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.

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.

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

 

  

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.

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.

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Photo credit: Jim Walker via Ship Life – The Pot Wash Blues

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.

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Photo credit: Whiskey5jda  CC BY-SA 4.0

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.

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

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-."  

 

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Photo Credit: Batzner Pest Management

Celebrity Century Cruise Ship - Failed CDC ScoreAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), another Celebrity Cruises ship flunked a surprise inspection.

The Celebrity Century failed the CDC inspection, receiving a score of only 78.

Last week we reported that another Celebrity cruise ship, the Summit scored, flunked an inspection with a score of only 81. Three other cruise ships received failing scores as well.  So far this year there have been five cruise ships with failing grades. Read our article: Disease Breeding Grounds: Three Cruise Ships Fail Health & Sanitary Inspections.

The most disturbing finding was not just that the Century was dirty with contaminated food debris, but that crew members worked while ill with gastrointestinal sicknesses. Several of the ill ship employees worked in the galleys or interacted with passengers while ill.  The other cruise ships who flunked the inspections earlier this year also had ill crew members who worked with food and around passengers as well.  

These findings are significant because the cruise lines always blame the passengers when there are norovirus outbreaks and accuse the quests of not washing their hands.  The outbreaks may be due to ill employees who may be contaminating the food and infecting passengers.  

Celebrity Cruise Ship - Failed CDC ScoreYou can read the report of the Century here

The report indicates that two cruise ship cook worked while ill before reporting to the ship’s medical infirmary.  A sick hair stylist worked all day around passengers before going to the medical center. And an ill gift shop attendant worked before going to the medical center and continued working after he was suppose to be in isolation.

A particularly disgusting finding was that the toilet intended for galley workers was found locked when the galley was in service, and when the inspectors opened the door, the bathroom had no toilet paper.

And you wonder why there are norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships?

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Photo Credit: Celebrity Century Cruise Ship – Wikipedia / Emesbe