Carnival Cruise Line’s ships seem to be having a bit of a sanitation problem in recent months.
The Carnival Liberty is now the fourth ship belonging to the Doral-based cruise line to fail its sanitation inspection in the span of two months. While large ships from major cruise lines do fail inspections from time to time, a string of failures so close together is a rarity.
In Liberty’s Jan. 4 inspection, inspectors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vessel Sanitation Program found at least three dead flying insects inside a dishwasher, a beverage carton in a refrigerator with a long hair on it, and corroded, dirty or broken machinery.
In the Port Canaveral-based ship’s Silver Olympian Dining Room, “hundreds” of previously cleaned items were stored in an area for dirty dishes. In a Serenity whirlpool spa, the analyzer that measures bromine and pH levels was malfunctioning and had to be recalibrated.
The Carnival Liberty, Carnival Breeze, Carnival Vista and Carnival Triumph have all failed their most recent sanitation inspections.
A crew member who had symptoms of acute gastroenteritis continued working before reporting the symptoms.
The violations were among more than a dozen found by CDC inspectors. As part of the Vessel Sanitation Program, inspectors randomly inspect ships multiple times a year in an effort to control the spread of gastrointestinal illnesses on cruise vessels. Ships must score 86 points or higher, out of 100, to pass.
Liberty scored an 80.
Carnival Cruise Line spokeswoman Jennifer De La Cruz said in a statement that the recent inspection scores “are not indicative of the utmost importance we place on operational excellence aboard our vessels.”
“We have taken immediate corrective action, not only for the items reported, but also in providing widespread and intensive re-training and continuing education to all levels of our shipboard team members across the fleet,” De La Cruz said. “Our shoreside and shipboard teams are engaged and focused on ensuring that our shipboard operations are held to the highest standards and that our teams deliver an exceptional experience to our guests.”
Carnival has historically earned passing grades for most of its vessels during inspections. The recent failures constitute the first time each of the four ships has failed an inspection.
We have taken immediate corrective action, not only for the items reported, but also in providing widespread and intensive re-training and continuing education to all levels of our shipboard team members across the fleet.
Jennifer De La Cruz, Carnival Cruise Line spokeswoman
Carnival, along with other cruise operators, helps to fund the Vessel Sanitation Program to ensure ships are constantly being audited for these kinds of issues.
Miami-based maritime lawyer James Walker estimates that failed inspections on cruise ships happen about two to three times a year, meaning Carnival’s recent string is far outpacing the typical circumstances. Most failures happen on smaller ships from lesser-known cruise lines, he said.
Other than three other Carnival ships, the only ships to fail their most recent inspections are luxury French line Ponant’s Le Boreal, which earned an 84; Peace Boat’s Ocean Dream with an 82; Victory Cruise Line’s Victory I, which earned a 78, and a little-known Caribbean ferry, Kydon, which scored a 61.
Still, it’s unclear what, if any, correlation there is between failures and the gastro illness norovirus that sometimes breaks out on cruise ships and other closed environments, such as schools.
“I don’t see any correlation between failed inspections and any trend toward being more or less susceptible to norovirus,” Walker said in an interview earlier this month.
Carnival’s string of failures began with the Carnival Triumph, which failed an inspection in early November when inspectors found flies in the food preparation areas, milk, cheese, eggs and yogurt being kept in too-hot temperatures and soiled and clogged machinery on the vessel.
The Triumph, which was also the site of the notorious 2013 “poop cruise,” scored a 78, but was later re-inspected and passed with a 98, De La Cruz said. The re-inspection report has not yet been released by the CDC.
During Carnival Vista’s Dec. 2 inspection, crew members were found making an “organized effort” to hide trolleys of potentially hazardous food, equipment and dirty dishware from sanitation inspectors. Fruit flies were found by the buffet and in a Parmesan cheese container.
In a Dec. 10 inspection, machinery on the Carnival Breeze, another of Carnival’s newest ships, was found to be corroded or not functioning properly. About 25 garbage bins overflowing with waste were found by inspectors near an area where food was handled. Inspectors found the levels of bromine, which kills bacteria in the water, in the Cloud 9 spa hot tubs to be too low.
Crew on both ships were found improperly filling out documentation on passengers who got sick on board. Crew on the Vista and the Breeze, like those on the Liberty, were also found going back to work even though they were experiencing symptoms of acute gastroenteritis.
Neither the Carnival Breeze nor the Vista has been re-inspected yet, De La Cruz said.
“We anticipate re-inspections in the near future for Carnival Breeze, Carnival Vista and Carnival Liberty and are confident that the noted issues have been fully addressed,” De La Cruz said.