Sanitising a Floating City - how Cruise Ships are Cleaned

Sanitising a Floating City – how Cruise Ships are Cleaned

Cruise ships are no strangers to being deep cleaned. Solid protocols, good practices, and regular inspections are in place in the cruise industry to ensure the health and safety of passengers and crew. Read on to explore some of the different ways cruise ships are cleaned, inspected, and disinfected.

CDC Guidance on Cleaning Cruise Ships

Cleaning of visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection is a best practice measure for prevention of COVID-19 transmission”, starts the CDC guidance for cleaning ships. Ships should focus on cleaning and disinfecting areas where passengers and crew are likely to come into contact with infected persons – such as handrails, doorknobs, elevator buttons, and countertops. CDC recommend that these are cleaned with an EPA-registered disinfectant.

Something that is interesting to note is that in a case where infected passengers and crew have vacated an area, that area requires closing off with a wait of at least 24 hours before cleaning and disinfecting. Additionally, cabins housing sick or quarantined people should not be cleaned by other crew members where possible. “Supplies (e.g., paper towels, cleaners, and disinfectants) can be provided to sick or quarantined persons, to extent possible, so they can clean their own cabins as necessary”.

How to Clean and Disinfect Surfaces (CDC)

The first port of call is to clean visibly dirty surfaces with detergent or soap and water. Following this, disinfection using diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol, and most EPA-registered disinfectants are effective.

“Products with EPA-approved emerging viral pathogens claims are expected to be effective against SARS-CoV-2 based on data for harder to kill viruses.”

These EPA-approved products are contained in List N:

List N: Disinfectants for use against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) is a list of 490 products that meet EPA’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2.

For notoriously harder-to-clean soft, porous surfaces, the same guidance applies, with the addition of laundering if possible. If items can be laundered, they need to be done so at the warmest appropriate water setting, and then dried completely.


Want more on hygiene protocols? Watch ‘Improving Outbreak Protocols: Next Iterations‘ with Paul Mooney, Joep Bollerman, and Iain Hay.


Diamond Princess

It would be hard not to mention Diamond Princess, which became the centre of the worldwide media’s focus on the cruise industry after an outbreak on board in February. Interestingly, the CDC were not directly involved with the sanitation process of Diamond Princess, in part due to the ship not being under U.S. jurisdiction whilst under quarantine in Japan.

“CDC provided feedback on the disinfection plan at the cruise line’s request”, Aimee Treffiletti, chief of the CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program, told USA TODAY in April. According to USA Today, the plan was also reviewed by the World Health Organization and the Japan Ministry of Health.

Diamond Princess in Yokohama

Back in February, midway through the evacuation process, chief communications officer at Carnival, Roger Frizzell, explained to Business Insider the standard disinfection processes for Carnival ships:

“Each of the brands that fall under the Carnival Corporation umbrella have in place specific sanitation protocol on our cruise ships that is effectively used throughout our fleet. Our ships’ routine cleaning and sanitizing protocols continuously use a disinfectant known to quickly kill coronavirus in 30 seconds on hard surfaces.”

Shortly afterwards Princess contracted BELFOR Property Restoration, self-proclaimed the world’s largest disaster restoration company, to disinfect all public and crew access areas, staterooms, crew cabins, dining, and entertainment areas on Diamond Princess.

In an interview with Fox News, BELFOR CEO Sheldon Yellen explained part of their process:

“In the rooms and cabins, we had to remove mattresses, bedding, towels, and dispose of all cloth goods. We had to remove all of the kitchen utensils that may have been in there.

Once everything was removed, we begin our cleaning process of the rooms. We had to barricade off things as soon as they were completed. We had to almost engineer our approach in advance, so we would end up where we needed to be without contaminating any room. Imagine the hallways – we had to make sure we cleaned them and had an access route to move through without going back through the hallway.”

Following BELFOR’s sanitisation processes, Diamond Princess was presented with a certificate from the Japanese health ministry, declaring the ship to be fit to sail. According to USA Today, cleaning the 18 decks, 1300+ cabins, and all common areas on board Diamond Princess took 240 workers from BELFOR’s Japan and North American operations.

The Vessel Sanitation Program

Cleaning a cruise ship is clearly no easy feat – but it’s one that the industry has pulled off time and time again. In addition to the existing protocols across the cruise industry, many cruise lines are updating their health protocols to include thermal scanning, hand hygiene, and increased cleaning. The CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program scores cruise ships out of 100 in a sanitation report, and has been doing so for the past 30 years. One to four (depending on the size of the ship) inspectors carry out a full-ship inspection, covering eight key areas, including:

  • The medical centre, where they will review paperwork and interview medical staff;
  • The potable water systems, where they will review charts, spot check, and take samples to ensure chlorine and pH levels are correct;
  • Galleys and dining rooms, where they will review, observe, and interview food service employees, ensuring food is correctly stored and equipment is well-maintained;
  • Swimming pools and whirlpools, where they will review charts, sample water to ensure pH and chlorine levels are correct, and interview staff;
  • Housekeeping, where they will meet and discuss with crew members measures to prevent the spread of disease, and how to respond in case of an outbreak;
  • Pest and insect management, where they will interview and review;
  • Child activity centres, where they will observe, review cleanliness, and interview;
  • And finally, the HVAC systems, which they will inspect to ensure water is not collecting and that they are clean.

In the world of the new normal, companies supplying products and services that can aid the cruise lines in the fight against COVID-19 need to showcase their services. The Health and Hygiene Zone at Cruise Ship Interiors Expo Europe will bring together the key players in the cruise industry and the health & hygiene world to do just this.


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