Is Your Ship Sea Sick?
When most of us choose a cruise
ship, we look at things such as itineraries, shore excursions, and
cabin size. But here's another thing to think about: sanitation.
Poor sanitation has the potential to ruin your cruise, whether it's
from tainted food preparation areas or galley crewmembers who don't
routinely wash their hands.
Recently, dozens of Europeans
sailing the Mediterranean aboard Thomson Holidays' Topaz were
struck down with salmonella. This is the third case of food
poisoning on the ship in two years. In the latest outbreak, 450 of
the 1,007 passengers fell ill and were told they had an air-borne
virus. However, when they returned home, many were diagnosed with
salmonella. Unfortunately for Europeans, there is no program to
monitor cruise ship sanitation.
Fortunately for American
cruisers, there is a program. All cruise ships that dock in the
United States are given regular inspections by the Centers for
Disease Control (CDC) Vessel Sanitation Program. The program was
established in 1975 after several major disease outbreaks on cruise
ships. In the '70s and early '80s, outbreaks of diarrheal illness
occurred 12 to 15 times each year aboard ships. The number of
incidents has decreased since the inspections started but there are
still problems. The numbers vary each year but CDC officials admit
outbreaks usually number between four and nine.
board a ship twice a year for unannounced inspections. Each
inspection takes six to eight hours, depending on the size of the
ship and the number of inspectors. A checklist is used to help
evaluate such things as the ship's water supply and its food storage
and preparation areas. Every ship starts with 100 points, and points
are deducted for each infraction. Inspection scores from the mid-80s
to mid-90s are the most common. Ships scoring 86 points or higher
are considered satisfactory, while those scoring 85 and below are
re-inspected within 30 days.
Do you know how clean your
cruise ship is? Consumers can view inspection summaries by visiting
the Center of Disease
Control website, which maintains extensive reviews on vessel
sanitation scores. In addition, you can request a fax by calling
888-232-6789 and requesting document No. 510051. You can also write
Chief, Vessel Sanitation Program
for Environmental Health
1015 N. American Way, Room 107
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