Taking a cruise can be anything from a short but welcome escape from daily life to a once-in-a-lifetime family vacation. Cruising is generally a safe travel option, and the majority of voyages conclude without any major incidents.
But as with any travel experience, it makes sense to be prepared and take a number of precautions to ensure your own personal safety when cruising.
Are Cruises Safe?
You may have read some horror stories about how cruise ships are dangerous, lawless places when sailing in international waters, but the reality is quite different.
Regardless of where they sail, all cruise ships operate under international rules known as Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). These regulations cover fire safety, navigation rules, maritime security, and the requirement to help another vessel in need. Additional rules come into play in various parts of the world.
All cruise ships will have a security officer, and a team of people responsible for the safety and security of passengers and crew. The majority of public areas are covered by camera equipment, while there are sensors in place to detect, for example, something being thrown or fallen overboard.
While issues like small galley fires or technical issues such as electrical outages can occur, they are usually swiftly dealt with. Nevertheless, once you’re on board, taking a number of personal safety precautions is important to ensure a safe and secure cruise travel experience. Here are seven tips to get you started.
1. Responsible Alcohol Consumption
Overindulgence in alcohol can increase the risk of accidents, or making bad decisions. Drink responsibly, know your limits, and avoid accepting drinks from strangers.
The best way to keep your alcohol consumption in check is to avoid the temptation of beverage packages. While they can often seem good value, having an unlimited drinks package encourages excessive drinking.
Excessive alcohol consumption also risks your health, especially when paired with hot weather. Not only can it add empty calories, but it can increase the risk of dehydration.
Of course, enjoying an alcoholic beverage or two is an important part of a vacation for many people. If you do decide to indulge, try to do so in moderation and always make sure you’re drinking water alongside that tempting cocktail.
2. A Safe, Secure Cabin
Your cabin, stateroom, or suite should be a safe haven during your cruise vacation. To ensure this, always make sure that your cabin door is securely closed and locked. If your cabin door has deadbolts, use them for an added layer of security.
Avoid casually sharing your cabin number. Exercise caution when revealing it, even to crew members, and ensure they genuinely need this information.
Typically, your cabin number will not be printed on your cruise card. Because of this, it’s tempting to write the number on the card, or on a sticky note that you keep with it. Try to avoid doing this, as if you lose the card, anyone who finds it will have instant access to your cabin until you notice it is missing and report it.
Inside your cabin, you’ll typically find a safe, the perfect place to secure electronic items, jewelry, and cash. While the vast majority of cabin stewards are trustworthy and professional, using the safe removes any potential temptation and adds an extra layer of security for your belongings.
Finally, if your cabin has a balcony, always keep the door locked when you’re not in the room, when the ship is docked in port, and at night. This not only prevents potential intruders but also ensures that children, if any are traveling with you, don’t access the balcony unsupervised.
3. Establish Good Relationships
On embarkation day, your cabin steward will typically knock on your door to introduce themselves. Although they will be busy, it’s worth taking the time to introduce yourself and establish a rapport.
Throughout the cruise, cabin stewards can serve as an additional security measure, especially in identifying if someone else other than you attempts to access your cabin.
4. Muster Drill Attention
Another important first day job is to watch and take in the information included in the muster drill. Previously, these took place in person but now they are more commonly done via the in-room TV. That means it’s tempting to let the safety video run while getting on with your packing.
However, it’s critical to know and understand the various signals you may hear during the cruise, and the process for any emergency situation. Even if you’re a seasoned cruiser, it’s worth taking ten minutes to study this information as processes do vary between cruise lines.
Part of the first day drill usually involves visiting your muster station. This is the place you will meetup in the event of an emergency situation. Memorize at least two different routes from your cabin to the muster station.
5. Buddy System
Many cruise lines are making a big push to attract solo cruise travelers. If you’re cruising alone, make an effort to meet fellow solo travelers early in the cruise. Most lines host a solo traveler meet-up on the first full day of the cruise for this purpose.
Finding someone to pair up with for certain activities, especially late at night or in less frequented areas of the ship, is a sensible precaution. The same applies if you’re planning on exploring ports independently.
6. Be Smart With Cash
Cash is always a tempting target. Most cruise lines do not require you to carry cash around, with all onboard expenses charged to your cruise card. As such, keep any cash in your room safe or deposit it with the ship’s reception for safe keeping.
Take only necessary cash ashore during excursions and independent exploration in ports. If you do carry cash, use a money belt for the majority, with just a few small bills and coins in your pockets.
7. Be Smart Ashore
Thousands of cruise passengers participate in shore excursions every day without incident. They can anything from exhilarating to educational, allowing you to explore a port in more depth.
However, the safe environment on a cruise ship can create a false sense of security when going ashore.
Groups of thieves do target cruise passengers in busy ports so only take the essentials ashore, and be wary of anyone offering assistance. If you’re uncertain about something, speak to your tour guide or your cruise ship escort first.
If you plan to explore independently, make sure your cellphone is charged, take the emergency number for the ship with you (this is often printed on a tear-off slip in the daily program), and use a money belt.
If you are planning to take an independent tour, research the company thoroughly online and book in advance. Be very wary of accepting tours from vendors in port, even though they promise low prices.
Your cruise vacation is likely to be a memorable one. By following these tips and exercising sensible precautions, those memories are more likely to be positive ones.
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