Norwegian Cruise Line had a good year, too; its U.S. flagged, Hawaii-based Pride of America and Pride of Hawaii both scored perfectly on similar inspections by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In fact, Pride of Hawaii netted 100 on two different exams! Some internationally flagged ships did well too; see below.
Any ship that carries 13 or more passengers, has a foreign itinerary and calls at U.S. ports is required to be inspected by the CDC. According to the CDC's Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP), "inspections are conducted to ensure that vessels are maintaining adequate levels of sanitation and to provide guidance to vessel staff when needed." A score of 86 out of 100 is passing; below that is considered a failure, and those vessels are subject to a fairly speedy re-check. A second flame out can be bad news: A ship that fails consistently can be forced out of service until it literally cleans up its act.
The inspections, which take place twice a year and are usually a surprise to ship staffers, take a look at areas such as the water supply, spas and pools, food safety practices, employee hygiene programs, training programs in environmental and public health issues, and the general cleanliness of the ship.
The program has been around since the 1970's, and until recently, 100 scores were notoriously rare. But as the CDC's VSP has evolved -- and the cruise industry has embraced its mission rather than dodged it -- scores are improving consistently. In fact, over the past few years the CDC has actually become involved in the consulting of ship-design issues that can eliminate sanitation problems caused by flaws in, for instance, the galley layout or a bar back.
This year was a good one for scorers of the lofty 100; other ships that belong to the elite club in 2006 include:
Princess Cruises' Caribbean Princess, Crown Princess, Tahitian Princess and Golden Princess
Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas and Serenade of the Seas
NCL's Norwegian Sun and Norwegian Jewel
Interested in the score of your favorite ship? Check out Cruise Critic's reviews and sneak previews that feature the latest CDC scores.
--by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor