The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) inspect cruise ships twice a year. The agency recently published their report of which vessels had too many violations to pass the most recent inspection. In the confined and self-contained world of a cruise ship, sanitation is vitally important to prevent the spread of illnesses – foodborne and otherwise.
Cruise Ships that Failed Inspection
Of the dozens of cruise ships that were included in the CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program, eight received a score of 85 or lower. Scores are calculated out of a total of 100. The CDC labels a score of less than 85 as “unsatisfactory.” Some of the unsanitary and unsatisfactory ships are part of very popular cruise lines.
The eight ships that scored below 85 include:
- Un-Cruise Adventures ship Safari Endeavor
- Silversea Cruises ship Silver Wind
- Silversea Cruises ship Silver Spirit
- Oceania Cruises ship Oceania Insignia
- Compagnie du Ponant ship Le Boreal
- Norwegian Cruise Lines ship Norwegian Breakaway
- Japan Grace ship Ocean Dream
- Japan Cruise Line ship Pacific Venus
These eight ships each have an “unsatisfactory” score. In addition, several other ships hover right above that designation with scores of 86 or 87.
Cruise ship safety is definitely something to consider before scheduling a trip. Consider some of the more stomach-churning violations reported by the CDC:
- An improper onboard potable water inspection system
- Onboard water supplies that had not been tested for E. coli
- Whirlpool spas without filtration systems
- Housekeeping food items (such as creamer and sugar for passenger rooms) stored underneath exposed and filthy wires in a closet.
The ship with the lowest score overall was the Pacific Venus with an ignoble and unsettling score of 76. The score was so low for this ship because she received violation after violation for her onboard water systems. Further, very little about the vessel’s potable water system passed the CDC’s inspection due to concerns over microbial life in the water supply.
Most disturbing of all were the inspector notes regarding the ship’s ice machines and systems. Inspectors noted both “black debris” and “pink and brown debris” in the ice machines, as well as a “reddish purple drip” from one ice machine.
Most Violations Happened in the Kitchens
Though the Pacific Venus’s inspection showed a spectacular lack of understanding of cruise ship sanitation practices, many of the other ships lost points for violations in their kitchens. Arguably the most dangerous, and certainly the most off-putting, kitchen sanitation violations abounded in the remaining seven ships that failed inspection.
CDC investigators observed:
- Improper records of inventory of perishable foods
- Dirty and soiled containers of food in refrigerators
- Food in refrigerators past their “discard by” dates
- Black debris that resembled black mold in an ice machine
- Black debris on the outer surfaces of an ice machine
- Several ships lost points due to the presence of fruit flies in their kitchen.
On a cruise ship or anywhere else, fruit flies in a kitchen are cause for concern. Fruit flies are basically sponges for bacteria and foodborne illness. The tiny insects feed on rotting food. Where their diminutive feet touch food, they leave a footprint of all bacteria that can be found thriving in rot and filth.
Fruit flies are known carriers of the pathogens that give people food poisoning. Female fruit flies will also lay eggs on the surface of fruits and other foods, which can be consumed by people if the food wasn’t washed prior to consumption.
What Happens When Passengers Get Sick on Cruise Ships
Though the eight cruise ships above failed to meet CDC sanitation standards, as far as we know there have not been any major outbreaks of illness aboard these ships. Even on a cruise ship that passes inspection with flying colors, you can still catch a foodborne illness or get sick otherwise.
Cruise lines do their best to minimize the number of passengers with communicable diseases on board. If you cruise frequently, you are probably familiar with the health and wellness questionnaire you fill out as you board and register. Passengers with symptoms of gastroenteritis (stomach flu) or other illnesses will sometimes be evaluated by the ship’s doctor before joining the cruise officially.
If you become ill during the course of a cruise, you can visit the infirmary, which is usually staffed with a physician and several nurses. The care that you can receive aboard a cruise ship is very limited. For life threatening situations or serious illness, the cruise ship’s health team will only stabilize you until you can be moved to an on-shore medical facility.
Risk Factors for Cruise Ship Illness
A couple of other things to keep in mind about becoming ill on a cruise ship:
- Confined and crowded environments promote the swift spread of disease. If you become ill aboard a ship, it’s best to stay isolated in your cabin until it passes.
- Preventative measures are the best way to avoid foodborne and other contagious illnesses while on a cruise. Wash your hands frequently and avoid touching objects in public places that collect germs like handrails, buffet tongs, and elevator buttons.
- Medications, both prescription and over the counter, will be available for you to buy if the onboard doctor thinks you need them, but you will be charged a premium price.
- The cruise doctor foodborne illness. The costs of your care will be added to your onboard account.
Headed On a Cruise?
If you are making plans to take a cruise this summer, don’t cancel your trip just yet. The CDC report found several cruise ships that scored a perfect 100 for sanitation practices. Since the CDC conducts these sanitation checks twice yearly, check back with them frequently. This will help you determine if you need to alter your plans.
Have You Become Sick While on a Cruise Ship? Talk to Maritime Injury Lawyers
Within reason, cruise lines have a responsibility to protect their customers from illness and injury. The gross negligence of sanitation perpetrated by the eight cruise ships who failed the CDC inspection created a dangerous environment for all passengers. Customers who cruised aboard those ships risked exposure to bacteria including E. coli, food poisoning, and the toxicity of black mold.
If you or someone you love has required medical attention after becoming ill while on a cruise ship, you may have legal recourse. If the cause of your illness was neglected sanitation, your rights may have been violated. Find out more by calling Maritime Injury Guide at 1-866-871-8422. You can also contact us via our online form.