Cruise ships offer one of the most relaxing ways to get away. But we sometimes hear about terrible trouble on the seas when it comes to health and safety. As we reported in January, an analysis by the CDC shows that more cruise ships failed health inspections in 2017 than at any other time in the past decade.
If you’re thinking about booking a cruise soon, you don’t have to guess about which ships are safe or have had health scares in the past. That’s because the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention makes the information publicly available.
Healthy on the high seas: How to find out whether your cruise ship is safe
The CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) conducts surprise inspections on ships throughout the year. The VSP has jurisdiction over all cruise ships with 13 or more passengers and those with foreign itineraries that include U.S. ports.
The VSP will generate a report on all ships (100 passengers or more) sailing from a foreign port to one in the United States. As part of the program, at least 24 hours before arrival, all cruise ships must report the number of gastrointestinal illnesses, including if there are zero. Ships must notify the CDC if the number of gastrointestinal illnesses surpass 2% of the number of passengers and crew. For diarrhea, the threshold is 3%.
Similar to a restaurant inspection report, these cruise ship write-ups document deficiencies, including kitchen sanitation, galley issues and general safety concerns. There are also corrective reports that are issued as a follow-up.
And yes, there’s also information about which ships had norovirus outbreaks and gastroenteritis incidents over the years.
Find out the very latest about any 2018 outbreaks here (scroll down).
How to find cruise ship inspection results
The VSP has a scorecard for every cruise line in a searchable database. Just like at school, top scores rate 100. If you see anything under 80, it is generally cause for concern.
For quick reference, this Scored 100 Report shows cruise ships that have scored a perfect 100 over the past 12 months.
As an example of some of the things the CDC’s report highlights, this green sheet of a Disney cruise shows that there was a violation in the “Children’s Area-Anyone Can Cook” activities.
“Youth staff explained to the inspector several food activities done by children between 3 and 12 years old,” the report says. “Specifically, cookie making and decorating, pizza making, and cup cake decorating. There was no approved variance for these activities and no records were kept related to these activities.”
With the emphasis on cruise ship health, you may be wondering what you can do to stay safe when on the seas. Here are some safety tips:
Taking a cruise? Keep these safety tips in mind
- Wash those hands: The CDC says if water and soap are NOT available (perhaps when you dock and venture inland), use an ethanol alcohol-based hand sanitizer, preferably a gel. It should be at least 60% ethanol.
- If you’re not feeling well before the trip: Consult your health professional to find out whether it is safe for you to sail. It may be best for you to stay home, especially if you’re contagious.
- If you’re not feeling well during the trip: If you feel sick, don’t keep it to yourself. Inform the ship’s medical facility so you can get the help you need. And follow the medical staff’s recommendations.
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