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    The cleanest cruise ship? Carnival Splendor wins kudos

    Is the Carnival Splendor the cleanest ship at sea? Maybe so, judging from its scores in suprise government health inspections.

    The 3,006-passenger vessel this month once again received a perfect 100 from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention inspectors -- an unprecedented sixth perfect score since the vessel's debut in 2008. In two other surprise inspections since its launch, the ship scored a near-perfect 99 and 98.

    As part of its Vessel Sanitation Program, the CDC conducts unannounced inspections of passenger ships docking in U.S. ports twice a year and grades them on a 100 point scale. The agency evaluates ships in 42 areas including adherence to proper food handling, preparation and storage procedures; overall galley cleanliness; and the cleanliness of spas and pools.

    Only a small fraction of the dozens of cruise ships inspected each quarter receive a perfect score.

    The Splendor isn't the only Carnival ship to have aced a CDC inspection this year. Also scoring a perfect 100 since January, according to CDC records, are the Carnival Pride, Carnival Liberty, Carnival Dream, Carnival Freedom and Carnival Sensation.

    Among 20 other cruise ships scoring a perfect 100 since the start of the year are the Disney Fantasy, Oceania Marina, Star Princess and Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas.

    The Carnival Splendor sails seven-day cruises to the Mexican Riviera from Long Beach, Calif. In March 2013, it's scheduled to reposition to New York City to sail year-round, eight-day voyages to the Caribbean and Bahamas.

    By Gene Sloan, USA Today

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