The Cleanest Cruise Line, According to 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 had a score of at least 90. The scores ranged from a low of 90.7 to a high of 99.

You can see the results in the chart below:

CDC Cruise line inspection scores

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:

Disney – With four ships, every Disney cruise ship scored well on their latest inspections. Two ships — Disney Dream and Disney Magic — scored a perfect 100. The Disney Fantasy scored an almost perfect 99 and the Disney Wonder scored a 97. Taken together, the four scores come out to a 99 average inspection score, making Disney the highest-scoring cruise line.

Celebrity – A close second place to Disney, Celebrity saw an average score of 98.6 across its inspections. The cruise line had nine ships in the inspection report log, with three — Eclipse, Infinity, and Reflection — scoring 100. The lowest score in the fleet was a still-strong 96 aboard the Celebrity Summit.

Seabourn/Holland America (tie) — These two cruise lines saw a tie average score of 96.8 on their inspections. Seabourn had five ships listed in the report, with two (Odyssey and Quest) scoring a 100. Holland America has 14 ships, of which three scored perfectly — Amsterdam, Eurodam, and Zuiderdam.

These Ships Scored Lowest

Overall, the average scores of cruise lines were strong, with no 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 the only 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.

AIDAaura (AIDA): 86 — Scoring an 86, the AIDAaura was still considered satisfactory by the CDC grading scale. Still, it’s borderline and there were violations including fruit flies being seen in some areas and issues with equipment having hard-to-clean surfaces.

Queen Elizabeth (Cunard): 86 — Also scoring an 86 (which is satisfactory), the Queen Elizabeth’s report cited a number of issues ranging from incorrect chemical levels in pools to soiled dishes stacked on counters.

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.

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