The 8 Dirtiest Cruise Ships, According to the CDC

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Are you sailing on a sea of filth?

Norovirus outbreaks, measles quarantines, head-on collisions with other cruise ships: there’s so much high drama on the high seas it’s easy to miss the mundane factors that can make a cruise a less than pleasant experience. That’s where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention comes in. Twice a year the CDC inspects cruise ships for unsanitary conditions, improperly stored food and other less-than-ideal conditions that can ruin your trip. This year’s results are in, and some of them are pretty gross.

Oh No. Just Tell Me Which Ships Are CDC-Certified Gross

Eight ships received a score below 85 out of 100, earning them an “unsatisfactory” rating and eligibility for a Gordon Ramsay cleanup treatment. And some of these ships are part of very popular cruise lines. They include the Safari Endeavour (Un-Cruise Adventures), Silver Wind (Silversea Cruises), Oceania Insignia (Oceania Cruises), Silver Spirit (Silversea Cruises), Le Boreal (Compagnie Du Ponant), Norwegian Breakaway (Norwegian Cruise Lines), the Ocean Dream (Japan Grace), and the Pacific Venus (Japan Cruise Line).

While none of these were up to snuff according to the CDC, the lowest scoring by far was the Pacific Venus which received a 76 out of 100. Why did it score so low? Several reasons: high halogen levels in the drinking water (which wasn’t properly tested for E.coli), improper filtration in three of the whirlpool spas, inadequate buffet sneeze guards, and “housekeeping foods” (sugar, tea, and coffee) stored directly under “soiled wires and lines” in a spa pump room. None of those reasons include the upsetting phrases used to describe the state of ice machines and their parts which include “a reddish purple drip,” “soiled inside with dust and debris,” “black debris,” “pink and brown debris.”

The most common (and viscerally upsetting) violations across all the ships took place in the kitchen or were related to food handling.

But if seasons upon seasons of Kitchen Nightmares have taught us anything, it’s that when kitchens get gross, they get real gross. The most common (and viscerally upsetting) violations across all the ships took place in the kitchen or were related to food handling. Instances of improper logging of perishable foods were frequent. The reports for the Safari Endeavour described things like a container of eggs being “soiled with a yellow film along the food contact surface” and an open container of sour cream being left in a cooler two days past its “discard date.” Both the Norwegian Breakaway and the Silver Wind were reported as having fruit flies in a number of different food areas. The Ocean Insignia was reported to have “excessive black debris that resembled mold” inside a crushed ice bin, inside the ice bin walls, and on top of the bin near its chute.

Should I Be Too Grossed Out to Ever Cruise Again?

While reading about “pink and brown debris” can be distressing news for someone who’s booked a cruise, the good news is, the vast majority of ships received satisfactory scores from the CDC. And, in fact, 14 ships (including the Disney Wonder, the Norwegian Gem, and Royal Caribbean International’s Rhapsody of the Seas) received scores of 100. So, you can still have your relaxing cruise ship experience without being haunted by thoughts of “excessive black debris” in the ice machines haunting your every waking moment. And if you’re not currently thinking of taking a cruise but end up booking one down the line, make sure to check back in with the list to make sure your ship of choice has maintained its rating of spic-and-span.