united states public health

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.

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

 

  

The purpose of the Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is to assist the cruise ship industry to "prevent and control the introduction, transmission, and spread of gastrointestinal (GI) illnesses on cruise ships." VSP operates under the authority of the U.S. Public Health Service Act.

USPH sanitation inspectors conduct inspections twice a year on cruise ships when they are in a U.S. port. The inspections are supposedly a surprise, although many crew members have stated that federal inspectors sometimes give advance notice of the inspections to the cruise ships. A score of 85 or below constitutes a failed sanitation score, and often leads to the firing of the shipboard Food & Beverage department heads and/or managers and always result in increased work by the shipboard employees.

Market Watch just published a comprehensive article, by reporter Jacob Passy, titled Record Number Carnival Libertyof Cruise Ships Failed Health and Safety Inspections in 2017, concluding that there were 14 instances where a cruise ship failed a sanitation inspection last year.  The article found that  Carnival Cruise Line cruise ships received five failing grades, in addition to one one failure this year.

Carnival claims that its food handling and preparation are of the "highest quality, which seems questionable regarding the details of the scores like on the Carnival Breeze (77), Carnival Triumph (78), Carnival Vista (79), Carnival Legend (83), and Carnival Paradise (83). The Carnival Liberty failed this year with a score of only 83.  

The Carnival Vista was re-inspected yesterday and receive a score of only 88, a passing but not a good score coming off of such a spectacular failure last year.  The CDC has not published the re-inspection score yet.

Carnival also claims that it "immediately" corrected the unsanitary conditions found by the inspectors. (Carnival ships failed inspections 4 times in the last 2 months). But the truth is that Carnival has still not even filed a "corrective actions" report for the Carnival Vista which failed the USPH inspection last year. The report found that not only did Carnival try to intentionally hide food and dirty galley equipment in crew quarters, but the the USPH noted that a Carnival supervisor disciplined a food handler who was experiencing acute gastrointestinal virus symptoms when he did not report to work.

The VSP requires cruise lines to correct the non-conforming conditions and file a "corrective report" promptly after the violation. The Vista failed its inspection over six weeks ago, but Carnival has still not filed a corrective report as of today’s date, January 27, 2018. 

Market Watch state that the CDC can advise a ship not to sail if "particularly egregious violations are uncovered," which may be true in theory but never occurs in reality. It’s difficult to imagine more egregious violations than what the USPH found on the Vista last month, but there is no evidence that the cruise line has even bothered to file a report admitting to its violations and outlining its corrective actions. 

Part of this problem is that there is often a cozy relationship between federal inspectors and cruise line officials where unsanitary conditions are sometimes not noted or enforced. Indeed, it took over a month for the CDC to even publish the failed inspections on the Carnival Breeze and Carnival Heath Inspection - ClosedTriumph last month on its official website. 

A shore-side restaurant with a failed health inspection will quickly find a "closed due to health inspection" placard (photo right) taped on its front door. For health violations on cruise ships, however, the public has to search the online database, which is often not current, for information. 

A cruise ship which is caught intentionally hiding food and galley equipment in its crew quarters, or which does not timely submit a corrective report, should be barred from sailing.  A local shore-side restaurant would be shut down in a minute for such unsanitary conditions. But the USPH often bends to the cruise line’s the-show-must-go-on mentality. 

Market Watch interviewed cruise expert cruise expert Dr. Ross Klein who noted that a failed CDC inspection is all the more questionable when looking at the details of the reports for cruise ships that have actually passed inspections. According to Dr. Klein, “you can get 100% but there can still be a number of citations for things that were not up to standards."

Market Watch wrote that one ship which received a 100% score was cited for storing boxes of fruit juice near raw egg shells and for one crew member was working while showing symptoms of gastroenteritis.

Dr. Klein also noted that the Vessel Sanitation Program applies only to cruise ships calling on U.S. ports. Few countries outside of the U.S. inspect cruise ships for sanitation problems.

Which cruise ships which flunked the USPH sanitation inspections last year? See the list below:

  • Carnival Breeze (77);
  • Carnival Legend (83);
  • Carnival Paradise (83);
  • Carnival Triumph (78);
  • Carnival Vista (79);
  • Ferries Del Caribe Kydon (55, 61);
  • Japan Cruise Line’s Pacific Venus (76); 
  • Japan Grace Line’s Ocean Dream (82);
  • Oceania Regatta (84); 
  • Paradise Cruise Line’s Grand Celebration (84);
  • Ponant’s Le Boreal (84);
  • Princess Cruises Crown Princess (84); and
  • Victory I Partners, Ltd.’s Victory 1 (78);

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Photo credit: Carnival Liberty – Workman – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia.

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