center for disease control

The Oceania-operated Insignia failed its last sanitation inspection conducted by United States Public Health (“USPH”) inspectors on December 17, 2018, according to a crew member who wishes to stay anonymous.

The USPH reportedly gave the cruise ship a failing score of only 80, after the sanitation agency inspected the ship in Miami over a month ago. The crew member stated that the Insignia:

” . . .  failed USPH on December 17 in Miami with only 80 points which is a failure on the ship sanitation, food preparation and poor galley cleansing.  All crew, staff and officers was strictly told not to inform anyone since this could damage the company 5 star image.”

Today. the CDC published the report indicating that the Insignia in fact received a failing score of 80. You can read the report here. The report indicates that numerous food-contact surface areas on the ship were heavily soiled and  dusty and dirty; refrigerator units were not built to food equipment standards; and there were flies and other pests found in food service areas.  Potentially hazardous food items were stored and prepared at improper temperatures. Potable water bunkering was not properly tested for pH or halogen and the testing equipment was out of order.

Oceania has still not issues a corrective action report indicating that it has corrected the sanitation deficiencies.

Before this failed sanitation inspection, the Insignia was last inspected by the USPH in August of 2018 when it received a passing score of 98.

The USPH conducts sanitary inspection twice a year on cruise ships which call on U.S. ports. The Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is intended to monitor the cruise ship industry to “prevent and control the introduction, transmission, and spread of gastrointestinal (GI) illnesses on cruise ships.” A sanitation inspector can deduct points for dirty conditions in the galley or when food handlers work while ill, among other issues. An inspection score of 100 is considered perfect (although the inspector can still find some shortcomings); 85 or lower is considered a failing score.

Oceania markets the Insignia as a luxury cruise ship, with a capacity of 684 passengers (lower berths) or 824 passengers (all berths), with a crew of around 400.

The last cruise ship operated by Oceania to fail a USPH inspection was the Regatta in April of 2017 when it received a score of 84. In an article by TheStreet titled the 14 Worst Cruise Ships on the CDC’s Sanitary Inspection List, the Regatta was selected as one of the worst cruise ships from a sanitation perspective for lying to an inspector about a filthy espresso machine labeled “spare parts only;” the CDC report detailed “all of the very obvious evidence that this machine was in current use, starting with the wet grounds in the tray and ending with a small fly was in this area.”

The last luxury cruise ship to fail a USPH inspection was Silversea Cruises’ Silver Wind cruise ship in March of 2018. Among numerous other violations, USPH inspectors located food items and food service equipment hidden in crew member lockers inside a changing room near an engine and air conditioning unit. The Silver Wind received a score of 79.

Five and one-half years ago, Silversea Cruises was also caught ordering its crew members to hide perishable food in crew quarters aboard the Silver Shadow. In July of 2013, 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 inspectors. We covered the story in our article Silver Shadow Fails Sanitation Inspection After Caught Hiding Filthy Conditions from Health Inspectors. You can watch a video about the cover-up aired by CNN here. The USPH issued a score of only 82 after that inspection

In 2015, two years after the disastrous 2013 inspection, the Silver Shadow failed again, with a score of only 82.

The Insignia‘s current score is lower than all of the failing scores received by the Silver Shadow and just a point higher than the Silver Wind‘s disastrous score earlier last year.

The Insignia received a score of 100 in July of 2017 and consistently received passing scores in the range of 88-98 with most scores in the 90’s for the past several years.  But the dirty galley conditions and failing sanitation score may result in some type of retaliation against those responsible for the supervision of the ship’s food and beverage department.

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Photo credit: By Ivan T. -CC BY-SA 3.0, commons / wikimedia.

Courthouse News Service reports that a lawsuit has been filed against Celebrity Cruises for the death of a father of eight after he died from incompetent medical care for norovirus he contracted during a vacation cruise aboard the Celebrity Solstice

The lawsuit alleges that Joseph Gavigan Jr., from Orleans, Massachusetts, embarked the Solstice cruise ship in January of this year in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  During the cruise, a norovirus outbreak occurred and Mr. Gavigan contracted the illness.

The lawsuit alleges that Celebrity failed to take adequate precautions to screen passengers and crewmembers, failed to sanitize and disinfect the cruise ship and disinfect plates, cups, food trays, Joseph Gavigan Jr. - Norovirus - Celebrity Solstice Death utensils, ice machines and drinking fountains, failed to quarantine infected passengers and crewmembers and failed to warn Mr. Gavigan about the virus. 

The lawsuit also alleges that Celebrity provided negligent medical care to Mr. Gavigan, and negligently selected the cruise ship medical staff who held themselves out as agents of the cruise line.

A copy of the lawsuit is available on line and can be viewed here.  The lawsuit was filed by attorney Keith Brais, a very experienced maritime lawyer who used to be a defense lawyer for Celebrity Cruises and other cruise lines.  

The Centers for Decease Control and Prevention reports that 118 cruise passengers and 10 crewmembers reported ill during the voyage.  You can read more about the CDC’s report for this voyage aboard the Solstice here.  

The popular on line community Cruise Critic contains Celebrity’s official press statement about the norovirus outbreaks (which preceded Mr. Gavigan’s cruise) as well as the accounts of unhappy cruisers some of whom felt that the medical staff was incompetent and the cruise line was trying to cover-up and down-play the outbreaks. 

An on line obituary indicates that Mr. Gavigan, nicknamed "Junior," is survived by 21 grandchildren and 17 great grandchildren in addition to his 8 children and companion.

 

Photo credit:  Dockray & Thomas Funeral Home

The Miami Herald reports today that a tourist from the U.K. who died from Legionnaires’ disease had previously sailed on a seven-day Caribbean cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas.  

The newspaper identifies the English cruise passenger as Mr. Tore Myhra. 

Previously, there was speculation that Mr. Myhra may have contracted the disease at a local hotel here in Miami, the luxurious Epic Hotel & Residences.  However, the U.S. Center for Disease Control ("CDC") said that the hotel was not implicated in his death because another person who died of the same strain of Legionella had not stayed at the hotel. 

The Herald’s article today raises the issue whether Mr. Myhra was exposed to Legionella on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship.  The newspaper quotes the medical examiner’s report that Mr. Myhra became sick on the cruise ship and suffered "nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, respiratory difficulty and dry cough.”

The newspaper reports that when the Liberty of the Seas ship returned to port in Miami on October 31st, Mr. Myhra was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital. His symptoms worsened and he died of "Legionella pneumophila pneumonia" on November 1st at the hospital. 

Royal Caribbean’s PR spokesperson, Cynthia Martinez, is quoted as saying that the cruise ship "reacted quickly" to the report of the Legionnaires’ case.  It is less than clear what this means, because the cruise ship kept the sick passenger on the ship and did not request a medevac with the Coast Guard.

The Herald also interviewed a spokesman from the Center for Disease Control.  The newspaper reports that the CDC has investigated "five or six cases of Legionnaires’ disease aboard cruise ships going in and out of South Florida in the past three months."

The CDC representative appears to be assisting the cruise line in damage control, based on the CDC’s quotes in the newspaper: 

"All appropriate steps have been taken.” 

"Cruise ships are very aggressive in responding to such outbreaks." 

Cruising is "a very safe endeavor.”

The CDC refused to identify the cruise ships where passengers contracted Legionnaires’ disease, which is unfortunate because this should be public information. The obvious question remains – did the Liberty of the Seas have prior cases of Legionella?

It makes me nervous when a Federal agency acts like a cheerleader for the cruise lines while refusing to disclose public information regarding which cruise ships may have Legionella.

UPDATE:

The South Florida Business Journal has an excellent article today "Legionnaire’s May Be Linked to Ship."  The articles refers to comments posted on the popular CruiseCritic site that a passenger on the Liberty of the Seas had been diagnosed with Legionnaire’s, so the H20 Zone and hot tubs were closed . . .

 Liberty of the Seas

Cruise Ship – Legionella Information:

Legionnaires’ Disease During Cruise Linked to Water Supply

Legionnaires’ Disease Is Cited in Cruise Death On Celebrity Cruise Ship

CDC: What is Legionnaires’ disease?

 

 

Credits:

Legionella cells                     scienceblogs.com

Legionella in lungs               nalcoeurope.com

Liberty of the Seas                hassocka5489 (via wikemedia commons)

The Clinical Infectious Disease Journal issued a report yesterday after studying why norovirus infection outbreaks occur frequently on cruise ships.

The results were quite telling. Cruise lines always blame the passengers whenever a norovirus outbreak sickens a cruise ship. Some cruise lines know when they have a “sick ship” on their hands. Yet, the cruise line’s PR department or sales team will issue a report, exculpating the vessel and crew, but blaming some poor bastard who had the misfortune of buying a cruise ticket and sitting on a dirty toilet seat on the cruise ship.

Well finally we have a credible report.  Not some pile of propaganda from the PR people at the Cruise Line International Association, whose “facts” are usually dubious, but from highly trained health care professionals. The medical and hygiene experts covertly evaluated the thoroughness of disinfection cleaning on fifty-six (56) cruise ships over the last three years.

The professionals (Philip C. Carling, Lou Ann Bruno‐Murtha, and Jeffrey K. Griffiths) are tops in their fields.  They are from highly respected universities, including Boston University School of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and Tufts University Schools of Medicine, Nutrition, and Engineering.

These experts secretly tested whether objects with high potential for fecal contamination, such as toilet seats in cruise ship public restrooms, could be a cause of norovirus breakouts.

The experts’ objective tests revealed that only 37% of selected toilet area objects on cruise ships were cleaned on a daily basis. Such low scores may explain why certain cruise ships are prone to infect passengers with norovirus.

The experts’ recommendation?  “Enhanced public restroom cleaning.”

Let’s keep it simple, stop blaming the passengers – and clean the damn toilets!