Since I investigate cruise ship accidents for a living, I am commonly asked by friends which cruise line is safest for a family vacation. My answer is . . . it depends. Every major cruise line has multiple ships, of various sizes, ages, and homeports–all of which can make a major difference in how they are maintained and equipped.

While many people who are considering booking a summer cruise might go to Expedia or Kayak to see where they can find the best deals or the most exciting ports, I suggest starting one’s research on the far less exotic and exciting Center for Disease Control’s website–where the CDC publishes the results of its recent ship inspections, known as the Vessel Sanitation Program. The CDC doesn’t have jurisdiction over all ships, only those that schedule foreign itineraries and dock at US Ports. For example, an RCCL European cruise from Barcelona would not be subject to a CDC inspection.

How do CDC Cruise Ship Inspections Work?

CDC cruise ship inspections are supposed to be unannounced and periodic. Inspectors board the cruise ship at a US Port, like the Port of Miami, looking at how the ship maintains its medical centers, food and drinking water supplies and storage, swimming pools and Jacuzzis, insect and rodent control, and the general hygiene of the ship. The inspectors are looking for potential health hazards, and they are not there measuring steps, doors, and decks.

These inspections are actually paid for by the individual cruise lines, based upon the size of the particular ship; most cost just under $18,000 per inspection, and ships are rated on a 100-point scale, with points deducted from 100 based on public health significance. A ship scoring 85 or below is considered to have failed, and it should be considered a ship you would want to avoid at all costs. In fact, if the CDC deems a ship to be an “imminent public health risk,” it may recommend the ship not sail. Such “imminent” risks include undrinkable water, unsafe food, and an Inability to dispose of waste properly.

At the end of each inspection, the CDC inspectors confer with ship’s staff to discuss the inspection and any violations. Within two weeks of the inspection, the CDC sends a final copy of the inspection report to the ship’s cruise line, which is also available to consumers online.


Surprisingly, Royal Caribbean has recorded several nearly failing inspections this year, including a dismal score of 89 on its newest ship, which is also currently the largest cruise ship in the world, the Harmony of the Seas. When the inspection was performed on December 10, 2016, inspectors found a plethora of violations on the Harmony of the Seas, from inconsistencies in the ship’s medical center’s records as to the number of passengers treated as well as inaccurate documentation and multiple problems in the ship’s buffet and service areas, ranging from corroded and soiled soda dispensers and serving utensils to bugs found crawling in the strawberries. As of today–July 3, 2017–RCCL has not yet submitted a corrective action report to the CDC.


In comparison, Carnival Cruise Lines, the largest cruise line in the world, suffered a dismal inspection on April 23, 2017 of its Carnival Legend, when the CDC scored it a terrifying 87 points, after finding 53 separate health violations. Inspectors noted an array of deficiencies, ranging from incorrect information in the medical records as to where the cruise originated, over-chlorinated water, inadequate dishwashing, food storage, and lack of side shields on the food buffets. However, in contrast to RCCL, Carnival submitted a corrective action report to the CDC, showing that each deficiency was addressed by May 23, 2017, including a chlorination alarm for the water.


While different cruise lines observe different priorities when it comes to passenger safety, one thing seems clear at Disney, where the Disney Dream (3/3/2017), Disney Fantasy (3/4/2017), Disney Magic (2/17/2017), and Disney Wonder (2/2/2017) all scored perfect 100s. While a Disney cruise may not be for anyone, at least according to the numbers, Mickey Mouse is running the cleanest cruise ships at sea.


We believe that the majority of cruise ship-related accidents and illnesses can be avoided. However, when cruise lines put their profits ahead of passenger safety, people can get seriously hurt.  Our law office is located in Miami, Florida, and we concentrate on representing passengers in claims and lawsuits against all the cruise lines–such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Norwegian, SilverSeas, Regents, Holland America, Princess, and suing Disney Cruise Lines.

If you have been hurt aboard a cruise, on an excursion, or while in port, call our office today and speak to an experienced cruise ship passenger injury attorney.  Our firm has nearly 75 years of combined legal experience holding the cruise lines accountable for lost wages, medical expenses, loss of enjoyment of the cruise, and pain and suffering.

We are available today to provide you with a free initial consultation via SKYPE, FACETIME, EMAIL at or simply by calling us, toll-free at 1-866-597-4529, or at 305-441-0440.