Spring Cleaning: CDC Cheers & Jeers

May 1, 2007

Over the last few months, there's been little significant to report regarding ship health inspection scores; these days, ships are passing in fairly uninteresting fashion. But our nose twitched when we caught a look at this one: Majestic America Line's Empress of the North, inspected in February, netted a remarkably low 67 (86 is a passing score). In fact, it's the lowest score we've seen in almost a year as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Vessel Sanitation Program (the last was Windjammer's Legacy, which got a 72 in May 2006).

So what's the deal?

According to the CDC's report, it wasn't one major issue resulting in the Majestic America Line ship's horrendous score, but several little things, including but not limited to the following: mislabeling of toxic cleaning supplies, evidence of staff eating/drinking/leaving a trail of dirty items in off-limit areas, failing to label certain perishables (smoked ham among others) with the correct seven-day discard date, perishable food being kept at temperatures above the 41 degree required temperature (veal osso bucco, 44 degrees, lobster salad, 45 degrees).

In a response to the scores, Majestic America told Cruise Critic, "Our number one priority is the safety of guests and crew and, as a result, this matter has been aggressively addressed. In addition to working with the CDC we've hired an expert medical consultant, and former CDC inspector, to evaluate our processes and re-inspect the ship.

"In a surprise inspection by our consultant just days after the official CDC inspection all our processes were in compliance with CDC regulations. We are confident that the CDC will give the Empress a very high score at her next inspection."

On a more positive note, congratulations are due to the ships scoring 100 since January 1, 2007: Carnival Freedom, Celebrity Millennium, Star Princess and Carnival Pride.

Through its Vessel Sanitation Program, the CDC -- a United States agency that monitors a range of issues relating to public health -- inspects cruise ships with foreign itineraries that call on U.S. ports and that carry 13 or more passengers. Cruise ships are subject to inspections twice a year. The inspections are conducted to ensure that vessels are maintaining adequate levels of sanitation and to provide guidance to vessel staff when needed.

--by Dan Askin, Assistant Editor