted in early June. The Empress of the Seas scored a failing score of only 80. You can read the report here. A score of 85 or lower is considered a failure.
The Empress of the Seas underwent an extended period of renovations in Spain and later in Freeport, Bahamas when the ship was transferred back from Pullmantur. Royal Caribbean canceled a total of thirteen cruises scheduled for earlier this year. The first sanitation violation related to the renovation and involved a bathroom for the medical staff which could be used only for storage and was "heavily soiled." Back in April of this year, Royal Caribbean told the Miami Herald that “as work has progressed, we learned that more significant infrastructure and physical improvements across the ship’s multiple galleys and provisioning areas were needed to meet our high standards.”
I was contacted previously by crew members, during the renovation period, who complained of unsanitary conditions on the ship. There was talk that the CDC had inspected the ship and initially had not given the ship a passing score, although there was nothing officially posted on the CDC website. Several crew members said that the ship had fallen substantially in disrepair while operated by Pullmantur and had a major problem with pests.
It is apparent, however, that once back in the Royal Caribbean fleet, the Empress failed to meet high standards. The report regarding the June inspection details forty four CDC violations, ranging from improper procedures to monitor acute gastrointestinal illness cases to incorrect potable water and swimming pool/whirlpool testing.
The report included numerous references to live and dead flies and cockroaches around refrigerators, buffet lines and other areas used for food storage. The ships was also in violation of the CDC's requirement to use rat guards, and was utilizing rat guards on only one out of six mooring lines while the ship was in port.
A crew member states that the Empress was reinspected earlier this month, on July 10th, and received a score of 97. If such an inspection took place, the CDC has not posted that inspection yet.
Royal Caribbean, including its Celebrity brand, has failed other inspections in the past. In 2013, the Celebrity Century scored only a 78. The same year, the Celebrity Summit scored only a 81. The Monarch of the Seas scored a 85 in 2011.
Two years ago, Market Watch published the 5 Most Hygienic Cruise Lines and concluded that Costa and Disney and three other smaller lines had never failed a CDC inspection. Since then, the Disney Wonder experienced a gastrointestinal outbreak in April of this year.
We last mentioned the Empress of the Seas three weeks ago when it experienced problems with one of its engines, causing Royal Caribbean to alter the cruise ship's itinerary.
Photo Credit: By Jsausley - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0.