Silver Shadow Sanitation Scandal: Silversea Cruises Finally Speaks, But is It the Truth?

The cover up is always worse than the crime, the saying goes.

When we first contacted SilverSea Cruises earlier this month, we asked the cruise line for an explanation regarding the Silver Shadow's failed CDC sanitation inspection. This was before the CDC report was issued and before the CNN story aired. We specifically asked for a comment about the tactic of hiding food and pot & pans in the crew quarters, which we learned from a number of different Silversea crew members.

We received no response, of course, just like crew members who had directly notified senior Silversea management ashore of the unsanitary ship practices long before contacting the CDC in frustration.    

Silversea's first public response was rather tepid, indicating only that that the cruise line was Silver Shadow - Silver Shadow CDC"disappointed" in the failed score. But Silversea offered neither an apology nor an explanation regarding who ordered the food and galley equipment to be hidden in the cabins or what steps it took in respond to the serious violations of the USPH standards and the public's trust. 

It was not until CNN aired a special program about the mess aboard the Silver Shadow (watch video here), did Silversea finally release more detailed statements on its Facebook page about what happened.  

Are these statements truthful? Was this really just an isolated event, or part of an ongoing systemic scheme to trick the USPH inspectors?   

Let's consider a couple of Silversea's claims:

The cruise lines says:

"Silversea Cruises has fully investigated this matter and the accusations of a previous crew member."

Is the public to believe that only one single former crew made the accusation which resulted in the verification by the CDC that food and galley equipment from fifteen trolleys were hidden in several cabins shared by 10 crew members?

Before we first broke the story two weeks ago, we had communicated with several crew members who informed us that the "hide & seek' games were widespread, not only on the Silver Shadow but other Silversea cruise ships as well. Some crew members showed us emails sent to the upper management complaining abut the situation long before the CDC inspection. After the CNN took the story to an international audience, additional crew members contacted us and verified the complaints. And remember, the Silversea crew member interviewed by CNN is not one of the crew members who first contacted us or reported the disgusting circumstances to the CDC in the first place.    

The cruise line also says: 

"The unannounced inspection on June 17 occurred at the end of the breakfast period where pots, pans and utensils were on working stations and items to return to the galleys were on Shilver Shadow Cruise Ship CDCtrolleys as were stores from the fridges ready for use. It is clear that when the galley staff heard that inspectors were on board, instead of continuing their work in the understanding that they were in the middle of a meal service, they tried to quickly remove all trolleys and any items not in the fridges and place them in cabins out of the way."

This is an absolutely fantastic claim. Silversea blames the galley cooks for deciding to hide the food without any instructions from their supervisors?  We know this to be untrue based upon what both low level crew members and managers tell us.

Silversea's tactic of throwing the lowest level ship employee under the bus reveals that instead of being transparent, the cruise line chose to bamboozle the public.  Isn't this exactly what got Slversea in trouble in the first place?

One other thing to keep in mind is that the photographs which CNN aired (and which are on our Facebook page) were taken by several different Silversea crew members on various occasions in 2012 and early 2013. They are not photos of the failed inspection in June 2013.  

After the crew members sent the photos to the CDC this year, a CDC epidemiologist thanked the crew members and wrote:

"The pictures and information you provided were very accurate and reflected what was seen and experienced by the inspectors yesterday on the ship . . ."    

If photographs taken in 2012 accurately reflect what the CDC inspectors discovered 6 to 12 months later, the unsanitary practices clearly date back at least a year.

Silversea wants you to believe that just a few panicked cooks took it on themselves to push fifteen large trolleys out of the galley, through the hallways, down the elevator, and hid food under bunk beds in the bowels of the ship without any order to so so. Do you believe that this was just a secret, spontaneous, isolated event?

Other crew members obviously witnessed this circus parade of food and cutlery and pots & pans clanking on trolleys which rumbled through the hallways.  And security officers and guards could not help but to observe this Silversea Cruises Silver Shadow CDCspectacle which was captured on closed circuit television cameras throughout the ship. This was no aberration; this was business as usual.   

I just returned from Washington D.C. where I attended the eighth Congressional hearing about the cruise industry since 2005. This hearing was called for by Senator Rockefeller who has studied the industry and judged it not to be trustworthy of cruise passenger safety.  

For the first seven hearings, I watched and listened to the cruise lines executives say that crime is rare and the lines transparently report all crimes committed against passengers. But Senator Rockefeller is no fool. He issued a report at this latest hearing which revealed that only 3% of crimes on cruise ships are reported to the public. 97% of cruise ship crimes are hidden. 

Hiding food and galley items in crew member cabins may seem unbelievable to the American public, but as many crew members may tell you, it's a part of "ship life."  And lying when caught is another part of a cruise line culture which has never been broken.    

 

Photo Credit:

Top - Wikimedia / Petey21

Middle and bottom - Silversea crew members 

CNN Covers Silver Shadow Cover Up of Nasty Sanitation Practices - While Silversea Cruises Refuses to Talk

Yesterday 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 sanitation inspectors of the U.S. Public Health Department.

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

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

Silver Shadow Silversea Cruises SanitationBefore we published our article, we contacted several people at Silversea Cruises to discuss the matter but no one would respond.  Its seems like the cruise line thought it could just ignore the problem and it would go away. Quite frankly this is the holier-than-thou attitude of many cruise lines which think that they can do anything with impunity.

The story was mentioned extensively not only on CNN, but is being discussed on other networks (Peter Greenberg was talking about the issue on CBS this morning) as well as being mentioned in newspapers and online travel travel boards. 

The comments to the CNN article are spilling over from Silversea Cruises to the cruise industry at large.

The story comes at a key time while the Senate debates enacting legislation to more aggressively regulate the cruise industry. Yesterday Senator Rockefeller convened a hearing where he announced that he is enacting legislation to provide consumers greater protection while on cruise ships. 

Watch the video below.  Its disappointing to see that the cruise line faced no real consequence after the CDC caught it intentionally gaming the system. Remember it was crew members who exposed the cover up, not the CDC by itself. And the CDC really didn't do anything except tell the cruise ship not to do it again.

Why wasn't the ship detained in port?  Why wasn't the cruise line fined?

 

CDC Releases Report on Silver Shadow's Disgusting Sanitation Problems

Last week we published an article that Silversea supervisors forced crew members aboard the Silver Shadow to hide trolleys of food in the crew quarters to avoid detection by USPH inspectors: Silver Shadow Fails Sanitation Inspection After Caught Hiding Filthy Conditions from Health Inspectors

Today the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published its report.

It's damning to Silver Shadow's sanitation practices. Quite frankly, it's worse than I expected. The final score is 82 (it was initially 84). Here's a portion of the report:

Silver Shadow Sanitation CDCSite: Other-Galley Crew Cabins

Violation: An organized effort was made to physically remove over 15 full trolleys of dry foods, spices, canned foods, cooked foods, milk, raw meats, pasteurized eggs, cheeses of all types, baking goods, raw fruits, raw vegetables, and a variety of both hand held and counter model food equipment, pans, dishware and utensils to over 10 individual cabins shared by two or three galley crew members in order to avoid inspection by VSP staff. All the out of temperature potentially hazardous foods were discarded along with most other foods that were not canned or in original containers. The lead VSP inspector poured concentrated chlorine liquid over all the discarded foods as they were dumped into garbage bags to ensure they would not be used again

You can read the report here.

The report contains no photos, but you can see some of the photos we posted last week on our Facebook page.

We also asked crew members from other cruise lines whether cruise ships playing "hide and seek" from the USPH is a common practice in the cruise industry.  Its not a scientific poll, but around 90% of crew members said "yes."  Take a look here.

On Wednesday, Senator Rockefeller oversees another Senate hearing into whether cruise passengers need greater protection from the cruise industry's bad consumer practices.  I'm sure this issue will come up.  I look forward to hearing the cruise industry's response.

 

Silversea Cruises Sanitation Failure: How Many Cruise Lines Play Games with USPH Inspectors?

Last Monday I published an article about the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) failing the Silver Shadow cruise ship following a surprise inspection last month when the ship was calling on Skagway, Alaska. The article is entitled: Silver Shadow Fails Sanitation Inspection After Caught Hiding Filthy Conditions from Health Inspectors

Former Silversea Cruises employees contacted me earlier this year and complained that they were ordered to take trolleys of pots and pans, cutlery and food items from the galley and hide them away from the U.S. public health inspectors in the crew cabins and hallways. We told them to report this practice to the CDC which later boarded, inspected and flunked the Silver Shadow. 

The reaction to the story has been mixed. Passengers who learned of the failed score and the alleged CDC Inspection - Silver Shadow Cruise Ship"hide and seek" tactics of the cruise ship appear to be upset not only with the unsanitary practice but with what they characterize as dishonesty and a lack of transparency by the cruise line. You can see this sentiment in a series of comments on the popular Cruise Critic boards.

Silversea will not respond to inquiries from our firm, but suggests in a PR statement it released that the incident is an aberration, pointing out that the scores on its previous inspections throughout its small fleet of cruise ships have been in the high 90"s and it also recently scored a perfect 100.

This argument, in my opinion at least, seems to be no different than a student caught cheating on a test who defends his failed score by pointing out that he received straight A's on all of the previous tests. The student's dishonesty is surpassed only by his disingenuity.   

The other reaction to the story is that this is "business as usual." This sentiment is being expressed by crew members. We have heard from crew members over the last 20 years who have told us of similar stories of the lengths to which some cruise lines go to obtain a passing USPH score. The comments to our article on Facebook, by crew members at least, are to the effect that this practice is wide spread on other cruise ships. It was back luck that Silversea got caught.

You can see similar comments by crew members about how cruise lines cheat on USPH inspections which were posted to a similar story I wrote in December. 

My Cruise Law News Facebook page has over 60,000 followers, and the majority are crew members from all over the world.  The consensus seems to be that all cruise lines engage in this practice to one extent or the other. I'd like to flush this issue out further. So I will post a simple question on my Facebook page:

Do cruise lines hide pots & pans, galley equipment and food from USPH inspectors?  You can click on the link and see what the crew members have to say about the issue.

Whereas passengers may be disgusted by this practice, I suspect that most crew members will yawn and say that this is business as usual.

July 22, 2013 Update:  CDC just released its official report. It's nasty. Here's our article.  You can read the official CDC report here.

CDC Failed Inspection - Silver Shadow

 

Photo Credit:  Former Silver Shadow crew member.

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 84. 

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

Silversea Silver Shadow Collides with Container Ship

CNN iReport contains a first hand account from a passenger describing a collision between Silversea Cruises' Silver Shadow cruise ship and what is being described as a Vietnamese container ship near Halong bay, Vietnam. The report indicates damage to both the cruise ship and the container ship.   The passenger's account and a photograph of the damaged container ship are below:

"We're on Silversea silver shadow cruise ship and we just collided with a Vietnamese container ship near Halong bay, Vietnam. We slammed into the side of it, in thick fog

Silversea Silver Shadow Collision - VietnamThe other ship was severely damaged, and crew hurt, damage to our ship is being asessed in hong kong. Passengers were called to muster stations.

Our ship has a hole in the bow, heres a pic of the other ship, it was struck in two places - their bridge, and we ripped a large tear in the side too.

I have more pics of the damage, sending this from my cellphone.

Many Brits and U.S. on board

Cruiseline is down playing incident but its serious.

Andrew lock  Sent from my iPhone"

11:00 AM Update: Silversea Cruises issued a press statement this morning, admitting only that a “minor incident” occurred last Friday (March 16th) as the cruise ship was approaching Ha Long Bay, Vietnam.

"Silver Shadow was involved in a minor incident on March 16, 2012 at around 4:20 GMT as it was approaching the pilot station in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam. There was contact between Silver Shadow and a local commercial vessel. Silver Shadow incurred limited minor dents and guests' safety was never compromised. The ship was fully operational and continued on its course to Ha Long Bay where all shore tours operated normally.  Silversea will carry out a full investigation into the incident."

Silvereas is mum regarding the extent of the damage to the container vessel or whether there were casualties aboard the other vessel.  

Silverseas did not release information until after the collision was reported on CNN and mentioned repeatedly on Twitter. 

2:00 PM Update:

Cruise passenger Andrew Lock has a facebook page where he uploaded photos and a video describing the events. 

CNN has excellent coverage of the story.  CNN's video is below:  

 

 

If you were on the cruise and have additional information, photographs or video, please leave a comment below.

 

Photo credit:  Andrew Lock via CNN iReport