Cruise Ship CDC Scores Update: Who's the Most Unsanitary?

July 6, 2009

Health Inspector
(2:02 p.m. EDT) -- It's been more than a year since our last report on CDC vessel sanitation inspections, the stringent (and surprise) cruise ship cleanliness tests conducted twice a year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But kudos are due to about 25 ships that earned perfect scores of 100 over the past year, including vessels from every major line.

And, when it comes to onboard cleanliness in general, germophobes will be happy to learn that lines have been maintaining a high standard over the past twelve months. In fact, of the hundreds of ships tested during that time span, only two failed the random inspection. (Anything less than an 86 is considered a failing score.)

So who's on the dirtiest ship list?

The first, the five-masted, 400-passenger Club Med 2 -- owned by the Club Med resorts people and known for its emphasis on fitness and water sports -- earned an 82 during an April 2009 inspection. Various infractions included failure to document an ill crewmember's return to work (which is required by law) and inspectors' discovery of a large pan of raw chicken stored, uncovered, on a shelf above a large pan of cooked pasta. A spokeswoman for the line tells us that these items have all been corrected and that a new executive chef has been hired to work onboard, who will continue to focus on safety and hygiene in all food preparation on the ship.

More mainstream offering Celebrity Infinity failed the inspection back in December 2008, earning an 85 -- just one point short of passing. Highlights from the list of point deductions included a food employee who was observed tasting food with his finger. The inspector's response? "He was instructed to stop work and wash his hands." Another find was a can of insecticide (565 Plus XLO) was stored in a box with paper towels, and three bags of Max Force bait stations were stored on the top shelf with chlorine powder. Storing roach spray in places with food-related items is frowned upon by the CDC.

A spokesperson from Celebrity Cruises tells us that Infinity passed its next inspection, earning a 95. (The score is not yet posted on the CDC Web site.) CDC spokespersons did not respond to our request for additional comment.

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