While keeping passengers healthy has always been a priority for cruise lines, never has the issue been important than today.
Following the health crisis and the suspension of sailing, you should know that cruise lines are serious about cleanliness. Any sort of incident — whether a virus or not — would lead to a flurry of headlines and negative press, potentially turning some passengers away and hurting business.
Meanwhile, the government also has an interest in keeping cruise passengers healthy. That’s why they have oversight in inspecting ship cleanliness.
Vessel Sanitation Program: Health Inspections for Cruise Ships
Many people don’t realize it, but 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 on a regular basis. 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
Cruise ships overall do well on these inspections. Scores are on a 100-point scale and tallies in the high-90s and above are common. In fact, since the start of 2022, more than 20 ships have scored perfect a perfect 100 grade.
On the other end, anything less than 86 is considered unsatisfactory. If a ship scores below this mark, they have the chance to correct the issues and be re-inspected.
Scoring below an 86 only happens on occasion across dozens and dozens ships. Since the start of 2022 until today, we found only one ship with a failing grade.
The good news for cruise passengers is not only do ships score well when inspected, but the results are also published publicly. You can visit the CDC website and see the scores and reports for hundreds of vessels. Each report is also complete with a write-up of any issues found. No doubt any cruise ship you are sailing on will have their latest report listed.
Now, while ships tend to score well, there are some lines that seem to do better than others on a consistent basis.
Given the current environment, we know that cleanliness is important to passengers. With this in mind, we recently combed through the latest inspection scores from the CDC to determine which cruise line is the cleanest on average by the standards of the Vessel Sanitation Program.
The Average Score of Every Cruise Line
As mentioned above, the CDC lists the inspections scores for an enormous number of vessels sailing from the United States. These scores go back years. For our research, we focused only on scores from the start of 2022 through today to provide more recent information.
In addition, we looked only at those lines with at least two ships receiving scores during that time. This removes small specialty lines that might only occasionally sail from the U.S.
Using the VSP data, 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 had a score of at least 91. The scores ranged from a low of 91.6 to a near-perfect 99.8.
You can see the results in the chart below:
As you can see, in general cruise lines score well on their inspections. That said, some do score higher marks than others.
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 latest inspection reports:
Disney Cruise Line – When it comes to high scores on CDC inspections, Disney takes the top honor. With five ships, every Disney cruise ship scored well on their latest inspections. Four of the ships — Disney Fantasy, Magic, Wish, and Wonder — scored a perfect 100. Disney Dream scored the only non-perfect score… a “lowly” 99. Taken together, the five scores come out to a near-perfect 99.8 average inspection score, making Disney the cleanest cruise line based on inspection scores.
Silversea- While Disney took top honors, Silversea wasn’t far behind. The average score on this luxury cruise line was a 98.5. One thing to note is that the CDC only inspects ships sailing from the United States. If a ship doesn’t come to the U.S. often, it could be longer before another inspection. As a result, despite a 13-ship fleet, only two ships were recently inspected by the CDC. Still, they had solid inspection scores, including a perfect 100 for the Silver Moon and a 97 for Silver Dawn.
Celebrity – Celebrity makes a strong showing as a luxury brand that sails larger vessels than Silversea and has a much larger fleet than Disney. The cruise line came in with an average score of 98.1 across its inspections, which includes eight different ships with recent inspection scores. Celebrity Edge, Millennium and Summit all scored a 100 in their last inspections, while two others — Celebrity Beyond and Equinox — scored a near-perfect 98. The lowest score in the fleet was a still-strong 95 aboard Celebrity Reflection.
These Ships Scored Lowest at Last Inspection
Overall, the average scores of cruise lines were strong, with no line averaging below an 91. That said, there were a few lower scores on the inspection reports for individual ships in our search:
MSC Seaside: 67 (Not Satisfactory) — This ship had the lowest score listed during our search and was the only one to score below 86 (indicating “not satisfactory” according to the CDC) since 2022. That’s surprising because all other MSC ships checked by the CDC scored at least 95, with MSC Seascape scoring a perfect 100.
According to the inspection report, violations included various issues ranging from incorrect data logs on crew counts, issues with dishwashing operations, and one crew member with hamburger blood on their hands opening a cooler door, leaving the “refrigerator door handle covered in hamburger blood.”
Carnival Liberty: 86 (Satisfactory) — An 86 is a satisfactory mark according to the CDC, but it is still lower than most among the scores we analyzed. The CDC took issue with dishwashers being out of service, leaky faucets, as well as employees not reporting gastro illness soon enough after onset of symptoms.
Carnival Pride: 86 (Satisfactory) — During an inspection of Carnival Pride, the CDC inspectors found some food areas on the ship “infested with flies that were too many to count.” This went along with “old food soil” in multiple areas.
Despite the lower scores on Liberty and Pride, Carnival overall posted high marks. The average score was 96.1, with four ships — Celebration, Magic, Panorama, and Sunshine — earning perfect scores.
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 reports, which you can read to see the specific violations found on the ship.