Note: This article was originally published in October 2018. We recently updated it with the latest results from CDC inspections.
With the headlines about cruise ship sickness and the bad publicity they bring, you should know that cruise lines are serious about cleanliness. Just one incident can turn some passengers away and hurt business.
Meanwhile, the government also has an interest in keeping people healthy. That’s why the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) operates the Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP). This program is essentially a health inspection for cruise ships. Just like a restaurant in your town would be checked by a health inspector, ships sailing from the United States are also checked out. These inspections are done without prior knowledge by the cruise line.
In particular, the CDC inspections focus on eight areas:
- Medical facilities
- Water systems
- Swimming pools and whirlpools
- Galleys and dining rooms
- Child activity centers
- Hotel accommodations
- Ventilation systems
- Common areas
In general, cruise lines do well on these inspections. Scores are on a 100-point scale and anything less than 86 is considered unsatisfactory. If a ship scores below this mark, they have the chance to correct the issues and be reinspected. From our knowledge, scoring below an 86 only happens on occasion across dozens and dozens ships.
The good news for cruise passengers is not only are these inspections going on, but the results are also published publicly. You can visit the CDC website and see the scores and reports for more than 150 vessels. No doubt any cruise ship you are sailing on will have their latest report listed.
With this in mind, we recently combed through the latest inspection scores by the CDC to determine which cruise line is the cleanest by the standard of the Vessel Sanitation Program.
The Average Score of Every Cruise Line
As mentioned above, the CDC lists the inspections scores for dozens of vessels. For our research, we culled out those smaller cruise lines with only one or two ships. Instead, we focused on the major players that have multiple ships and well-known brands.
Using the VSP database, we looked at the most recent scores for each ship listed. From there, we averaged the scores across the entire fleet of each line — giving us a single score for each cruise line.
In total, no cruise line scored a perfect average, but every line –except one — had a score of at least 90. The scores ranged from a low of 89.3 to a high of 97.7.
You can see the results in the chart below:
The 3 “Cleanest” Cruise Lines According to the CDC
According to the CDC data, here are the three cruise lines that scored the highest average scores on their inspection reports:
Celebrity – The winner as the cleanest cruise line was Celebrity. The high-end luxury cruise line came in with an average score of 97.7 across its inspections. The cruise line had ten ships in the inspection report log, with two — Eclipse and Summit — scoring 100 on their most recent inspections. The lowest score in the fleet was a still-strong 92 aboard the Celebrity Infinity. Ever other ship scored at least a 96, with several near perfect scores of 98-99.
Disney – In our original article about the cleanest ships published in October 2018, Disney came in first, with Celebrity just behind. Now the two lines have flip-flopped. With four ships, every Disney cruise ship scored well on their latest inspections. Two ships — Disney Dream and Disney Wonder — scored a perfect 100. The Disney Fantasy scored a 94 and the Disney Magic scored a 96. Taken together, the four scores come out to a 97.5 average inspection score, making Disney the second-cleanest cruise line based on inspection scores.
Seabourn – While Celebrity and Disney took top honors, Seabourn wasn’t far behind. The average score on this cruise line was a 96.8. One thing to note is that the CDC only inspects ships sailing from the United States and most Seabourn ships don’t depart the U.S. As a result, many of its most recent inspections were years ago, including one from 2012. Still, it has a history of solid inspection scores, including a perfect “100” for the Seabourn Quest last November.
These Ships Scored Lowest
Overall, the average scores of cruise lines were strong, with only one line averaging below a 90. That said, there were a few lower scores on the inspection reports for specific ships:
Silver Wind (Silversea): 79 — This ship had the lowest score listed during our search, and one of the few to score below 86 (indicating “not satisfactory” according to the CDC). According to the inspection report, violations included various issues ranging from food in crew member lockers to fruit flies being seen near kitchen areas.
Oceania Insignia (Oceania Cruises): 80 — An 80 on a history test is decent, but an 80 on a CDC inspection isn’t a passing grade. The Oceania Insignia was checked out in December 2018 and a number of violations were found. This included insects in food areas and problems with hand-washing facilities.
Silver Spirit (Silversea): 81 — It’s rare for a cruise line to have one unsatisfactory score (below 86) from an inspection. It’s even rarer for two ships from the same cruise line to score this low. Silver Spirit from Silversea scored an 81 on an inspection in February 2019. According to the report on the CDC website, inspectors found insufficient temperatures at some hand-washing sinks, issues with food debris in the galleys, and food storage that could lead to cross-contamination.
How to See What Your Cruise Ship Scored
Headed on a cruise soon and want to know what your specific ship scored on its latest inspection? You can search the VSP database by ship using this page. Simply find your ship in the list and then click search. It will also allow you to see all past reports, which you can read to see the specific violations found on the ship.