According to a company press release, "Carnival Splendor received perfect marks on all 42 items that comprise the U.S. Public Health Service's comprehensive Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) checklist. The unannounced inspections, which are conducted twice a year and required for any cruise ship with an international itinerary calling at a U.S. port, evaluate vessels in a variety of areas, including adherence to proper food handling, preparation and storage procedures, and overall galley cleanliness. Ships' potable water supplies used in spas and pools are also evaluated."
While Carnival calls the achievement of six perfect scores "unprecedented," Splendor is in good company when it comes to perfect-scoring ships. In 2012 thus far, 24 additional ships have scored 100 on the test -- including sisters Carnival Freedom, Dream, Liberty and Pride; Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy; Royal Caribbean's Oasis, Jewel, Mariner and Serenade of the Seas; Princess Cruises' Caribbean, Diamond and Star Princess; and ships from Crystal, Holland America, Costa, Norwegian and P&O.
Even better, no ship has failed an inspection this year. A failing grade is an 85, and two ships have come close with a score of 86: Holland America's Rotterdam and America Cruise Ferries' Caribbean Fantasy. But the last ship to actually fail was Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas, which scored a shame-inducing 85 on its November 18, 2011, vessel sanitation inspection.
So while we wouldn't necessarily recommend eating off the floor, we do think many cruisers will sleep better, knowing their ships have passed muster in the cleanliness department.
To learn more about the Vessel Sanitation Program or to see how your ship scored in its last inspection, visit the CDC's Web site: www.cdc.gov/nceh/vsp/
--by Erica Silverstein, Features Editor