When you set out to see the world -- heck, even when you leave your house in the morning -- you assume an element of risk. Today's safe haven may be tomorrow's ugly headline, no matter where you travel. Luckily, cruising is one of the safest vacations out there. Think about it: Your family and friends are all in one place, there are very few traffic concerns and you don't have to worry about a designated driver.
That being said, cruises do go to places that some consider risky, including European capitals, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Even Alaska comes with the risk of bears. But fear not, nervous Nellies. If you are the type who frets, check out our list of the safest cruise destinations where you can leave most of your worries behind.
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This peaceful corner of Canada offers bucolic pastures, exceptional seafood and scenery galore. Most of the ports on a Canada/New England itinerary, such as Charlottetown, Saint John and Halifax, are small, and some, such as Sydney in Nova Scotia, have local greeters to meet the ship. Your biggest risk in this area of the world is falling in love and not wanting to leave. (That being said, watch the traffic at the height of leaf-peeping season.)
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When fears of terrorism hit Europe, there's one area of the Continent that benefits: Scandinavia. Famously progressive and (mostly) immune from gun violence, countries in the Baltic, such as Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark, have the added benefit of extended daylight areas in the summer, as well as safe downtowns. While you need to be careful traveling in St. Petersburg, private guides can make your time in Russia as easy as any other port.
It's been said that there are more sheep than people on New Zealand's North and South islands and, indeed, even the largest Kiwi cities seem quaint and down to earth. On the Global Peace Index (an annual report put out by the nonprofit Vision of Humanity), the country ranks No. 4 as the most peaceful, behind Iceland, Denmark and Austria. It's also perceived as one of the least corrupt countries in the world (behind Scandinavian stalwarts Denmark, Finland and Sweden), according to the nonprofit Transparency International. Why is that important? It means tourists are less likely to be singled out by organized scams, and if you do have a problem, it will be handled in an appropriate manner.
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Coastal California/Pacific Northwest
The United States, unfortunately, doesn't fare well on the aforementioned indices of either peace or corruption. But if there's anywhere you can mellow out, it's on the West Coast. Go for a coastal California cruise that takes you to vineyards in Santa Barbara, explores Cannery Row in Monterey or highlights Lewis & Clark history in Astoria, Oregon. Or choose an expedition cruise that takes you among Washington State's remote -- yet still extremely safe -- San Juan Islands.
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Private Cruise Line Islands, Caribbean
Although the Caribbean makes its reputation on uninhabited sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters, the reality is that many of the region's islands are poor, with crimes of opportunity occasionally happening against cruise ship passengers. If safety is your number one concern, your best bet is one of the cruise line private islands, where your group is isolated within its own bubble of cabanas, shoreline and activities.
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A British Isles cruise often brings passengers to smaller towns and locations such as the Orkney and Shetland Islands, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands of Guernsey and Jersey. These ports, where many residents don't even lock their doors, provide the perfect spot to roam carefree (although you should still leave valuables on the ship).
Gun ownership is against the law in Japan, and even the police are prohibited from carrying firearms off duty. As a result, violent crime is extremely unusual. Women should still take precautions in large cities, but as a rule, cruisers should feel safe on a typical cruise excursion or city tour.
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We've all been there: almost getting your Romanian spouse forcibly debarked -- and expatriated; sprinting through the St. Thomas jungle to catch your departing ship; eating three of Guy Fieri's 1,000-calorie burgers in one sitting. Perhaps not, but as Bram Stoker wrote in Dracula, "We learn from failure, not from success!" What has failure taught Cruise Critic's editors and contributors when it comes to cruising? Do your homework on visa requirements, and triple check that you know how to get where you're embarking. Be careful what you eat and what you book. Read our seven mini-stories of supreme stupidity, have a laugh at our expense, and vow never to make the same mistakes.