Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Fails CDC Inspection

December 20, 2011

(12:54 p.m. EST) -- Soiled plates in the clean buffet stack, missing safety signage and more than 30 fruit flies, dead and alive, were recently discovered on Monarch of the Seas by inspectors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those and dozens of other infractions earned the Royal Caribbean ship a failing score of 85 out of 100 on its November 18 vessel sanitation inspection.

The CDC's stringent (and surprise) cruise ship cleanliness exam is conducted twice a year, with an 86 considered passing.

In the detailed report, fruit flies were mentioned 11 times, having been found in bulkheads, by preparation counters, and in and around the buffet during live service. The ship also came under fire for not maintaining potentially hazardous foods at proper temperatures and/or not logging when said foods were refrigerated. Temperature checks at 8:45 a.m. in one of Monarch's walk-ins found shredded cheese, kidney beans, raw eggs and shredded deli ham all above the required level of 41 degrees F. The staff stated the ambient temperature log for the walk-in was checked at 5:45 a.m. -- but there were no food temperature checks recorded. All these foods were discarded.

According to the 2011 version of the CDC's Vessel Sanitation Program's (VSP) Operations Manual, "Except during preparation, cooking, or cooling, potentially hazardous foods must be maintained at 135 degrees Fahrenheit or above (roasts may be held at a temperature of 130 degrees), or 41 degrees Fahrenheit or less."

The report further revealed that Monarch had not adopted new standards from the VSP's updated manual, which include carrying a test kit for measuring alkalinity in the swimming pools and posting poolside safety signs warning passengers not to use the facilities if they are "experiencing diarrhea, vomiting, or fever" and encouraging them to shower before entering the facility.

In a statement, Royal Caribbean said it was "extremely disappointed" to learn that Monarch only received an 85 during its last inspection. The line added that it is working closely with the proper authorities to "correct and remedy the deficiencies found aboard Monarch that caused the low score," and that it has "already submitted [its] corrective action report." The line added that it was "confident that Monarch of the Seas would receive a passing score when the ship was re-inspected." Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez tells Cruise Critic that the re-test has not yet taken place.

The 2,390-passenger Monarch of the Seas is Royal Caribbean's oldest vessel, having debuted in 1991. According to the CDC Web site, the ship has been tested 43 times since its launch, earning one other failing score, an 82 in 1996. Monarch earned a 97 on its previous inspection in July.

The last cruise ship to fail an inspection was Queen Mary 2, which garnered an 84 in June. During QM2's pop test, inspectors found a human hair in an ice machine, "extremely dirty" water in a pool, chemicals stored near napkins and paper cups, and even a few errant cockroaches. QM2 received a 92 when it was re-inspected the following month.

Since January 1, 37 ships have earned a perfect score of 100, including Oasis of the Seas, Azamara Journey, Disney Dream, Carnival Liberty, Norwegian Jewel, Silverseas' Silver Spirit, HAL's Amsterdam and Celebrity Constellation.

--by Dan Askin, News Editor