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    How cruise ship health inspections work


    First the good news: Cruise ships seldom fail health inspections.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through its Vessel Sanitation Program regularly inspects cruise ships in U.S. ports, looking for anything that could potentially make passengers sick, particularly with gastroenteritis.

    A passing grade is 86 and up, based on a 100-point scale. All grades are made public.

    It's easy for cruise passengers to find out how a ship has scored. You can look up individual ships on the CDC's Web site. The CDC's Green Sheet even provides a ship-by-ship comparison.

    Any ship that carries more than 13 passengers, visits another country and calls at a port in the U.S. is subject to inspection on an unannounced basis (surprise!) twice a year.

    As many as four CDC investigators come onboard to check everything from how silverware is washed to how meat is stored to whether the hot tub water is at the right temperature.

    The inspectors look extensively at galleys and dining rooms, ventilation systems and bathrooms and even the personal hygiene routines of employees.

    Cruise lines pay fees to reimburse the government for the inspections.

    The program's lengthy operation's manual is a good read only if you have a whole lot of time and interest.

    Based on the significance of the infraction, points are taken off for each violation the inspectors find. Some ships score a perfect 100, as was the case this year with Oasis of the Seas in January, Carnival Freedom in April, Disney Fantasy in May, and Disney Dream in June, among others. Bragging press releases often result.

    When a ship fails there is public embarrassment in the form of bad press and the cruise line is required to file a lot of paperwork showing issues have been addressed. There are no fines. The CDC does have the right to recommend a ship not sail if it is determined there is a public health risk, though such action is extremely rare.

    On special web pages for cruise travelers, the CDC recommends that everyone be proactive in staying healthy, including by always researching your ship's sanitation score.

    Frequently washing your hands is also advised.

    By Fran Golden, Special to USA TODAY

    For more cruise news & articles go to http://www.cruisecrazies.com/index.html

    Re-posted on CruiseCrazies.com - Cruise News, Articles, Forums, Packing List, Ship Tracker, and more

    http://www.cruisecrazies.com

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    I remember when I was boarding the then Celebrity Meridian in N.Y. enroute to Bermuda back in the early 90's, a sign placed at the gangway of a ship across from us (I think it was a Premier Lines ship) that stated "This vessel has not passed CDC inspection". Although the Coast Guard can't force cruise lines to cancel a cruise due to inspection failure, I sign like that at the gangway would SURELY cause me to think twice!!!

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    Interesting details – and amusing that the CDC needs to tell people to wash their hands. Didn’t mom and dad teach us all to do that?

    I agree!! But when I think about some of the things I've seen on past cruises such as passengers loading up trays at the buffet with enough to feed a whole deck of passengers, people changing dirty diapers poolside, people that seem to not be able to figure out how the shower in their cabin worked and more, I can see the safety reason behind their statement. In May when we sailed on RCCL, that was the first time I experienced their approach. They had dining crew at the entrances to the buffet and the main dining room that would offer hand sanitizer. Also, RCCL crew will not shake hands with anyone, they will accept a "fist-bump" with a smile though!! :biggrin:

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    Interesting details – and amusing that the CDC needs to tell people to wash their hands. Didn’t mom and dad teach us all to do that?

    . They had dining crew at the entrances to the buffet and the main dining room that would offer hand sanitizer.

    Sadly, people expect hand sanitizer to do things it's not capable of. It will not prevent Noro or the vast majority of other viruses that might be of concern on board. Washing your hands thoroughly with very warm, soapy water for 30 seconds or more is the only method of prevention that the CDC considers appropriate:

    http://www.cdc.gov/norovirus/preventing-infection.html Don't get me wrong... I use hand sanitizer but never as a substitute for hand washing. I have never been sick on a ship and if something as simple as frequently washing my hands and not touching my face is the key then I don't mind someone reminding me!

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