Cruising is one of the safest forms of travel, and the vast majority of cruises pass without incident. But just like a land-based vacation, it's worth taking a few basic precautions to stay safe. When you get onboard it's easy to forget that you are sharing your vacation with thousands of other people (crew and passengers), and all it takes is one person to spoil your time onboard.
Most of the following tips are common sense -- go easy on the booze, don't flaunt your cash, keep valuables in your safe -- but sometimes they are all too easy to forget when you're on holiday. The key thing to remember is have fun, but be aware -- just like you would on a night out at home.
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Alcohol is a major contributing factor of personal safety incidents onboard, so go easy on the booze. Be aware of your limits. There's alcohol a plenty onboard, and it's easy to get carried away, but be mindful of how much you're consuming. Be mindful too of who is buying you booze and don't accept drinks from strangers. Also, however inebriated you are, don't accept a walk back to your cabin from a stranger.
2. Buddy up.
If you're a solo cruiser, find a friend early on. That way he/she can look out for you. You're also far less of a 'target' when traveling in a pair than you are solo. Also don't advertise the fact you are traveling solo. Don't walk around solitary areas by yourself late at night. If traveling with a friend, make sure you have a buddy system in place and that you know you're meeting up at certain times.
3. In-cabin safety
If you're new to cruise (or if you're a seasoned sailor), you'll notice that not all cabin doors automatically close -- give them a pull when you leave and a push when you are inside to make sure they click shut. This is particularly true if you leave the balcony door open even a crack (it creates a wind tunnel).
If the door has a dead bolt, use it. If it does not consider a door stopper. Cabin stewards carry plenty: ask for one. Or bring your own: Staples do a line of door stoppers with in-built alarms.
Call room service directly; don't place the order outside the door since it usually lists the number of people per cabin. Look through your peephole before opening your cabin door to a knock. Don't loudly speak your cabin number when near others, and don't give that number to strangers.
4. Balcony safety.
This is a tough one, as there is nothing like listening to the gentle lap of the sea against the hull at night, but for safety's sake: keep the door locked at night. Also check your balcony before you go to sleep. And don't leave it open when you are not in your room, especially in port as contractors who clean windows/do maintenance can easily gain access.
5. Use your safe.
Your safe is not just there to take room up in your closet. Though often small, you can usually get a mid-sized laptop, a tablet (or two), cellphone and jewels/watches inside. The vast majority of cabin stewards are honest, but it's not worth putting temptation in their way. Or better still: leave your valuables at home.
6. Get to know your steward.
Ask his/her name on day one. Establish a rapport. He/she'll notice if someone other than yourself is trying to get into your room.
7. Don't carry around large wads of cash.
Unless you're a gambler, there is no reason to bring a lot of money onboard. All onboard transactions can be carried out with your room key as a debit card. When on shore excursions take out what you need, but don't advertise it. Keep your cash in a money belt.
8. Don't accept an invitation to the crew quarters.
Not a good idea, ever. This is instant dismissal for the crew and you will likely be asked to leave at the next port stop.
9. Pay attention at the muster drill.
Before your vacation gets started you must attend the muster drill. This is where you learn where your muster station is, how to don a lifejacket and what the alarms mean should they be sounded. While many people listen attentively, every muster has a few of these types: People talking all the way through it, people on their cell phones, people trying to get a drink from the bar (all outlets are closed during muster), the couple who hide in their cabin, thinking they've pulled one over on the authorities. Not clever. Even if you've heard the drill a thousand times, pay attention: don't see it as an inconvenience, but rather as a very important part of your cruise experience.