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Passenger health and safety is of paramount concern to cruise lines, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-conducted inspection results tell the most detailed story of individual cruise ship compliance with sanitation regulations.
These United States Public Health inspections are part of the Vessel Sanitation Program implemented in the 1970s as required of all passenger ships that make berth in the U.S. Each ship is subject to inspection twice annually, and the evaluations are unannounced. Rankings follow a scale of one to one-hundred, with 100 being perfect and 85 or below considered failing.
Zones that are carefully screened by one to four inspectors depending on the vessel size, according to the CDC website, are medical facilities, potable water systems, swimming pools and whirlpool spas, galleys and dining rooms, child activity centers, hotel accommodations, ventilation systems and common areas of the ship. Criteria are assigned point values, and any violations deduct from 100.
[READMORE]READ MORE: Staying Safe and Healthy On a Cruise Ship[/READMORE]
If a ship should fail an inspection, it is required to correct violations "within a reasonable time period," and sometimes immediately if deemed critical. In some cases, it may be recommended that the ship not sail. Imminent public health risks that might prompt such a seizure include the inabilities to properly chlorinate potable water, keep food within safe temperatures or properly dispose of solid or liquid waste.
Plus, inadequate facilities for cleaning and sanitizing equipment or an infectious disease outbreak that could harm newly arriving passengers are reasons to suggest an operations halt. The now infamous norovirus is included in the latter despite the fact that guests or crew are often the cause of its introduction. Of course, cruise ships are inevitably responsible for stemming its spread. That's why more and more sanitation procedures and equipment are employed across the board.
[READMORE]READ MORE: Attention Media: Norovirus Isn't Just On Cruise Ships[/READMORE]
The result of increased dedication are frequent perfect scores. So far in 2016, Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean International have all had ships ranked 100. Cruise travelers can even perform an advanced cruise ship inspection search on the CDC website to view the scores of tested vessels.
What's interesting is just how much the cruise lines themselves pay for these inspections to be conducted. Fees vary from $1,495 to $17,940 defending on the ship size - with the largest cruise ship in the world, Royal Caribbean International's new Harmony of the Seas - having to ante up the highest fare, for instance.
Also fascinating is the CDC's involvement in the construction and renovation of cruise ships at the request of the industry to ensure the healthiest of environments by reviewing plans and providing other technical support. In these cases, the Vessel Sanitation Program does not charge any fees.
Jason Leppert - Senior Writer, Cruises and Cruise Travel - is a San Diego-based cruising expert with more than 100 sailings...
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