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 Princess 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