It’s been an interesting week one way and another, and before you start wondering this blog isn’t about marriage.

What caught my eye, in fact, was the news that the Queen Mary 2 failed a sanitation test a few days ago.

These tests are carried out a couple of times a year by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention looking at all manner of things from food storage to handling, to use of chemicals on board, the quality of water in swimming pools and more. They are stringent, always a surprise for the cruise ship, and a score of 86 or below is considered a failure. In her recent test, the much-loved QM2 evidently scored 84 out of 100.

The Cunard flagship isn’t the only high profile ship to come under the spotlight in sanitation tests in recent years. Recently NCL’s Epic, barely a year old, just squeaked by in a recent test, Carnival Glory didn’t fare much better in January, and SeaDream I joined the party in March. Another thing many cruise fans may not realise is that newer ships tend to rate better than older ones.

Although the results of all tests are published online, it got me wondering if any cruisers actually look at them when choosing a ship to cruise on. To be honest, I haven’t given it much thought until now; also, if you opt to read the latest report for a ship you are considering, it doesn’t make entirely interesting reading.

Ships can get marked down for a variety of reasons which wouldn’t necessarily put passengers at risk of ill health or compromise their safety – it’s not always about cockroaches in the kitchen or out-of-date food. And failing a sanitation test also doesn’t necessarily increase the risk of contracting the dreaded norovirus.

For anyone who hasn’t heard of it, norovirus is not a “cruise ship” sickness per se, but a virus which causes a form of gastroenteritis. And it can seriously disrupt a high seas holiday as it produces nasty symptoms including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

The reason why norovirus isn’t exclusive to cruise ships is that outbreaks are common in closed or semi-closed communities anywhere, including nursing homes, hotels and hospitals. The virus is also transmitted several ways, including person-to-person contact and by way of contaminated surfaces, and the reality is that most outbreaks at sea start with a person who comes on board who is already sick – not from poor sanitation on the ship.

Hand on heart I can honestly report that I have yet to encounter this bug on the high seas. But the good news for cruise goers is that there are ways to avoid norovirus while on the high seas, top of the list of which is washing your hands before eating, especially at buffets, and always after using the bathroom.

Also make use of hand sanitisers regularly in public areas, and on the gangway when coming back from a port of call. And should you feel unwell at any time during your cruise, of develop symptoms such as vomiting, alert the doctor immediately. Happy cruising!

Footnote: If you are interested in checking a ship out for its latest sanitation inspection results, click on this link and follow the prompts: