Cruising is one of the safest forms of travel, and the vast majority of cruises pass without incident. But just like on 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 the experience.
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.
1. Drink alcohol responsibly.
Alcohol is a major contributing factor of personal safety incidents on cruises, so go easy on the booze. Be aware of your limits. There's alcohol aplenty onboard and it's easy to get carried away, but be mindful of how much you're consuming. Also be aware of who is buying you booze, and don't accept drinks from strangers. 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. Don't advertise the fact you are traveling alone, and 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 make a plan to meet up at certain times.
3. Practice in-cabin safety.
Whether you're new to cruising or a seasoned sailor, you'll notice that not all cabin doors automatically close, so give them a pull when you leave and a push when you are inside to make sure they click shut.
If the door has a dead bolt, use it. If it doesn't, consider a doorstopper. Cabin stewards carry plenty, so ask for one, or bring your own. Staples carries a line of doorstoppers with built-in 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. Be safe on your balcony.
This is a tough one, as there is nothing like listening to the gentle lap of the sea against the hull while you sleep, but for safety's sake, keep the door locked at night. Also check your balcony before you go to sleep, and don't leave the door open when you are not in your room, especially in port. (Contractors who clean windows and 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 midsized laptop, a tablet (or two), cellphone and jewelry/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 or her name on day one. Establish a rapport. He or she will notice if someone other than you is trying to get into your room.
7. Don't carry large amounts 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 credit card. When on shore excursions, take out what you need, but don't advertise it. Keep your cash in a money belt attached to your body.
8. Don't accept an invitation to crew quarters.
This is not a good idea, ever. It could result in instant dismissal for the crew, and you will likely be asked to leave at the next port stop.
9. Pay attention during 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 life jacket and what the alarms mean, should they be sounded. While most passengers listen attentively, every muster has a few people talking all the way through it, people on their cellphones, people trying to get a drink from the bar (all outlets are closed during muster) and couples who hide in their cabins 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 an important part of your cruise experience.