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How do cruise ships check their cleanliness?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has extensive sanitation inspections for cruise ships. Here's how they inspect them.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is home to the Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP), which assists the cruise ship industry to "prevent and control the introduction, transmission, and spread of gastrointestinal (GI) illnesses on cruise ships." 

The Grand Princess is just one example of a cruise ship that is idling with people infected with COVID-19 onboard. 21 people are reported to be sick with this coronavirus.

The VSP conducts two types of cruise ship inspections: operational and construction.

Operational Inspections

The main goal of this inspection is to find out how well ships are operating and maintaining sanitation standards that follow the current VSP Operations Manual

The CDC says they're done twice a year, unannounced and while a ship is in a U.S. Port.

Depending on the size of the vessel, one to four inspectors go aboard to make sure it's up to standards in the operations manual. 

These can take anywhere from 8-10 hours, but that depends on the size of the ship, the number of inspectors, and the issues identified during the inspection. 

There are eight major areas that are inspected:

  1. Medical facilities
  2. Potable water systems
  3. Swimming pools and whirlpool spas
  4. Galleys and dining rooms
  5. Child activity centers
  6. Hotel accommodations
  7. Ventilation systems
  8. Common areas of the ship

Inspectors conclude their day by meeting with the ship management to discuss inspection violations and give them a draft of their inspection report. The entire inspection ends about two weeks later with the finalized report on their findings and recommendations.

More information on operational inspections can be found on the CDC's website.

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Construction Inspections 

Construction inspections are quite different than operational inspections. The first difference is that the cruise industry requests this consultation during cruise ship construction and renovation.

Inspectors analyze the ship's design during plan reviews to pinpoint potential environmental health risks and modify them as necessary.

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VSP involvement may include:

  • Review of construction/renovation plans
  • Technical support through emails, phone calls
  • Shipyard inspections
  • Final construction inspections

The five main areas of focus include:

  1. Equipment and facilities
  2. Food areas
  3. Warewashing and waste management
  4. Swimming pools and spas
  5. Water systems

You can find more information on plan reviews and construction-related inspections by clicking/tapping here.

Want to know the last time a ship was inspected? Click/tap here to go to the VSP advanced search page to find out.

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