September 27, 2000
How are ships faring in the August-September round of inspections by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention? Not too bad. Ocean Princess leads with a perfect 100 score while Carnival's Elation was close behind with a 98. Sadly, three of the late-lamented Premier's ships scored beautifully this go-round: Oceanic (91), Big Red Boat II (94) and Big Red Boat III (92). Inspectors also tested a number of smaller vessels that performed in the 90s and above. These include Clipper's Yorktown Clipper, Special Expeditions' Sea Lion and Sea Bird, and Cruise West's Spirit of Columbia. No ships flunked this round, though Windjammer's Legacy, which was inspected in Puerto Rico in May and received a failing 79 score, has not yet been retested. The CDC's Vessel Sanitation Inspection program -- which rates all ships that call at a U.S. port (regardless of which foreign flag they carry) -- conducts twice-annual exams using a variety of criteria to determine whether a ship maintains standards of cleanliness. Criteria ranges wildly, from serious stuff like infected water systems and poor food storage to less penalty-inducing imperfections like a chipped tile in a ship foyer. Passing is 86 and above. Ships that flunk the CDC exam are reinspected, typically, within a month (though length varies depending on when the ship next calls in at an American port). The CDC has the power to declare a seriously flunking ship "no sail;" in the past few years no major cruise line has earned that dubious distinction. The CDC has been monitoring cruise ships for sanitation standards since the early 1970s. Currently, it conducts unannounced inspections of some 140 ships.