A game of hide and seek aboard one of the most luxurious cruise ships afloat resulted in a failing grade from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) when a surprise inspection was conducted. This summer, in Skagway, Alaska, the cruise ship Silver Shadow, which had previously scored in the highest range of grades, was repeatedly cited for using an “organized effort” to remove 15 trolleys of food from the ship’s galley to individual crew cabins to "avoid inspection." This surprise inspection occurred because concerned crew members sent photographs to the CDC showing meat in sinks and trays of food in the hallways outside the cabins.
The Silver Shadow received a failing grade of 82. Anything less than an 84 is considered “unsatisfactory“, according to the CDC website.
Before the release of the score, a spokeswoman for Silversea Cruises, Ltd, e-mailed CNN stating that the firm was “deeply disappointed” with the inspection. Silversea Cruises, owner of the Silver Shadow, sells itself in its advertisements as emphasizing luxury and a “world class culinary experience.” Most large cruise ships carry from 2,000 to 5,000 passengers, but Silversea Cruises focuses on a more intimate experience carrying only around 300. This luxury and “world class” experience is not cheap. Passengers are charged an average of $5,000 per week to sail on their ships.
During the inspection, the crew members aboard the Silver Shadow claim their superiors ordered them to sleep with food in their cabins. Adriano Colonna, a pastry chef, hired on a short term contract, said salami, blue cheese, as well as other food items, were kept unrefrigerated in crew cabins night after night to avoid health inspections. According to the CDC’s final report, bleach was poured over the discarded food to prevent it from being used after the inspection. A promise was made to correct these actions, but no fine was issued and the ship was allowed to continue on its scheduled trip along Alaska’s inside passage to Juneau.
The CDC has no real authority to correct these issues. The CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program employs inspectors from the U.S Public Health Service and all it can truly do is ask the cruise line to correct the problems. "The CDC requires all ships to submit corrective action statements for deficiencies," the program states on its website. "The CDC does not verify that the deficiencies have been corrected until after conducting the next vessel inspection."
This failed inspection aboard the Silver Shadow is not an anomaly. This year alone, six cruise ships have met failing grades upon inspection from the CDC. Despite cruise ships being the subject of many negative headlines in the past few years, recent surveys have shown that overall customer satisfaction remains high with the eight major cruise lines. (J.D. Power and Associates) Disney Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International and Holland America Line came in first, second and third, respectively, in customer satisfaction, while Carnival ranked last. Silversea Cruises was not included in the survey which measures seven factors that can affect a passenger’s enjoyment and experience: condition of the room, food, service, the efficiency of boarding and departing the ship, entertainment, cost and excursions.
The question remains:
Is the food aboard cruise ships safe?