Flies in the food preparation areas. Milk, cheese, eggs and yogurt kept in too-hot temperatures. Soiled and clogged machinery.
These were some of the conditions uncovered by two inspectors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during a routine November inspection of the Carnival Triumph, which sails four- and five-day Caribbean cruises out of New Orleans.
More than two dozen violations aboard the 2,754-passenger vessel led the CDC to slap Triumph with a failing grade. The report of the inspection, detailing the Triumph’s sanitary shortcomings, was released last week.
The failure constituted a rare occurrence for a large cruise ship. Large vessels belonging to major cruise lines often score a passing grade on the CDC inspections: 86 points or above, out of 100.
Triumph scored a 78.
“As far as a large ship, I couldn’t tell you the last time this happened,” said Miami-based cruise expert Stewart Chiron. “That’s how rare this is.”
The last major failure by a cruise line to snag headlines was luxury line Silversea’s Silver Shadow, which was slapped with a failing grade or 82 in 2013.
The CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program helps prevent and control the spread of gastrointestinal illnesses, such as norovirus, on cruise ships by performing periodic, unannounced inspections every year with one to four inspectors, depending on the size of the ship.
Doral, Florida-based Carnival Cruise Lines said it set about correcting the issues “immediately” and a correction-action report was provided to the CDC detailing how it fixed the issues. The line has requested a re-inspection as soon as possible, said spokeswoman Jennifer De La Cruz.
“The health and well-being of our guests and crew is Carnival Cruise Lines’ highest priority, and on the extremely rare occasion when one of our ships has an unsatisfactory score, we initiate immediate and aggressive corrective action and closely examine the factors involved to ensure full understanding among all team members,” she said.
According to CDC records dating back to 1999, the Triumph had never failed an inspection.
However, the Triumph was dubbed the “poop cruise” in 2013 when an engine room fire caused the ship to lose propulsion and left passengers with a limited number of working bathrooms and no air conditioning. It was eventually tugged back to Alabama from Mexico — but not until after tales of the foul odors, dark hallways and food shortages became notorious.
Triumph earned a 78 in November due to a combination of mistakes, many of them related to faulty machinery.
Dirty dishwasher issues were common, with one taken out of service after it was “extremely soiled with debris” and another found to have 10 clogged wash nozzles. Other violations included water leaks, corrosion in an ice machine and disrepair in food-and-beverage areas. “A large quantity of potentially hazardous food,” was stored in temperatures between 45 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit, well above the guideline of 41 degrees or less.
In November, Carnival said it will deploy its 2,974-passenger Carnival Valor from Galveston, Texas, to New Orleans in May 2019 in place of the Triumph. Also, the 2,980-passenger Carnival Glory, now in Miami, will replace the 3,646-passenger Carnival Dream, sailing year-round seven-day cruises out of New Orleans.
Ultimately, there will likely be no long-term impact for the Triumph, said Mike Driscoll, editor of the trade publication Cruise Week, as long as the ship passes its re-inspection.
“Lots of restaurants keep on failing and eventually close so I don’t think it’s like that. I don’t recall any cruise ship ever stopping service due to CDC failures,” Driscoll said. “So, (it’s) not a pretty picture, but (it’s) correctable.”