Cruise lines need to take cruise ship cleanliness seriously. In fact, all cruise ships are subject to unannounced inspections by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Vessel Sanitation Program twice a year.
The bar is set pretty high, as all cruise ships need a score of 86 or higher to be considered satisfactory.
Many cruise ships scored a perfect score of 100 on inspections over the last year. Most others scored between the low to high 90’s.
However, there were a few cruise ships that had much lower scores. Unfortunately, one cruise ship failed their CDC inspection by a significant margin.
If you’re taking a cruise, you might be curious about what are the cleanest and dirtiest cruise ships, at least according to the CDC.
In this post, I share what you need to know about the CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program and how the various cruise ships scored on recent inspections. I’ve also included information as to how you can find current inspection reports in the future.
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Understanding the CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program
The CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program has been in operation since the 1990s. Its primary aim is to ensure that cruise ships maintain the highest standards of sanitation and public health.
According to information on the CDC’s website, inspections are generally done twice a year, when the cruise ship is in a U.S. port. During inspections, a team of 2 to 5 inspectors boards the ships and assesses various areas to ensure compliance with public health standards.
Depending on the size of the cruise ship and potential issues, an inspection can be approximately 6-8 hours.
The key areas of inspection include:
- Medical Facilities: Inspection of medical logs and documentation to track the management of gastrointestinal illnesses.
- Portable Water System: Examination of the ship’s water supply and its disinfection and filtration systems.
- Swimming Pools and Hot Tubs: Assessment of water quality, filtration systems, and disinfection.
- The Galley and Dining Rooms: Ensuring cleanliness and food safety in the kitchen and dining areas.
- Child Activity Centers: Checking safety and hygiene in areas designated for children.
- Hotel Accommodations (Cabins): Inspecting the cleanliness and overall condition of passenger cabins.
- Ventilation Systems: Evaluation of ship-wide ventilation systems.
- Common Areas: Ensuring cleanliness and sanitation in public spaces.
Scores are assigned based on the inspection findings, and a cruise ship must achieve a minimum score of 86 to pass.
The Consequences of Failing an Inspection
If a cruise ship fails an inspection, it is required to correct any violations immediately. Critical violations, in particular, must be addressed promptly. After receiving a report, the cruise line must submit a corrective action statement detailing how they resolved the identified violations.
In rare cases, a no-sail recommendation or no-sail order might be issued, usually in response to an imminent public health threat, such as a disease outbreak.
Cruise ship’s that have significant issues to address are typically reinspected within a shorter timeframe.
The Costs and Significance of Inspections
Cruise lines must cover the costs of these inspections, which vary depending on the size of the ship. Smaller vessels pay around $1,500, while super mega cruise ships can incur inspection costs of nearly $25,000.
The Cleanest Cruise Ships of 2023
Over the last year, 30 cruise ships earned a perfect score of 100 during their inspections.
- Oceania Vista
- Jewel of the Seas
- Celebrity Summit
- Norwegian Bliss
- Norwegian Sun
- Carnival Conquest
- Carnival Venezia
- Celebrity Eclipse
- Mariner of the Seas
- Oceania Regatta
- Celebrity Solstice
- Celebrity Edge
- Norwegian Joy
- Disney Fantasy
- Silver Moon
- Norwegian Pearl
- Oceania Riviera
- Carnival Sunshine
- Allure of the Seas
- MSC Seascape
- Celebrity Millennium
- Carnival Celebration
- Disney Wonder
- Carnival Panorama
- Disney Magic
- Wonder Of The Seas
- Carnival Magic
- Disney Wish
With a perfect score, these cruise ships represent the gold standard in cleanliness and sanitation, reassuring passengers about their health and safety while on board.
The Case of the MSC Seaside
One cruise ship made headlines in 2023 for failing its inspection, scoring a shockingly low 67, which is extremely rare. This failing inspection was conducted on April 27th, 2023.
The MSC Seaside faced several infractions. According to a report on the Vessel Sanitation Program page this included:
- Restrooms and handwashing stations lacking soap
- Counters soiled with food residue
- Dirty dinnerware and glassware
- Overfilled and malfunctioning dishwashers
- An incident involving a crew member handling hamburger meat
However, following a reinspection on July 17, 2023, the MSC Seaside improved its score to 92, after addressing the identified issues.
This was a big improvement and when looking at the reports available on the CDC’s website, you’ll see the now satisfactory ship inspection results.
Cruise Ships with Lower Scores (under 90)
Four cruise ships received scores below 90 during their inspections, but they would have taken corrective measures to improve their cleanliness and sanitation standards.
These ships are:
- Norwegian Epic: Scored 89
- Margaritaville at Sea: Scored 87
- Carnival Pride: Scored 86
- Carnival Liberty: Scored 86 (but improved to 93 after reinspection)
Inspection Scores by Cruise Line
Here is a list of the inspection score results for the several popular cruise lines. You can find the most inspection scores for individual cruise ships on the CDC’s website, as well as individual ship inspection reports.
- Azamara Journey – Score: 97
- Azamara Onward – Score: 91
- Azamara Pursuit – Score: 96
- Azamara Quest – Score: 97
Carnival Cruise Line
- Carnival Breeze – Score: 97
- Carnival Celebration – Score: 100
- Carnival Conquest – Score: 100
- Carnival Dream – Score: 94
- Carnival Elation – Score: 93
- Carnival Freedom – Score: 96
- Carnival Glory – Score: 96
- Carnival Horizon – Score: 95
- Carnival Legend – Score: 90
- Carnival Liberty – Score: 93
- Carnival Luminosa – Score: 97
- Carnival Magic – Score: 97
- Carnival Mardi Gras – Score: 97
- Carnival Miracle – Score: 99
- Carnival Panorama – Score: 100
- Carnival Paradise – Score: 97
- Carnival Pride – Score: 86
- Carnival Radiance – Score: 98
- Carnival Spirit – Score: 99
- Carnival Splendor – Score: 93
- Carnival Sunrise – Score: 97
- Carnival Sunshine – Score: 89
- Carnival Valor – Score: 96
- Carnival Venezia – Score: 100
- Carnival Vista – Score: 93
- Celebrity Apex – Score: 97
- Celebrity Beyond – Score: 98
- Celebrity Constellation – Score: 99
- Celebrity Eclipse – Score: 100
- Celebrity Edge – Score: 100
- Celebrity Equinox – Score: 98
- Celebrity Infinity – Score: 97
- Celebrity Millennium – Score: 100
- Celebrity Reflection – Score: 95
- Celebrity Silhouette – Score: 97
- Celebrity Solstice – Score: 100
- Celebrity Summit – Score: 100
- Queen Elizabeth – Score: 96
- Queen Mary 2 – Score: 98
- Queen Victoria – Score: 91
Disney Cruise Line
- Disney Dream – Score: 99
- Disney Fantasy – Score: 100
- Disney Magic – Score: 99
- Disney Wish – Score: 96
- Disney Wonder – Score: 96
- Eurodam – Score: 100
- Koningsdam – Score: 98
- Nieuw Amsterdam – Score: 97
- Nieuw Statendam – Score: 95
- Noordam – Score: 90
- Oosterdam – Score: 99
- Rotterdam – Score: 100
- Volendam – Score: 97
- Westerdam – Score: 96
- Zaandam – Score: 98
- Zuiderdam – Score: 98
Margaritaville at Sea
Margaritaville at Sea Paradise – Score: 87
- MSC Armonia – Score: 95
- MSC Divina – Score: 98
- MSC Lirica – Score: 100
- MSC Magnifica – Score: 97
- MSC Meraviglia – Score: 98
- MSC Orchestra – Score: 96
- MSC Poesia – Score: 87
- MSC Seascape – Score: 100
- MSC Seashore – Score: 95
- MSC Seaside – Score: 92
Norwegian Cruise Line
- Norwegian Bliss – Score: 100
- Norwegian Breakaway – Score: 98
- Norwegian Dawn – Score: 98
- Norwegian Encore – Score: 98
- Norwegian Epic – Score: 89
- Norwegian Escape – Score: 99
- Norwegian Gem – Score: 94
- Norwegian Getaway – Score: 95
- Norwegian Jade – Score: 92
- Norwegian Jewel – Score: 99
- Norwegian Joy – Score: 100
- Norwegian Pearl – Score: 100
- Norwegian Prima – Score: 97
- Norwegian Sky – Score: 98
- Norwegian Spirit – Score: 97
- Norwegian Star – Score: 94
- Norwegian Sun – Score: 100
- Oceania Insignia – Score: 99
- Oceania Marina – Score: 95
- Oceania Regatta – Score: 100
- Oceania Riviera – Score: 100
- Oceania Sirena – Score: 96
- Oceania Vista – Score: 100
- Caribbean Princess – Score: 96
- Coral Princess – Score: 94
- Crown Princess – Score: 97
- Diamond Princess – Score: 98
- Discovery Princess – Score: 99
- Emerald Princess – Score: 94
- Enchanted Princess – Score: 95
- Grand Princess – Score: 98
- Island Princess – Score: 91
- Majestic Princess – Score: 93
- Regal Princess – Score: 98
- Royal Princess – Score: 99
- Ruby Princess – Score: 92
- Sapphire Princess – Score: 90
- Sky Princess – Score: 99
Regent Seven Seas
- Seven Seas Explorer – Score: 97
- Seven Seas Mariner – Score: 92
- Seven Seas Navigator – Score: 95
- Seven Seas Splendor – Score: 97
- Seven Seas Voyager – Score: 91
Royal Caribbean International
- Adventure of the Seas – Score: 98
- Allure of the Seas – Score: 100
- Anthem of the Seas – Score: 96
- Brilliance of the Seas – Score: 98
- Enchantment of the Seas – Score: 97
- Explorer of the Seas – Score: 93
- Freedom of the Seas – Score: 94
- Grandeur of the Seas – Score: 98
- Harmony of the Seas – Score: 96
- Independence of the Seas – Score: 93
- Jewel of the Seas – Score: 100
- Liberty of the Seas – Score: 95
- Mariner of the Seas – Score: 100
- Navigator of the Seas – Score: 96
- Oasis of the Seas – Score: 92
- Odyssey of the Seas – Score: 97
- Ovation of the Seas – Score: 98
- Quantum of the Seas – Score: 97
- Radiance of the Seas – Score: 98
- Rhapsody of the Seas – Score: 100
- Serenade of the Seas – Score: 98
- Symphony of the Seas – Score: 100
- Vision of the Seas – Score: 99
- Voyager of the Seas – Score: 97
- Wonder Of The Seas – Score: 95
Seabourn Cruise Line
- Seabourn Odyssey – Score: 94
- Seabourn Quest – Score: 97
- Seabourn Sojourn – Score: 95
- Silver Cloud – Score: 99
- Silver Dawn – Score: 97
- Silver Explorer – Score: 95
- Silver Moon – Score: 100
- Silver Muse – Score: 94
- Silver Shadow – Score: 95
- Silver Spirit – Score: 90
- Silver Whisper – Score: 92
- Silver Wind – Score: 98
- Viking Orion – Score: 97
- Viking Polaris – Score: 98
- Viking Saturn – Score: 98
- Viking Sea – Score: 100
- Viking Sky – Score: 100
- Viking Star – Score: 100
- Scarlet Lady – Score: 98
- Valiant Lady – Score: 95
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Final Thoughts on the Cleanest and Dirtiest Cruise Ships
The cleanliness and sanitation of their cruise ships is something that cruise lines take seriously. If you’ve taken a cruise, you’ve likely seen crew members cleaning and maintaining the cruise ship regularly.
The CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program, with its surprise inspections, plays an important role in maintaining public health and safety standards on cruise ships.
The inspection includes medical facilities, potable water system, swimming pools, hot tubs, galley, dining rooms, child activity centres, stateroom accommodations, ventilation systems, and common areas.
Cruise passengers can take some comfort in knowing that most cruise ships consistently achieve high scores. While the rare instances of lower scores may raise concerns, they also underscore the cruise industry’s dedication to making necessary improvements.
When planning a cruise, would you take inspection scores as one of the factors in your decision-making process? Please let me know in the comments below.
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