Gastrointestinal Outbreak on the Silver Shadow

Silver Shadow The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reporting that there is a gastrointestinal outbreak on the Silver Shadow operated by the Silversea Cruises company.

The CDC reports that 28 of 327 (8.56%) of the passengers suffered from vomiting and diarrhea and other GI symptoms and reported being ill during the cruise, which took place between May 10th and today (May 24, 2018). 8 of 290 crew members reported ill with such GI symptoms during the cruise.

The CDC has not been able to determine the causative agent (norovirus, E. coli, etc.for the outbreak.

This is the fifth GI outbreak this year on a cruise ship meeting the threshold requirements of the CDC. The CDC's Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) is required to post a report when 3% or more of passengers or crew report symptoms of gastrointestinal illness to the ship’s medical staff. The medical staff of a cruise ship must send the reports to the CDC within 15 days of arriving at a U.S. port.  

The Silver Shadow failed a CDC inspection back in 2013 in a heavily publicized case when crew members were ordered to hide food and galley equipment in the cruise ship's crew quarters. The Silver Shadow failed another CDC inspection in 2015.  The Silver Shadow passed four CDC inspections since 2015 (with scores ranging from 95 to as high as 100) and there is no indication of a correlation between the past failed CDC inspections and the current GI outbreak on this cruise ship. (The Silver Wind, on the other hand, recently failed a CDC inspection, in May of this year, with a score of only 79).

The Silver Shadow is currently at the end of a two week cruise which started in Tokyo, Japan on May 10th. The ship has called on a number of other ports in Japan (Aomori, Hakodate, and Kushiro) and Petropavlovsk, Russia before arriving at various ports in Alaska, including Seward where it stopped this morning. 

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Photo credit: Bahnfrend - CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia.

May 25, 2018 Update: Here is a statement from Silversea Cruises:

Monaco; May 25, 2018

GI cases on Silver Shadow

“Following a number of passengers and crew reporting gastrointestinal symptoms to the medical staff on board the Silver Shadow the vessel registered these cases with the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in line with standard procedures.

Over the period May10-24, 28 out of 327 passengers and 8 out of 290 crew members reported GI symptoms to the ship’s Doctor during the cruise from Japan to Alaska with a call at the Russian Port of Petropavlosk.

The ship’s Doctor kept in regular contact with the CDC Officer during the passage to Seward Cruise Port, Alaska, where the Silversea Head of Fleet Operations, together with a CDC Officer joined the vessel to review all sanitation procedures and confirmed that the ship’s Management were following all the correct procedures. No further cases of GI of symptoms have been reported and the vessel has been cleared to continue cruising. All passengers are currently recovering.”

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.

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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

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

Did Royal Caribbean Dupe USPH Inspectors?

A former crew member posted photographs saying that the Liberty of the Seas hid equipment, pots, pans and other items from the galley during an USPH inspection last December. You can see photographs of the galley equipment hidden throughout the ship (primarily in the crew quarter) on our Facebook page.

Two years ago Silversea Cruises crew members came to us complaining that the Silver Shadow was hiding quantities of food and galley equipment from USPH inspections. We gave them the contact information of the USPH which the flunked the ship on the next inspection for intentionally hiding a dozen Liberty of the Seastrolleys of galley items and perishable food in the crew quarters.  

I posed the following inquiry on this blog: How Many Cruise Lines Play Games with USPH Inspectors?

And I asked the following question on Facebook:: 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!!!"

Crew members still tell me that the unsanitary practice is widespread. The Silversea Cruises scandal occurred in 2013 but the cruise line just flunked an inspection this month after the USPH caught the cruise line playing hide and seek games again.

The USPH inspections are rigorous. Crew members are ordered into working additional long hours to try and be ready. A failed score is a major embarrassment for a cruise ships and a kiss of death for a F&B manager. Some cruise lines cut corners and dupe the inspectors.

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

May 27, 2015 Update:  Of the last 200 crew members who left a response on our Facebook page, over 180 say that hiding galley items and food on cruise ships from USPH inspectors is common.

Photo Credit: Facebook

 

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 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 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

"Hide & Seek" - Cruise Lines Play Games With USPH Inspectors

Cruise Ship Pot Wash - USPHThere are certain things you learn from crew members once they become your client. No matter whether the ship employees are from Jamaica, Serbia or India, or whether the crew members are employed by Carnival, Princess or Royal Caribbean, they all tell similar stories of "ship life."

Crew members regularly tell us that they work in excess of 12 hours a day but are prohibited from recording the actual hours they work. Waiters can't record their time spent showing up before meals to prepare their work stations, or attending meetings, or performing "side jobs."  Once they have worked their maximum hours, they have to log out and then keep performing tasks such as polishing the silverware. Cruise lines don't like paying overtime and the supervisor will get in trouble by the department heads if there is money spent on overtime wages for the crew. 

We also hear the same stories over and over from ship employees around the world about the tremendous amount of effort they spend trying to get the cruise ships ready for United States Public Health ("USPH") Inspections.   USPH inspections in theory are suppose to be unannounced, but in reality they are rarely a surprise.  Cruise lines routinely hire people in a supervisory position from federal agencies like the USPHS, FBI and Coast Guard. In turn, their friends in the federal government often give the cruise lines a head's up 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 pot Cruise Ship USPH Inspectionand pans which the crew try and clean in the pot wash room (top photo) but it's difficult to get them all spotless. So what happens is that the galley cleaners are 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 boxes and cartons and then stash the stuff in crew members cabins and corridors on the bottom crew-only area on the bottom deck.

One crew members just sent me photos (right) taken of this practice. This was on the MSC Poesia during a USPH inspection in March 2011.

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 inspection. 

When the U.S. inspectors leave the ship, the dirty pans, plates, cups and kitchen equipment are returned to the galley.  The ship cooks then get busy cooking for the next round of 3,000 passengers. 

Read the comments to the question "Do cruise ships hide dirty pot & pans from USPH inspectors?" on our facebook page. 

 

Photo credit:

Top - Kruzeri.com

Bottom - Anonymous