Today, Royal Caribbean Cruises announced that it is acquiring a 66.7% stake in Silversea Cruises for $1,000,000,000 (billion) and assuming around $500,000,000 (million) in debt.

As a privately held cruise brand, Silversea operates nine ships with two newbuilds, Silver Moon and Silver Dawn, which are under construction for delivery in 2020 and 2021, with an option for a sister ship.

RCL states that it plans to finance the purchase through debt. Silversea’s executive chairman, Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio, will qualify for an estimated contingent payment of of 472,000 RCL shares, based on reaching certain 2019-2020 performance marks, which are currently worth a little over $50,000,000 based on the current price of RCL shares.

Seatrade Cruise explains that Silversea was the “brainchild of Antonio Lefebvre d’Ovidio, a noted Italian jurist and law professor who wanted to create a new class of spacious ships with highly Royal Caribbean - Silversea Cruise Dealpersonalized service. In 1988, he purchased the majority of Sitmar Cruises, merging it with P&O’s Princess Cruises a year later. In 1994, he launched Silversea Cruises with two purpose-built ships. His son Manfredi, who had been involved in the family’s businesses from an early age, managed ship operations. He took control of the company and became chairman in 2001.”

Silversea Cruises has tarnished its reputation in the last few years, having faced the embarrassment of crew members being ordered to hide carts of food and galley equipment in crew member quarters on the Silver Shadow in 2013. CNN aired a special report of the CDC flunking the Silver Shadow when inspectors caught Silversea in the act.  The Silver Shadow flunked another CDC inspection in 2015.

The Silver Wind also flunked a USPH sanitation inspection last month.

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Photo Credit; Royal Caribbean/Silversea via Travel Weekly,

Silversea 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.

Silver CloudThe failure of a fuel pump and engine left the Silver Cloud adrift as it headed toward Antarctica on November 20, 2017, according to the Telegraph newspaper in London.

Power was reportedly restored to the ship in about an hour, permitting the Silver Cloud to return to Puerto Madryn in southeast Argentina for repairs. However, the following day, Silversea concluded that the replacement fuel pump part would not be delivered in time for the ship to cruise to Antarctica.

The recently-refurbished ship was scheduled to call on the Falkland Islands, the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula on a 16 day expedition between Buenos Aires and Ushuaia. Rough weather had delayed the cruise, with the capital of the Falklands, Stanley, being omitted from the itinerary.

The article explains that that the 23 year-old Silver Cloud underwent extensive refitting, including a three month refit at a shipyard in Malta, to convert it for polar expedition voyages. The refurbishment of the ship into a ice-class luxury expedition vessel is discussed in Silversea Cruises ‘Silver Cloud’ Undergoing Massive Refurbishment by Brad Anderson.

The ill-fated maiden cruise to Antarctica cost the passengers around £12,000 (nearly $16,000) each. The newspaper reports that "Silversea will provide full refunds to all passengers, as well as organising and paying for flights back to Buenos Aires and on to guests’ airports of origin. It also offered overnight accommodation and expenses in Buenos Aires, a refund of outward air fares, and a discount on future bookings."

Luckily, the engine failure occurred in "relatively light seas. If the power failure occurred in the "infamously rough" Drake Passage to Antarctica, the outcome "might have been much more serious."

Clelia II We have written about near-disasters while cruising to Antarctica:

The Clelia II Skirts Disaster Again in Antarctica

Who’s Responsible When a Cruise Ship Sinks in Antarctica?

Power failures to small "adventure" cruise ships present particular dangers to the cruise passengers and crew. The waters in the South Atlantic are treacherous. The Clelia II (photo right) caught the world’s attention in December 2010 when it lost most of its power after a wave smashed windows and disabled its communications system and impaired its propulsion system while it was trying to return to Argentina from Antarctica. The video of the little expedition ship bouncing helplessly on high waves into howling winds is a must see. It made my list of the Top Five Worst Cruise Ship Disaster Videos.

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Ironically, CNN just published an article touting the bow-to-stern ice-class renovation of the Silver Cloud, costing $46.5 million, in How to turn a cruise ship into an Arctic luxury liner.

Photo credit: Top – Richard Sidey via gtspirit.com; bottom – Jonbowermaster.com.

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

I just read incredibly misleading headlines about Silversea Cruises’ new WI-Fi policy – "Silversea: Free WiFi for All Guests."

Cruise Industry News quoted Silversea Cruises’ Kristian Anderson, Silversea’s senior vice president of sales and general manager for the Americas: 

"For well over 20 years, Silversea has set the course in defining the all-inclusive, ultra-luxury cruise experience. By offering truly free Wi-Fi to all guests regardless of the suite reserved, Silverseas is Silversea Cruises Wi Fionce again setting the standard for all-inclusive luxury. Because we know how important it is for travelers to stay informed and connected, we’re delighted to enhance the all-inclusive Silversea experience with this new benefit."

The Sun Sentinel headline: "Free Wi-Fi for Everyone on Silversea Cruises" was equally misleading and deceitful. 

In truth, unlimited free Wi-Fi will be available only to select guests staying in owner’s, grand, royal, silver and medallion suites. Otherwise the rest of the passenger get only one free hour! (Can you imagine trying to load a Facebook page?) And it used to be included in fare for Mediterranean sailings!

Silversea didn’t bother to disclose what it will charge its customers after an hour.  

Sounds like the Silversea people are back to their fun and games, like when they were caught hiding trolleys of food from the USPH inspectors.   

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June 20 2015 Update: You can see what Silversea charges passengers here.

Photo Credit: Silversea Cruises via iCruise

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

 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) flunked Silversea’s luxury cruise ship, the Silver Shadow, for unsanitary conditions. 

The Silversea cruise ship received a failing score of only 82. The inspectors determined the ship had improper medical protocols for crew members with acute gastroenteritis. The inspectors found 40 unsanitary conditions such as improper temperatures for stored food, improper sneeze guards at the ship’s buffet stations, and unsanitary whirlpools.  

Incredibly, Silversea refused to submit a corrective action report.

Two years ago, this cruise ship engaged in an intentional, calculated scheme to hide food and galley equipment in crew cabins.Crew members on the 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 to "over 10 individual cabins"  in order to avoid scrutiny of vessel sanitation inspectors. It flunked Silversea with a score of 82.

We were interviewed by CNN regarding Silversea’s scam.

We found Silversea Cruises to have acted deliberately and unethically. It was obviously not committed to safe food practices, a conclusion which is reinforced by this latest series of violations.

Unfortunately, the CDC can’t enter significant sanctions against renegade cruise lines like this even when the cruise ships intentionally violate CDC sanitation protocols. Our government should impose meaningful monetary sanctions and shut cruise ships down when they threaten the health of passengers. 

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The CNN video of the last CDC failed score is below:

 

http://www.cnn.com/video/api/embed.html#/video/us/2013/07/25/ac-griffin-pkg-dirty-cruise-line-food.cnn

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 

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.

 

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.