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The Truth Behind Cruise Ship Health Inspections

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Despite a flurry of recent reports, the fact is that every year, hundreds of cruise ship inspections occur, with very few ships ever failing to pass. We recently spoke with Aimee Trefiletti, chief of the Center For Disease Control’s Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP), about what exactly goes into these cruise ship inspections.

What A Cruise Ship Inspection Involves

Looking back at five ships docked in Nassau.

Cruise ships are graded on a scale of 1 to 100, and any score below 86 is considered failing. These inspections are unannounced, meaning the ship must be prepared for inspection on any given day.

According to Trefiletti, the inspections can last 8 to 10 hours, depending on the size of the ship and number of inspectors involved. Noting that cruise ships are like “floating cities,” Trefiletti addressed how the VSP inspection for cruise ships involves a similar process to what multiple different land-based industries undergo.

“There are several areas that we look at in addition to food safety,” Trefiletti explained. “We also look at the medical facilities, particularly related to gastrointestinal illness surveillance and documentation… We look at potable water from source to storage, as well as disinfection and distribution and those processes, and we look at the recreational activities onboard, particularly swimming pools, whirlpools, water parks — all those kind of facilities — for filtration, disinfection, general maintenance and safety.”

Read More: The Truth and Lies About Noro Virus

But that’s only the start. “We also look at the child activity centers,” she continued, “particularly diaper changing stations, illness and infection control for children, hand washing stations, their toilet rooms. We look at the hotel accommodations, particularly routine cleaning sequences as well as infection control procedures if they were to have an outbreak of gastrointestinal illness. We also look at ventilation systems [as far as] maintenance and cleaning. And then, finally, we look at several common areas of the ship, particularly for pest management strategy, so they don’t have any infestation of pests, and general cleanliness and maintenance in these areas.”

photo: Norwegian Cruise Line

Trefiletti then went into further detail, explaining that inspections involve checking the temperatures of food storage areas, the temperature of individual food products, employee habits for hand washing, cleanliness, hygiene, whether anybody is ill, and if those with beards are wearing a beard restraint. Cleaning and sanitizing facilities, like the warewash machines and the temperatures that they’re [operating at] are also assessed. Poolside, inspectors check pH as well as halogen-based disinfectant levels – usually either chlorine or bromine.

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What Happens When A Ship Fails

Source: CDC

Ships that fail an inspection must submit a corrective action statement. There is then another inspection which, like the original, is unannounced. That said, however, it’s relatively uncommon for a ship to actually fail the inspection.

“In the calendar year 2017, we conducted 256 of these routine, unannounced operational inspections,” Trefiletti reveals, “and we did have 17 failures. In 2016, we had 4 failures out of 238 inspections. In 2015, we had 5 failures out of 269 inspections. In 2014, we had 12 failures out of 248 inspections, and then in 2013, we had 15 failures out of 231 inspections.”

Percentage-wise, that means that 6.6% of the inspected ships failed their inspections in 2017, a significant increase over 2016, in which only 1.7% failed. Just under two percent failed in 2015, 4.8% fell below the passing grade in 2014, and 6.5% failed in 2013.

All inspection reports and scores, as well as the corrective action statements that cruise lines submit afterwards, are available on the VSP website at cdc.gov. This means that cruise passengers who want to see how well a ship they’re considering booking did during it’s most recent inspection, they can easily search the database. It’s a level of transparency not at all common in the travel and hospitality industries… or most others, either.

How To Keep From Getting Sick On Your Cruise

Thanks to news reports about record flu outbreaks on land, many passengers are wondering how they can best avoid getting sick while they’re on vacation. “The most important thing is to wash your hands,” Trefiletti says, explaining that taking this simple step — and doing it often — is the No. 1 way to avoid illness.

Trefiletti also notes that “if you see someone getting sick with vomiting or diarrhea, you should leave the area as soon as possible, and then report to cruise staff if they have not been notified already.”

Last but not least, remember to drink plenty of water. Between the tasty drink specials and the endless Caribbean sun, it’s easy to get dehydrated quickly. Keep yourself hydrated to keep your immune system in its best shape for fighting off illness.

 

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June Special: Kids Sail Free to the Bahamas

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With summer around the corner, Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line has a special deal for families traveling with kids. Valid for all June cruises, those 16 and under will sail free if they’re staying in the same stateroom with two paying parents.

With the school year wrapping up and Father’s Day on June 17, it’s the perfect time for a quick escape to the Bahamas. Both of the line’s ships, Grand Classica and Grand Celebration offer a number of activities for guests on their way to the island. There are youth clubs divided by age, swimming pools, multiple dining options, a mini movie theater, mini rock climbing wall, a ball pit, and more.

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There’s also a number of shore excursions that families can take part in once they arrive, including snorkeling, a beach day, cruising the beach in an open-top Jeep, swimming with dolphins, parasailing, kayaking, glass-bottom boat tours, and more.

For more information, visit bahamasparadisecruiseline.com.

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Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders Take Annual Photos on Cruise Ship

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The Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders have officially wrapped up their 2018 annual photo shoot, and this year a Miami-based cruise ship was the backdrop.

Over 20 of the cheerleaders sailed to the sunny Caribbean this month aboard MSC Cruises’ MSC Seaside, donning a number of clothing styles for the photos while capturing the ship’s iconic design. The Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders Annual is set to be released at the Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders Fashion Show this fall.

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The cheerleaders also took part in photo shoot in ports along the way, including St. Maarten, San Juan, and Nassau. During the voyage, the cheerleaders engaged with guests throughout the cruise during a variety of activities, including at the sail away party, hosting youth cheer clinics, posing for photo ops, and doing special performances to entertain guests. To kick off the cruise, they provided a warm Miami Dolphins welcome by taking over the terminal with mascot “TD” to cheer guests into their vacation.

The annual photoshoot onboard MSC Seaside came on the heels of the Dolphins’ first ever Fan Cruise onboard the same ship in March. The voyage included football legend guests of honor including Kim Bokamper, Terry Kirby, Sam Madison, Nat Moore, Joe Rose and Patrick Surtain, for a week of themed activities. The team will be hosting their second cruise in 2019.

The Miami Dolphins and MSC Cruises are in the midst of a three-year partnership, which resulted in the Fan Cruise. It will be hosted annually over the next three years.

Photos: Miami Dolphins

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Carnival Horizon Makes Inaugural Call in Canadian Port

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Carnival Cruise Line’s brand new Vista-class ship Carnival Horizon made her first-ever call in Halifax, Nova Scotia yesterday.

The day was a welcome change for cruise passengers; it was the first port stop after six days at sea crossing the Atlantic Ocean from the Mediterranean. Ship officers as well as local officials held a traditional plaque ceremony in the Library onboard, where a plaque was given to the ship by the Port of Halifax and other tokens were exchanged, including a model of the ship given to the port by Carnival Cruise Line.

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Carnival Horizon is the sister-ship to Carnival Vista, which pioneered a number of new concepts for Carnival including the SkyRide bicycling attraction and the Dreamscape LED sculpture in the atrium. Some of Horizon’s unique new features include a sit-down barbecue smokehouse and brewery as well as a Cat in the Hat themed WaterWorks water park.

Click here for a video of the ship headed into the Port of Halifax.

Click here for our article on all of the free food found aboard Carnival Horizon.

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