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

  • John Nelson

    Jim, once again you are blurring the lines between facts and speculations. So anybody calling themselves a crew member can feed you any kind of information and you inflate it to “sensational facts”…….sad actually. Freedom is not unsanitary or dirty. Wording in the report does not reflect the actual condition and findings. Even the inspectors where in disagreement about the findings and the points. A photographer and a spa staff reported late, but were dismissed for violation of GI procedures, but non of them had actual GI. No food was stored on soiled decks. I have talked to some of the officers, and they were all shocked and dissapointed. A senior F&B manager actually resigned. Some points were given back due to wrong interpretation of where to store sanitation products for use in restaurants. No points were lost on food and food storage. The trolley with plates were left behind by a sloppy crew member who was transporting them to another galley. 1 fly was observed in several areas, but no infestation was found, but the ship lost 3 points. the so called “food soil” was dust in a fire door track.
    Try to present actual facts next time…………

  • John Nelson:

    You’ve left 7 comments on my blog in the last year, sometimes from a computer showing the internet provider (IP) address at the Royal Caribbean headquarters in Miami, using 5 different e-mail addresses, all praising this cruise line.

    Based on your ranting, whining & belly-aching, I’m confident I have this article 100% correct . . .

  • adrian calderon

    Hi, I read over and over many of the news you show here, and with the USPH no many crew members have access, even I can say no one crew member have access only the staff like F&B office they are officers and high officers I did ships life for over 13 years and is a great experience, all the staff have to work and if one tell you that they (cruise lines) missrespect the staff is usually not true, people drink more than what they can do, and the have to work next day. And they don’t feel well because what they did night before, to talk about ship life you MISS the most important thing… and is to be a seaman, if you did only once is not enough… if you did, let me tell you that you don’t give the correct information to your clients here… only you put your self in brata because you are cucu and if you was on the ship you will know what I mean thanks

  • John Nelson is so oblivious to what actually happened…

    “Freedom is not unsanitary or dirty” – This is not their 1st run in with USPH. I seem to recall an incident were they were stopped/suggested from sailing due to a massive outbreak of norovirus.

    “I have talked to some of the officers and they were all shocked and disappointed” – Umm..ya. They would be. They thought they were going to get away with it. They didn’t think they were going to get caught. And did you really think an officer, a guy with a nice cushy job on a cruise line, was going to fess up, to you, a supposedly random guest on a cruise? NO!!!! They are taught to keep giving the guests the PR picture that everything is fine and nothing is wrong.

    “A senior F&B Manager resigned” Ya right. Why would a senior F&B Manager resign? Especially if he did nothing wrong? I believe he was fired, plain and simple. People in that position do not just simply resign. It’s too much money, too much prestige. It’s one or two steps away from the HD position. No way that guy is going down without a fight by resigning. They were looking for scape goats and that guy was a scape goat.

    “Trolley was left behind by a sloppy crew member who transporting them to another galley” I’m calling BS. Everyone in the industry knows as soon as USPH comes onboard the galley starts moving dirty items into other areas such garbage rooms, cabins, crew corridors, etc. The ships hide stuff from USPH. The crew member was probably directed by the people in charge of the galley to hide this stuff and he didn’t know where to hide it so he just left it in the corridor. It happens all the time.

    It’s obvious John Nelson is just a mouth piece for the cruise line. USPH should have failed the ship

  • tinikini

    No disrespect to crew…..I am not sure how these ships could flunk an inspection since they work their crew 25 hours a day 8 days a week. I mean really what are they making all of their F&B people do all day since they are working them into the dirt!!!??? Obviously not doing what they are supposed doing to pass a health inspection. Better Management, makes a better crew, makes a better ship.

  • Tony Perkins

    Recently returned from 7 night (6 1/2 day) eastern Caribbean cruise with well know cruise line. I picked this cruise from blanket email about discounted cruise as seemed it offered better value.(Cruise line did add $150 service charge on my bill, guess I should have read the fine print) My wife and I were celebrating 42 year marriage anniversary.
    We had been on a short cruise many years ago. Several of my friends told me how much fun they had on recent cruises and encouraged me to book a cruise.

    I won’t try to detail my personal experience or opinion for all aspects of the trip. For the most part, the trip occurred with no real mishaps.
    If you have ever traveled anywhere, you know how dirty-nasty airports and crowded overnight accommodations can be; so always be prepared. On a cruise ship, you are sharing limited space with 2000 of your “friends” most of time during the trip. The time off the ship in excursions and touring also put you in close contact with thousands of other “germ carriers” in all kinds of environments. The ship had “antiseptic” hand stations located strategically throughout areas. Anyhow, about 2/3 through the cruise, I started sneezing out of control.. I thought maybe just allergies, but then starting not feeling well on last day. Later, I remembered getting on ship elevator and as another passenger got on, she was sneezing frequently. (Oh, how I wanted to get off that elevator as soon she got on)
    So I am now back home and have been sick 5 days with fever, congestion, coughing, and other symptoms. My visit to doc and now taking antibiotic and decongestion med.

    I can only say at this time, I will not be booking any more cruises and will take my nose & mouth protection mask on next trip, and whatever else I can do to help not catch the “germ” being carried on “planes, ships and trains”.