The MSC Seaside failed a recent health inspection conducted by inspectors at Port Canaveral with a score of just 67. Such a low score is virtually unheard of. There have been only three lower USPH inspection scores in the last twenty years, all involving smaller ships from lesser or hardly known cruise lines. A couple of years ago, a “little-known Caribbean ferry” (the Miami Herald’s characterization) named Kydon, scored a low USPH inspection score of just 61.
The inspection report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the MSC Seaside totals 18 pages and outlines 105 violations. In the first entry in the health inspection report, inspectors found “ten flies” in a bar on the MSC cruise ship. Dirty “dinnerware, glassware and buckets” were located throughout the ship’s pantry and room service pantries (one area was “overflowing with soiled utensils”). Numerous washing machines for dishes and glassware were observed to be in a state of disrepair.
Other common findings included:
• Restrooms and passenger handwashing stations lacked soap;
• Counters soiled with old food residue;
• Dishes, cups, pots, pans, serving containers, and other utensils soiled with encrusted and or wet food residue;
• “Black filth residue coated the outside of four large containers of yogurt; ;
• Numerous hazardous food items, including uncooked chicken, measured in the temperature danger zone; and
• A crew member cooking raw hamburgers at the buffet station was observed later working in the buffet line without washing his hands – the “inspector intervened and observed the crew member’s hands and refrigerator handle covered in hamburger blood.”
As the Miami Herald explained, inspectors randomly inspect ships multiple times a year (usually twice), as part of the Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP), 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.
Most ships score in the 90’s with some receiving perfect scores. Disney Cruise Line, for example, received scores of 100 in the last inspections of its fleet of five cruise ships.
The VSP has been in effect since the early 1990’s. Seventy-eight (78) cruise ships have failed inspection in the history of the VSP. In the last twenty (20) years, only three cruise ships have obtained lower sanitation scores than the MSC Seaside (the un-Cruise Aventure’s Safari Endeavour (68), Bernhard Schulte Cruise Services’ Amadea (63). and V. Ships Leisure U.S.A.’s Pearl Mist (61).
The last significant news coverage of failed cruise ship USPH inspections occurred back in January 2018 when we reported on four Carnival cruise ships failing inspections, involving the Carnival Liberty (80), Carnival Breeze (77), Carnival Triumph (78) 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.
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. 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.
MSC Cruises has not issued a statement regarding the failed report. There have been approximately over 3,500 USPH inspections of cruise ships since the VSP began. The MSC Seaside’s score of 67 is the the fourth lowest cruise ship inspection score in the last 20 years.
The CDC permits the a cruise line to submit a “Corrective Action Report” whenever a ship fails an inspection. The cruise company can explain in the report the steps taken to fix the unsanitary conditions and/or explain why points should not have been deducted. MSC Cruises did not bother to submit such as report.