Cruising can be one of the most civilized forms of travels out there -- with fine dining, increasingly sophisticated amenities, intriguing ports of call -- but the magic of the high seas can disappear on a dirty ship.
A lack of hygienic upkeep can turn a magnificent floating city into an infirmary. Food poisoning, contagion and other horrors can ruin your vacation -- and then some. By contrast, a squeaky clean ship can ensure you experience the trip of your dreams.
The CDC conducts frequent inspections to make sure that cruise ships are up to code for passengers so they can enjoy themselves without fear. Here are the 11 lines that currently have at least one ship with a perfect score.
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Number of vessels scoring 100: 5 of 18 total ships scored
On its Vessel Sanitation Program website, the CDC keeps its Ship Scored 100 page.
This is basically the equivalent of getting a space on the Surgeon General's refrigerator. Maybe with a little smiley-face magnet. This is the list of ships given perfect scores by the agency's inspectors.
In other words, the Scored 100 page is a pretty good place to be. Princess Cruises, a subsidiary of Carnival Corporation (CCL) , has conducted some pretty smooth sailing.
Number of vessels scoring 100: 3 of 25 total ships scored
Interestingly enough, a perfect score does not necessarily mean a perfect report.
Evidently the CDC grades a little forgivingly.
Some issues do appear on 100-scoring ships, including food handling, storage and contamination and even medical best practice violations. The key to these violations is both number and severity. A crew that does its job well overall will be forgiven some notes at the end. Overall, Royal Caribbean (RCL) is pretty shipshape.
Number of vessels scoring 100: 2 out of 5 total ships scored
Showing how important an individual captain and crew can be, Oceania has ships on both the top and the bottom of the CDC's list. The same company that owns and operates the Regatta (with an unsatisfactory score) also runs the Oceania Marina, with a perfect score of 100.
Oceania also shows how important it is to look at all the information on a government website, since the Scored 100 page still lists the Regatta's out-of-date glory days.
Number of vessels scoring 100: 3 out of 9 total ships scored
Like most modern businesses, cruise companies have become tiered organizations. What that means is that just because different names appear on a list, that doesn't mean that it's all a bunch of different companies.
For example, Celebrity Cruises is operated by Royal Caribbean, giving the line a generous footprint on our top-100 scorecard. Originally founded in Greece, this company now operates its small fleet with some of the highest scores the CDC gives.
Number of vessels scoring 100: 4 out of 25 total ships scored
If you know any cruise line, it's probably this one or Disney's.
In part that's because Carnival is one of the largest cruise lines operating today, and one of the oldest, stretching back to the early 1970s.
This is because the company runs high-volume, very savvy advertising campaigns. With its enormous presence on TV, blanketing the airwaves with images of attractive, bathing-suit clad couples and families having fun, Carnival almost has a lock on the message "if you were here, you'd be having fun right now."
While at it, most of their boats have been impressing the knickers off the CDC's inspectors, all except the Carnival Legend… which got an unsatisfactory score.
Number of vessels scoring 100: 3 out of 14 total ships scored
Holland America, among other things, is known for its staff. Specifically, it hires a lot of them relative to the size of the company's ships. As a result, these cruises sail with ratio of almost one crewman for every three passengers.
Number of vessels scoring 100: 4 out of 4 total ships scored
It's tempting to poke some fun at Disney Cruises, but the truth is this company has earned its home on this list.
Disney (DIS) didn't just manage to get a perfect score on the CDC's inspection sheet. It runs a cruise line of nothing but perfect scores.
Every single one of Disney's ships listed on the Vessel Sanitation Program got a 100. For someone who runs a fleet of massive, floating resorts staffed by anthropomorphic ducks, that's very impressive.
Number of vessels scoring 100: 3 out of 13 total ships scored
Number of vessels scoring 100: 1 out of 4 total ships scored
MSC not only has four oceangoing vacation centers scored by the CDC but also runs one of them at peak-sanitation.
Number of vessels scoring 100: 1 out of 2 total ships scored
This Norway-based cruise line does quite well by CDC standards. With one ship scoring a perfect 100 and its sister vessel not far behind at 97 points, the brand may be small, but it's scrappy.
Number of vessels scoring 100: 1 out of 5 total ships scored
Costa Crociere has been sailing the friendly seas for a long time. Founded in 1854 as a cargo company, it began offering passenger service in the 1940s. With its days hauling cloth and olive oil long behind, today this subsidiary of Carnival Cruises works on hospitality full time.
And it does it well. With a substantial fleet and strong marks from the CDC on the ships that America inspects, it has earned its place on this list.
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