We didn’t spot anything noticeably amiss—but we were disturbed to read of a failing score for ship sanitation just after our cruise.
As part of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vessel Sanitation Program, cruise ships pay for and submit to regular CDC inspections aimed at preventing and controlling the introduction, transmission, and spread of gastrointestinal illnesses on cruise ships. The periodic inspections—about two a year—are generally unannounced. Ships are rated on a scale of 100 points, with a score of 85 or less considered “not acceptable.”
On Aug. 19, 2012 Veendam was inspected and received a score of 77. Among the many issues cited in the report were dirty ice machines, malfunctioning refrigerators and dishwashers, brown liquid dripping on clean dishes, flies in a buffet area and more. In an article on the inspection, USA Today cruise editor Gene Sloan said “The CDC report cites dozens of violations including several that suggest a breakdown of management on the ship.”
By coincidence we were aboard Veendam just prior to the CDC’s inspection. Although it’s possible that at least some of the issues cited in the report were present on our cruise, we did not see anything notably amiss as far as sanitation. However, much of the CDC inspection takes place in areas that are off-limits to passengers, including the galley areas of the ship, and the potable water and ventilation systems; the CDC also reviews medical logs which are, of course, off limits.
Still, the CDC report got our attention. As Sloan notes: “Only two other ships from a major line, Royal Caribbean’s Monarch of the Seas and Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, have failed a CDC inspection over the past three years, according to a search of CDC records. Over the same period dozens of ships have scored a perfect 100 during inspections.”
In a statement, Holland America Line called the unsatisfactory score “highly unusual and an aberration.” Veendam had been inspected 18 times in the previous decade, with a score of 91 or higher on each inspection. On Oct. 7, 2012 the CDC performed another inspection of Veendam, and the new report assigned a passing score of 92. Health Canada, the Canadian federal health agency, has a similar cruise ship inspection program (also using a 100-point scale); their inspection of Veendam on Sept. 28, 2012 assigned a score of 95.
There were automated hand-washing stations outside the Lido buffet. These were a welcome supplement to the usual hand sanitizers, also stationed outside the buffet (and at all other restaurants). The hand-washing stations are not a feature we’ve seen on many other cruise ships.
The Muster Drill was efficiently handled just before sail-away. Passengers congregated on the Lower Promenade Deck and names were called to verify all were in attendance.
The medical clinic was located on Deck 4 forward. Hours for the nurse were 8 a.m. to 12 noon, and 2 to 6 p.m. daily; the doctor was available 10 to 11 a.m. and 5 to 6 p.m. Consultations were charged to the on-board account.
When passing the clinic we noticed that, with the door wide open, conversations between doctor and patient were surprisingly audible; we heard more about patient issues than we needed to.
Smoking not permitted in guestrooms or inside the ship “with the exception of certain designated areas.” Smoking is permitted on the starboard sides of the Outdoor Walkaround and the Retreat deck, and the port side of the Crow’s Nest bar, as well as on stateroom balconies.
A sign in the casino said that the casino was a non-smoking area but that “smoking is permitted at designated slots and tables while playing only.” Smoking and non-smoking slot machines and tables were located within a few feet of each other.
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