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No central agency oversees, inspects cruise ships

By Curt Anderson

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Feb. 16 2013 2:10 p.m. MST

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2013 file photo the cruise ship Carnival Triumph is towed into Mobile Bay near Dauphin Island, Ala., Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013. Want to know about a ship's track record for being clean? Want to assess how good or sanitary the food is? It's not that easy to find, in part because there's no one entity or country that oversees or regulates the industry with its fleet of ships that are like mini cities floating at sea. In the case of Carnival Cruise Lines, the owner of the Carnival Triumph that spent days in the Gulf of Mexico disabled after an engine fire, vacationers looking up information about the ship before boarding would have found mostly clean marks and few red flags.

Dave Martin, Associated Press

MIAMI — A maze of maritime regulations and fragmented oversight of the cruise industry make it tough for consumers to assess the health and safety record of ships they're about to board for vacation.

No one entity or country oversees or regulates the industry. There's no central database for passengers seeking ship information.

The Coast Guard and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer some ship safety and health information online.

In the case of the Carnival Triumph ship that spent days disabled at sea after an engine fire, vacationers could have gone to those agencies' websites before boarding, but they would have found mostly clean marks and few red flags.

And when something goes wrong, as it did on Triumph, there are limits to how much the Coast Guard can investigate.

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