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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Cruise Ship Sanitation: Illusion of Cleanliness

When I was young, I remember taking the Staten Island Ferry as the middle leg of my 90-minute ride to high school. In particular, I remember taking the "old" ferries, which in 1983 actually had wooden benches, at least the 7:00 am boat did. The earlier 6:40 am boat was my preferred ride, though, because it was a newer boat (the so-called S.I. Newhouse class of ferry).
The reason for my preference was that, in those pre-Giuliani days, the homeless vagrants would ride the old boats all night, all winter, and really stink up the joint. The stench drove me to the downstairs well of the ferry, where the smokers would inhale all types of things. As in, real joints. The sweet smoke (compared to car exhaust from the cars which would park in the middle of the boat) would at least clear the nostrils of the offending putridness.
Those pleasant memories of "the boat" are enough deterrence for me to swear never to take one of these so-called luxury cruises. Never mind that every so often passengers on these big boats seem to get sick by the boatload. 
The authorities are assuring us that the boats are being "sanitized."  Oh please. A wipedown with Clorox wipes, the ones that are now in vogue in so many offices, is not sufficient.
There are some things that, to be done well, must be done yourself. Outsourcing personal hygiene does not cut it.
The food preparation chain is the likely culprit, but basic handwashing etiquette in the restroom needs closer examination. Subtle observation will show that a good number of people do not wash their hands at all after using the restroom; many more do a perfunctory washing that suggests an aversion to either soap or water. The cross-contamination risk from doorknobs, stair banisters, elevator buttons, ATM screens, slot machine buttons and other common surfaces is substantial and, if you think about it, pretty obvious.
The ships will not cure the problem until the personnel abroad these ships have a personal commitment to obsessive cleanliness.
A serious solution would involve the recruitment of those with obsessive compulsive "cleanliness" disorders. These people can imagine all sorts of ick which the average slob thinks is harmlessly benign. But paying near-minimum wage for workers, largely born or raised in other countries where the standard for cleanliness, sanitation and food preparation does not approach the American standard, to go through the motions is asking for a repeat of the near-epidemic the cruise ship industry saw this week.

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