(Photo: Silversea Cruises)
WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) -- The head of luxury line Silversea Cruises says the company has boosted crew training and made other changes in the wake of a report documenting unsanitary conditions on one of its ships.
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In a statement issued today, Silversea CEO Enzo Visone says the findings of U.S. public health officials who last month conducted a surprise inspection of the 382-passenger Silver Shadow has "given the company great cause for concern."
The report, released earlier this week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says inspectors found food items and kitchen equipment improperly stored in crew cabins in what appears to have been an attempt to hide them from inspectors. Inspectors also documented a number of other problems including errors in the cooling process for refrigerated items at a ship restaurant and mildew on a refrigeration unit used to store fruit to be consumed by passengers.
As a result, in what is a rare occurrence for modern day vessels, the CDC gave the ship a failing score of 82 out of 100.
"At Silversea Cruises we pride ourselves on providing the best quality services to our guests," Visone says in the statement. "Since the preliminary report was given to us, a full investigation has been carried out into the circumstances which led to this unsatisfactory result and a number of steps have been taken to ensure that the standards of food hygiene, in particular, are of the highest order. The other issues contained in the report have been rigorously dealt with as well."
Visone says the line's investigation included the involvement of an external sanitation consultant who traveled to the ship.
The CDC's surprise health inspection of the Silver Shadow took place in Skagway, Alaska on June 17.
As part of its Vessel Sanitation Program, the U.S. health agency conducts unannounced inspections of passenger ships docking in U.S. ports twice a year and grades them on a 100 point scale. A score below 86 is considered failing.
Since the failure, "additional training was provided for all food handlers and supervisors, butlers, cooks, waiters and bar staff to reinforce company procedures," Visone says. "Implicit in this training was that no food or food equipment is, at any time, permitted in cabins or non-designated areas. Procedures for reporting and replacement of equipment identified in the inspection report were also included in the training program."
Visone also says the line has introduced an anonymous call system where any member of staff can report failings of procedures to senior managers without fear of reprisals.
The statement says inspectors arrived at the end of breakfast, when "pots, pans and utensils were on working stations and items to return to the galleys were on trolleys as were stores from the fridges ready for use.
It is clear that when the galley staff heard that inspectors were on board, instead of continuing their work in the understanding that they were in the middle of a meal service, they tried to quickly remove all trolleys and any items not in the fridges and place them in cabins out of the way. It goes without saying that such practices are against company policy and should not have happened."
A follow-up inspection planned by the CDC before the ship leaves Alaska waters in late August will give the line a chance to show its commitment to sanitation and hygiene, Visone adds.