Cunard denies claim that QE2 is bad for your health

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The Independent Online

The owners of the QE2 denied yesterday that hygiene standards on the ship were so low that they posed a serious danger to passengers' health.

A leaked report from Southampton Port Authority listed a catalogue of failings in equipment and procedures that created a "serious and unnecessary risk" to passengers on board the ship who can pay up to pounds 16,000 for a cruise.

During one visit last year, inspectors found water leaking through a light fitting and on to a meat slicer in the ship's galley and a missing air vent cover that allowed a "copious filthy black debris" to blow on to surfaces used for food preparation.

Last December, they found the galley had cracked and dirty wash basins which prevented the crew from cleaning their hands properly before handling food; broken lavatories still being used by galley crew; showers overflowing with stagnant water and food being stored in broken refrigerators.

The problems were initially identified after an inspection on 17 December, just before the ship embarked upon a disastrous Christmas cruise after a pounds 30m refit. Defects in the kitchens were again highlighted on 15 October this year.

In between, Trafalgar House, which owns Cunard, said the kitchens had consistently passed health checks and had been given the highest possible rating by the public health authority in the United States.

"The incident on 15 October was an isolated one, arising when the ship's crew were working flat out to turn the ship around quickly after it arrived late in Southampton," a company spokesman said. "The inspectors boarded and found a kitchen that had not yet been cleaned. It was of course properly cleaned before the ship sailed and was re-inspected on October 25 when the ship next returned to Southampton. The inspectors commented favourably on that occasion."

In his report after last December's incident, the inspector said that in his view "many of the catering staff and waiters would have presented themselves for work without having been able to use satisfactory sanitary facilities. They were then unable to properly wash their hands during food preparation and service. Each of these events on their own present serious unnecessary risk to the health of your passengers and crew but in combination show an appalling lack of concern and control by your organisation."

The company's spokesmansaid inspectors had ordered Cunard to implement a new system of management and control systems to try to prevent similar incidents in the future. "Cunard is actively doing this and is confident the authorities will be fully satisfied."