With 25 ships in its fleet, Carnival Cruise Line hosts
federal sanitary inspectors on an almost weekly basis, and most of its ships
get a clean bill of health.
Yet the line finds itself in the unusual position of three
ships having been graded "unsatisfactory" by the U.S. Public Health
Service's Vessel Sanitation Program within the space of a month.
On Nov. 11, the Carnival Triumph received a 78 on its
inspection, followed by the Carnival Vista with a 79 on Dec. 2 and the Carnival
Breeze with a 77 on Dec. 10.
Inspected ships must achieve at least an 86 on a scale of 1
to 100 to receive a "satisfactory" assessment.
It isn't known if there was any common factor that led to
the three ships failing inspection in such close proximity, although the
deficiencies listed in the program's online reports are different for each ship.
"We take these inspections very seriously and share
lessons learned and best practices with every ship in our fleet," Carnival
said in a statement. "We appreciate the work of the U.S. Public Health
Service in identifying areas for improvement, and we have taken immediate
action to address the issues identified during recent ship inspections."
Carnival's situation is unusual in two ways. It is rare for
large ships that sail regularly from U.S. ports to score less than a passing 86
grade on the inspection, much less for three ships from the same line to do so
in the space of a month.
In addition, the inspection report for the Vista says that
crew members made "an organized effort 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."
The report said six gray containers of soiled plastic cups
and one cardboard box of souvenir cups were stored directly on the deck, as was
one stack of approximately 100 plates labeled "chipped plates."
On a rolling trolley, there was a container with a bag of
wine, cocktail sauce, 23 packages of butter, one container of buttermilk, one
container of whipping cream and assorted equipment. The butter had a
temperature of 66.4 degrees Fahrenheit, the report said.
Inside a crew cabin, three plastic bins were found stored
directly on the deck. Bread crisps, produce, raw salmon and spices were found
in the bins. Red wine sauce, frozen pork sauce, butter and cherry tomatoes were
stored on top of the bin. A cook's uniform was hanging on a hook directly above
these items. It was unclear if this uniform had been previously cleaned.
Hiding items from inspectors is rarely documented. The most
recent example is from 2013, when an inspection of Silversea Cruises' Silver
Shadow in Alaska resulted in a score of 82 after inspectors found the crew had
made an organized effort to physically remove 15 trollies of food and equipment
to crew cabins.
Silversea made corrections, and the ship was eventually re-inspected
and received a passing grade.
A quick correction is also the case with the Carnival
Triumph, which Carnival said has already been re-inspected, earning a score of
98. In its statement, Carnival said the score "is indicative of the swift
corrective measures we take in response to an inspection. We have taken the same
immediate approach with Carnival Breeze and Carnival Vista."
There is no indication that any passengers were sickened by
the deficiencies turned up in the exams.
Carnival pointed out in its statement that cruise lines fund
the government's inspection program "because it highlights areas of
immediate opportunity when an item is noted."
"Rest assured, we will leverage our learnings from this
process as a best practice," the statement said.
Ironically, the Carnival Breeze was one of 33 ships that
received a perfect score of 100 in 2017, when it was first inspected in
February. Five of the 33 ships were from Carnival. Celebrity Cruises had six
perfect scores; Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International and Disney
Cruise Line all had four; and Holland America Line and Princess Cruises three
"These scores are a testament to cruise line efforts to
provide passengers with the highest level of service," said Donnie Brown,
vice president of maritime policy at CLIA.