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The Carnival Fantasy cruises into the Port of Charleston in 2010, the first year it was based at Union Pier. The Fantasy recently received one of Carnival Cruise Line's lowest health inspection scores. File

Filthy Fantasy fails federal fettle findings

The pleasure ship that brought year-round cruising to the Port of Charleston recently earned one of Carnival Cruise Line's lowest health inspection scores from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Carnival Fantasy scored a 77 out of a possible 100 on its most recent inspection on July 18, the federal agency reported. Inspectors noted dozens of problems, including: brown water coming out of showers; inadequate sneeze guards protecting the pizza and omelet bars; and at least 15 flies on bagels being served to guests.

The Fantasy's score is the cruise line's third-lowest in the history of CDC inspections, but it isn't the lowest among all cruise ships. That "distinction" belongs to the Nippon Maru, which scored a 36 in 1998.

The Fantasy was the first ship to call Charleston its home port, with sailings starting in 2010. It was replaced in 2016 by the Carnival Ecstasy, with the Carnival Sunshine taking over its spot at Union Pier this spring.

Both the Ecstasy and the Sunshine had passing grades on their most recent inspections, with scores of 97 and 91, respectively.

The 29-year-old Fantasy is now based at the Port of Mobile in Alabama.

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Santee Cooper's headquarters building in Moncks Corner. File/Staff

Hold your tongue

The leaders of the state's 20 electric cooperatives don't want to testify about their lobbying efforts in the South Carolina Statehouse

For more than a year, the state's co-ops have been locked in a high-stakes legal battle with state-run Santee Cooper over the failed V.C. Summer nuclear project. As part of that litigation, several of the co-ops top officials are being deposed under oath by Santee Cooper's lawyers. 

Transcriptions from those depositions could help to decide whether the co-ops can stop Santee Cooper from charging their members for two abandoned nuclear reactors in Fairfield County. 

The co-ops leaders, however, believe some subjects should be off limits during the depositions. 

Last week, the co-ops officially asked a state judge to block Santee Cooper from asking about their influence peddling in Columbia. 

The co-ops came out in support of selling Santee Cooper and pushed lawmakers to open up bids for the state-run utility this year. The co-ops attorneys called Santee Cooper's effort to pry into that lobbying "an abuse of the discovery process." 

"The sole purpose of such questioning would appear to be to obtain an advantage in lobbying efforts, not to obtain information about the (V.C. Summer) project or the claims or defenses at issue in this litigation," they said. 

It'll be up to the judge to decide whether its relevant to the lawsuit. 

Flying low

The cost to fly out of Charleston International edged up slightly during the first quarter of the year, but rates are still historically low.

The latest report from the U.S. Department of Transportation shows round-trip ticket prices rose about $14 to an average of $364 during the first three months of 2019 compared to the last quarter of 2018, when they were the lowest since matching $350 in 1996.

Higher fuel costs earlier this year contributed to the higher fares.

Last year's 12-month average ticket cost at Charleston International was $357, close to the lowest rate on record.

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While the rate in Charleston, the state's busiest terminal, is low, it's not the cheapest in South Carolina. That distinction remains with Myrtle Beach, which posted a first-quarter average rate of $329.

It's also cheaper to fly out Florence or Hilton Head than Greenville-Spartanburg or Columbia.

The Florence fare is $385, while Hilton Head's is $399.

A sampling of Greenville-Spartanburg's airport fares shows the average for the January through March period of $407. Columbia's airport landed the highest fares of $460.

The national average for the first quarter was $352.

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Passengers head to the exit after arriving at Charleston International Airport. Brad Nettles/Staff

Pharmacy savings

Medical University of South Carolina officials at a recent board meeting approved a renovation project it says will save the state-owned hospital system $20 million.

The outdated MUSC pharmacy school has been in need of a new home for several years. Initially, the plan was to construct a new building at the intersection of Bee and President streets. In the hopes of saving money, however, MUSC conducted a study last year to evaluate whether renovating the Colbert Education Center and Library along with the Basic Science building could provide the needed improvements.

"That cost showed there was over $20 million savings in pursuing the renovation and addition over building a new building," Greg Weigle, MUSC's chief facilities officer, said. 

The renovation project will cost $58 million. The MUSC Board of Trustees gave the project its approval at the meeting.

The proposal includes adding 26,000 square feet to the Basic Science building on Ashley Avenue.