Dear Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee,
My husband and I are considering a cruise to Europe, but my neighbor told me that cruise ships are not very clean, and that we could get sick. We have never been on a cruise before. My neighbor also has never been on a cruise, so I don't know if she really knows, or is just trying to put a damper on our possible cruise plans? Do you know anything about cleanliness on cruise ships?
Worried about ship sickness
Dear Worried about ship sickness,
While there have been a few reports of people getting sick on board a cruise ship, it is more the exception than the rule. Cruise ships are regularly inspected by the Center for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov).
The CDC recommends these tips for healthy cruising:
1. Wash hands often, especially before eating or smoking in order to avoid exposing yourself and others to anything that may cause illnesses and spread germs.
2. Avoid eating or drinking anything that you think will make you sick.
3. If you are sick before the voyage, then ask about alternate options such as voyage dates and credits. Consult a doctor to see if it is safe for you to sail.
4. If you are sick during the voyage, then visit the ship's medical facility.
The CDC has established the Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP). The VSP program inspects ships with foreign itineraries in order to maintain sanitation levels on cruise ships, provide a healthy environment, and lower the risk of gastrointestinal disease outbreaks. CDC inspectors examine cruise ship medical facilities, potable water systems, swimming pools and spas, galleys and dining rooms, child activity centers, hotel accommodations, ventilation systems, and common areas of the ship.
Unannounced inspections take place twice a year, and the CDC publishes the results, known as the "Green Sheet." Scores can range from 1 to 100, with 86 being the minimal acceptable level.
Don't let sanitation worries keep you from cruising. Cruise ships are a fun, comfortable, and great way to visit many ports of call.
You can view a specific cruise ship's sanitation report at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Vessel Sanitation Program site at www.cdc.gov/nceh/vsp