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Everything posted by Donald

  1. Kenai Fjord today hit a high of 64f. Cloudy with a cold wind blowing - and lots of smoke from the forest fires. No shorts here. Lots of parkas and foul weather gear.
  2. If he finds his love in Vietnam and decides to stay there without informing Vietnamese Immigration, he will be an illegal alien if the ship leaves. When an international cruise ship enters the waters of most countries, local immigration authorities grant a blanket visa to all the passengers and crew onboard. That visa is valid so long as the ship remains in port. The minute the ship departs, the visa is cancelled. Anyone who stays behind without informing immigration officials is an illegal alien. Vietnam is different for some nationalities. They sell you a special visa for cruise ship passengers. But if you leave the ship in Vietnam without telling the authorities, the visa is invalid and you are illegally there. And yes, the idea is to get the passenger out of the country more easily.
  3. There is a new element to this drama that most cruisers are not yet aware of. In the past few years a growing number of countries have put new procedures in place for ships that want to leave port when passengers are missing. Notably China, Japan, and Vietnam - as well as several other Asian countries, and a few European countries require the ship to give passports of missing passengers to local officials before the ship will be allowed to depart. If passengers have left their passports in their cabin safe, ship security can retrieve them, hand them over to the ships agent, and the ship can then depart for the next port. If the ship is holding all passports, it is even easier for the Purser to hand over passports of missing pax to local officials. But if a passenger takes a passport ashore and then disappears, the local officials will not allow the ship to leave until the missing pax is found, and his passport is produced. The chances of this happening are not very great, but if a passenger takes his passport ashore in one of these countries and then gets lost, has an accident, or otherwise cannot get back to the ship on time, the cruise could be delayed, by hours or even days if the missing passenger and his passport are not located.
  4. We have not mentioned Health Canada, a Canadian Government Inspection Group that has rules and standards that are nearly identical to USPH. They inspect all foreign flag ships calling at Canadian Ports. The one big difference - they do it free of charge.
  5. You do make something of a valid point. Many of the illnesses that VSP attempts to prevent are not contagious. They are now even getting involved in life jackets and life saving hooks for swimming pools - which are not even related to illness. But one of the illnesses they work very hard to control is Norovirus, one of the most contagious viruses on earth. That work alone is probably worth the price of admission. At any given time, 10% of the American public on land is suffering from some sort of NLV-related infection. At any given time less than 1% of cruise passengers calling at American ports are suffering the same - despite the fact that the crowded closed system of a cruise ship makes it far easier to spread the virus. We can thank VSP for that. As for the other non-contagious illnesses that VSP is trying to control: Is it their mandate or duty to do this? Probably not. But how can we argue against a government organization that is working diligently to keep us healthy when we take a holiday? Despite whatever bashing and complaining we might aim at VSP and their sometimes over-the-top requirements, the cruise industry is quite happy to let them take the lead in keeping passengers healthy and reducing liability exposure for the cruise line companies. I wish they would expand their coverage to airlines.
  6. If a cruise ship has a shepherds hook at the swimming pool that is 6 inches too short, has a handwashing station that is 25 feet away from a BBQ (instead of 24 feet), forgets to place an asterix warning of eating undercooked meat next to the hamburger on the buffet menu, lets a waiter place a wine glass upside-down on a dining table, and allows a woman with open-toed shoes to take a galley tour, it can fail a USPH Inspection. If this happens on your cruise, should they refund your cruise fare? Do you really think that there is a healthier cruise line to go to? If you owned a cruise line and the above scenario happened on one of your ships, would you expect to be jailed? Incidentally, scenarios like the above occur nearly every day on many ships, and the passengers miraculously all survive it.
  7. Somebody's tax dollars at work (not mine).
  8. You need to ask the US Public Health Service about that. You might also ask them why these rules and standards are applied to non-US Flagged ships - but are not applied to US Flag Ships, Airplanes, Trains, Hotels and Restaurants.
  9. In another life I was General Manager of the most expensive restaurant in America. In fact we were the first restaurant in America to receive 3 Michelin Stars. We were always booked 3 years in advance - only because that was as far in advance that we would accept reservations. My clientele was mostly Hollywood stars and millionaires. That restaurant - as good as it was - would not have come even close to passing a basic USPH inspection. A few years later I helped a friend open a very upscale restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. A few days before we opened, a local health inspector stopped by for a surprise inspection. He told me he was waiting for his partner to arrive. I was in a rush, so I told him that his partner had already visited and left (not true). He thanked me, signed his inspection report (without inspecting anything), handed it to me, and said, "You passed. See you next year."
  10. A colleague and I recently attended a one-week USPH refresher course in Miami at a very nice and well-respected hotel. During the course, the VSP inspectors convinced the hotel's kitchen employees to "disappear" for one hour. As soon as they left, we accompanied the inspectors into the hotel kitchen, where we conducted a mock USPH inspection of the entire food operation. The score? 0.0 There were so many violations that the score should have been less than zero - but that is not possible. They made Carnival Fantasy's failing score of 77 look pretty good.
  11. OK, let's look at the things that do affect just the kitchen and dining room. USPH inspectors board the ship with a total potential score for the entire ship of 100 points. 86 points is a failure - and several management people lose their jobs. Every potable water source on a foreign flag cruise ship must have an approved working backflow prevention valve. If inspectors find one that is not approved or not working properly, the ship loses 3 points. American restaurants in most states do not even know what a backflow valve is. Every ice machine on a foreign flag cruise ship must be constructed with non-slotted screws. If they do not, it's a 2 point deduction. American restaurants do not have anything like that. Foreign flag ships are required to freeze all protein items (red meats, poultry, fish, shellfish) for a minimum 7 days at a minimum 20 degrees celsius, before cooking and serving them to guests. Fresh fish is forbidden in nearly every case. Violating this rule costs us 5 points. If we have a BBQ on a foreign flag cruise ship, all food preparations areas and dining areas must be covered to prevent any contamination falling from insects or birds. There must be a handwashing facility within 24 feet of all food preparation areas, and there cannot be a door located between the food preparation areas and the handwashing facility. 3 point deduction if this is not followed. This is not done in America. Any food prepared on my ship cannot be served after 4 hours. It must be either consumed or discarded. No leftovers or recycling. Violation of this rule costs us 5 points. Every area of the galley must have a bucket of cleaning solution, with either chlorine bleach or iodine solution inside and a micro-fiber cleaning rag that MUST be immersed in the solution at all times. This solution must be dumped out and re-mixed approximately every 2 hours. Failure to maintain the correct concentration (50 ppm - 200 ppm)loses 2 points. American restaurants do not do any of this. Foreign flag galleys cannot store or process dairy products or fish or red meats in the same locations. Failure costs us 3 points. American restaurants do this sort of thing all the time. Foreign flag ships must label all prepared foods and potentially hazardous foods with labels that: identify the item, give the date / time of preparation, and the date /time of discard. Failure to do this is a 3 point deduction. American restaurants do not do anything like this. Foreign flag ships must ensure that food preparation employees wear no jewelery during food preparation, cover any facial hair, have no skin ailments, have properly trimmed fingernails, do not eat or drink anything in the galley, and wear latex gloves when handling ready to eat foods. Violation is a 3 point deduction. Most American restaurants do not have these requirements. My menus must have warnings on certain protein food items that serving undercooked foods are a health hazard. Failing to place these warnings can cost me 3 points. Putting the warning on every item will also cost me 3 points. Some American restaurants do this as well. If a food preparer or server has any gastrointestinal problems, he/she must immediately report it to our medical staff and he/she must be isolated for at least 72 hours after the last symptom is present. This must be reported to USPH, logged officially on the ship's log, and any cabin mates must be interviewed to ensure that they are symptom-free. Follow-ups must be performed and logged as well. Failure to do any one of these things results in a 3 point deduction. American restaurants don't do anything like this. Whole eggs are forbidden for most food preparation - especially in foods that are not well-cooked. 3 points are deducted for violation. American restaurants do not do this. All dairy products must ALWAYS be stored below 41f / 5c. Violation costs us 3 points. American standards allow dairy products to be stored at higher temperatures. Fresh shellfish can be served on a foreign flag ship if: 1. The food has been purchased from US certified vendors. 2. The vendors supply USPH-approved certificates for the shellfish. 3. The certificates are retained for a minimum of 6 months after the shellfish is consumed. Violation costs us 3 points. American restaurants do not do any of this. Any food or condiments served on a ship's table cannot be re-cycled. Bread, butter (individual serving packets only), sauces, cream, etc must be discarded after a single use. violation costs us 3 points. American restaurants typically recycle these things all the time. All food service areas on a foreign flag ship must have posted time-control plans for any ready to eat foods. No foods are allowed to be served or eaten more than 4 hours after preparation. All these foods must be clearly marked with a sticker or other identifier that indicates when the food was prepared and when it must be discarded. Failure is a 3 point deduction. American restaurants don't do this. All food preparation areas of a ship's galley must have stainless steel walls and ceilings and tile floors that are easy to clean. There can be no gaps in the stainless that would allow a credit card to be inserted. There can be no missing grout or cracked tiles on the floor. Any violation costs us 3 points. Most American restaurants do not follow these standards. Ships galleys and restaurant areas must have minimum light levels of 200 lux to allow proper cleaning. violation in any area costs us 2 points. American restaurants do not have these standards. Ship's galley cutting boards cannot be wood. They must be some sort of artificial material that is easily cleanable. They cannot have any cuts, dents, or scrapes that would allow bacteria to survive cleaning. violation costs us 3 points. Most American restaurants do not have these standards. When food is prepped on my ship for later consumption, a cooling log must list preparation time and temperature when finished, it must be cooled to a medium temperature with in two hours and logged, then cooled to a minimum temperature (below 41f / 5c) in the next 2 hours, and logged again. Failure to do this loses us 3 points. Failure to maintain the log for 60 days will lose us an additional 3 points. American restaurants do not do any of this. I could list another 100 items, but I suspect you get the point.
  12. On the rare occasions when a ship fails a USPH inspection, usually nothing happens. The USPH Inspectors do have the option and the authority to prevent the ship from sailing from a US port if they determine that the failure is a serious immediate threat the the health of the passengers and crew. Or they can bar the ship from entering any more US ports for the same reason. But that never happens. Most failures are based on technical failings and not actual immediate health threats. If a ship leaves the dining room tables set up for more than 4 hours, the baker leaves the scoop in a bin of rice, the dough sheeting machine in the bakery has loose threads showing, the dishwash machine wash water is too hot, chicken is stored in the same walk-in refrigerator with beef or butter, the cooks failed to write down what time they removed the soup from the blast chiller, food is served 4 hours and 1 minute after it was prepared, and the engineers tested the pool water from a depth of 2 feet instead of 4 feet, the ship can fail an inspection. Will anyone's health suffer from any of these things? Most likely not. And if they applied the same rules to any restaurant in America, every one of them would be shut down.
  13. The US Government does provide funding for the basic operations (offices, salaries, etc) of the Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP). But the costs of ship inspections are covered 100% by the fees paid by the ships that are inspected. Lowest fee is $1,495 for ships below 3001 GRT. Highest fee is $17,940 for ships over 120,001 GRT. Even though VSP has a 13 person roster of inspectors, they currently have 2 vacancies, so there are only 11 inspectors currently available to inspect the 150+ cruise vessels that will call at US ports this year. Typically they work in teams of 2 for small vessels and 3 or 4 for larger ones.
  14. You should care. If the total cruise package cost includes Service Charges. your travel agent gets a higher commission from the cruise line for selling you the cruise. Then the cruise line raises the fares to cover the higher commissions they are paying. Yes, they do all come out of your pocket.
  15. Sorry to hear about your broken spell checker and broken keyboard.
  16. The Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) has 13 Inspectors based in their Atlanta and Fort Lauderdale Offices. They inspect foreign flag cruise ships only in US Ports - but they also visit cruise ships being built in other countries to advise on best practices and designs.Yes, they do work many weekends. (Obscure Trivia: VSP Inspectors are not allowed to actually take a cruise until after they have left the Vessel Sanitation Program.)
  17. I used to love watching the people leaving my ship when we were sailing in Hawaii. Many of these people were Americans on a once-in-a-lifetime Hawaiian cruise. At the Hilo terminal there was a bus stop. On one side was a line for the free shuttle to WalMart. On the other side was a $10 bus tour to visit the longest-erupting volcano in modern history. The Walmart shuttle always had a long line. The Volcano tour was always empty. Priorities............................
  18. There is no better way to scream “I’m a tourist, steal my camera, pick my pocket, charge me extra” than riding on a HOHO bus.
  19. Delta is moving from Tokyo Narita to Tokyo Haneda. Newly rebuilt Haneda is closer, nicer, and easier than Narita. No problem there.
  20. The most dangerous part of your trip will be the drive to the airport in Tampa.
  21. Dungeness crab season in Alaska is from 15 June to 15 August. King crab season in Alaska starts 15 October, but few are caught until after Christmas. If you are cruising in Alaska and eating King Crab, it is the same frozen stuff you can buy in Atlanta - but more expensive in Alaska.
  22. Mnocket, You have some very idealistic and honorable-sounding ideas. A few of them are realistic; most of them will never happen. You clearly have no experience working in the cruise industry. After 37 years of Corporate and Onboard Cruise Management, I can't help but laugh at some of the assumptions you have made. You might want to do a bit more research that could help you to understand why it is that cruise lines do the things we do.
  23. Telling us which Shanghai International Airport you are going to would be a big help.
  24. Those towel animals are lots of fun. But the cabin stewards are forced to take care of far too many cabins now. The only way to allow them to offer these things is to make then in advance and use them over and over again. A great way to contract Norwalk Virus is to handle towel animals that have been used in other cabins during your cruise. Thank you HAL. Great way to save money.
  25. The OP is from America, questioning the ethics of cruise companies. I am from a cruise company, comparing the ethics of the poster’s country. It is not my business to question what business is good for another country. It is THEIR business. Australians seem to have very strong opinions about certain nationalities coming to live in Australia. Should that be my business? Definitely not.
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