An estimated 20 million people took cruises in 2012, and cruises remain a popular vacation destination among travelers worldwide. Despite cruising mishaps and tragic deaths in the case of the Costa Concordia in 2012, an additional 4 million cruisers set sail from 16 million in 2011 to 2012, or a 25 percent increase.
With so many people boarding cruise ships every year, there are strict laws in place to protect the safety and security of passengers. Even with these in place, cruisers must also take their own safety and security measures into account, just as they would on any vacation.
Here are 10 tips to keep in mind when booking and enjoying your next cruise.
1. Do your research.
Before even booking your next cruise, make sure that you do your research. Statistics, crime reports, and safety protocols are available online for each individual cruise line, and you should read these carefully before making your decision.
Many of the biggest cruise lines in particular abide by many of the same rules, set in motion by various acts and inspections required by cruise organizations and national governments. But you want to be sure that you know which crimes occur the most on which ships so that you better plan for your trip ahead of time.
2. Use common sense.
One of the most basic safety tips is to use common sense, like you would on any other vacation, or even in everyday life. If a situation feels strange or unsafe to you, act accordingly by either removing yourself from the situation or alerting a cruise member, or both. Don’t ride in elevators on your own when you can help it. Don’t let your guard down. Don’t leave valuables strewn around your room. Using plain old common sense will do you well as long as you’re sure to not let your hair down too much.
3. Know your surroundings.
As soon as you board the ship, find the ship map, which you can usually find in your room or at the customer service desk. Give yourself a tour of the ship, preferably with those cruising with you. Orient yourself to all places and activities you might check out, and ensure you know the locations of the safety and medical stations on the ship in case of an emergency.
4. Pay attention to the safety drill.
Also known as the muster drill, the safety drill is required by all ships. The crew designs this drill to ensure you understand everything you need to know in the case of an emergency or evacuation. These drills may seem boring or unnecessary, but they are vital to your safety and security while cruising.
5. Locate your life jacket.
You can find your life jacket in your room, usually in a closet or drawer. Locate your life jacket, and try it on. If it does not fit, contact a security officer to obtain one that does.
6. Report crime.
It is crucial that you report any and all suspicious activity you see while onboard, whether it has happened to you or not. This ensures the safety of all passengers and crew members onboard. This includes anything from someone stalking the halls to an adult hovering around the children’s area. Report any suspicious activity immediately so that crew members can deal with it accordingly and prevent any mishaps or further mishaps from occurring.
7. Book safe excursions.
Going on shore is, for many, one of the best aspects of a cruise. Cruise lines offer plenty of options and packages for you to book excursions through their services, but they come at a premium. Often, you can find the same or similar excursions at the port yourself for half the price. However, if you do book them yourself, be sure that the business is trustworthy and positively reviewed to avoid getting ripped off or put in danger. Also, arrange transportation as far ahead of time as possible to ensure safe and on-time travels to and from the ship.
8. Avoid illness.
With so many people in close quarters, diseases can spread quickly. Whether or not there is a disease warning on your ship, be sure to wash your hands regularly, especially before you eat or touch your face. When you can, avoid touching handrails, elevator buttons and any other common areas, or at least wash or disinfect your hands soon after.
9. Teach and practice children’s safety.
Child safety is one of the most important aspects of cruise ship safety and security, especially because parents often feel that children are able to roam more freely in a safe, closed-quartered environment. There are still safety risks, and you must remind children of all ages of the basic and cruise-specific safety tips.
For example, be sure that they avoid riding in elevators by themselves or roaming around adult-specific areas like clubs or casinos. Ensure they know they are not allowed in crew member areas and that they should never enter someone else’s room without a trusted adult present. Younger children are often required to wear name tag bracelets with the parents’ muster station area printed on them so that, in case of an emergency, a crew member can easily reunite the child with his or her parents.
10. Drink responsibly.
While it may seem like being on a cruise ship means you can feel safer drinking as much as you want, many of the same rules apply on a cruise ship as they would anywhere else. Never accept drinks from strangers, and watch your limit. This can prevent injury, sexual assault and other mishaps that can result from over-imbibing.
While each cruise line has their own set of safety rules and regulations, the U.S. government has put in place certain laws to protect passengers as well.
The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act
In 2010, the U.S. government passed the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, which put in place several new safety protocols and crime reporting requirements. Before this act, cruise ships would report onboard crimes to the FBI, but these crimes would not be released publicly. Often these crimes would go unnoticed because of their lack of jurisdiction on international waters.
This law requires that ships report all onboard crimes so that potential cruisers can do their research and know just how many and what sorts of crimes have been committed onboard a particular cruise ship.
Other addendums to security measures include a minimum height for ships rails to be 42 inches above the deck, though some say that 54 inches would be a better height. The law also forces ships to retrofit their cabins with safety features such as security latches, peepholes, and time-sensitive key technology. Closed circuit TV was another safety measure required by the new law.
When planning and enjoying your next cruise, keep these safety tips in mind to make the most out of your vacation.
Written by Carolyn Heneghan
Carolyn is a nutrition and environmental crusader who loves using and exploring technology almost as much as she enjoys writing about it. Learn more