Story highlights

"Very few ships ... received a failing score over the last couple of years," CDC official says

Holland America's ms Veendam, which CDC inspectors visited in August, got a 77

An 85 or lower on the CDC's 100-point inspection scale is considered failing

The cruise line says "the unsatisfactory score is highly unusual and an aberration"

CNN  — 

The cruise line Holland America says it was an “aberration” when inspectors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found multiple sanitation violations, including brown liquid dripping on clean dishes and a fly on the buffet, on the line’s ms Veendam.

Enough violations were cited that the CDC gave the Veendam a failing grade.

“While unacceptable for Holland America Line, the unsatisfactory score is highly unusual and an aberration,” Holland America’s Sally Andrews told CNN.

Inspectors don’t tell cruise lines when they’re going to show up, but they visit twice a year as part of the CDC’s vessel sanitation inspection program. The CDC grades ships on a 100-point scale. An 85 or lower is considered a failing grade. The Veendam received a grade of 77.

“Since 1996, Veendam has received passing scores on 32 inspections,” Andrews said. The Veendam is a 16-year-old ship, originally christened by actress Debbie Reynolds, that carries 1,930 passengers and crew, according to Holland America.

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According to the CDC report, during the August 19 surprise visit, inspectors found brown liquid dripping on clean dishes, refrigerators out of order, improper installation of anti-entrapment drain covers in pools posing a possible danger to swimmers, faulty dishwashers that managers allegedly failed to do anything about until inspectors arrived and water from a broken ice machine leaking onto the pool deck. The report did not specify what the brown liquid dripping on dishes was, or where it came from.

“One of the cooks doing active food preparation had a goatee and was not wearing a beard restraint,” a CDC inspector noted.

Later in the same report, “A live large fly was near the buffet. This area was in use during the inspection,” the CDC said.

The Veedam’s failing grade is uncommon in the cruise ship industry, an industry that has tried in recent years to keep on-board environments sanitary after illnesses like the Norwalk virus sickened passengers and caused a public relations nightmare.

CDC’s surprise cruise ship inspection (video)

“Very few ships have received a failing score over the last couple of years,” the CDC’s Jay Dempsey said.

In fact, only five ships since 2007 have failed inspection during the CDC’s bi-annual unannounced inspections. Ships are required to take corrective action after inspectors find violations.

All cruise ships that dock at U.S. ports are inspected by the CDC. Reports are then posted on the CDC’s website.

It’s the second time in as many months that Holland America ships have been targeted by officials.

In August, a room tag from the line’s Maasdam cruise ship and sewage washed ashore in Lynn, Massachusetts, leading town officials to suggest the debris may have come from the ship.

But Holland America now says its investigation suggests the debris didn’t come from their ship.

“A detailed letter outlining specifics related to the individual pieces of trash that washed up was sent to local authorities in mid-August and follow up was done with the Coast Guard as well. In general, the items found are not items carried onboard the ship. As for the luggage tag that was found, that particular color/style had not been used by Holland America Line for a year,” Andrews said.

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