Are cruises safe? It's one of the most common questions we hear from cruise veterans and first-timers alike. Fortunately, the answer is a positive one: cruising is one of the safest forms of travel, and the vast majority of cruises pass without incident.
But how do cruise ships keep you safe and are you safe once onboard? Let's take a look at how cruise ships keep passengers and crew exceptionally safe and nine top tips on keeping yourself safe while onboard.
Accidents involving cruise ships do happen, but they are exceedingly uncommon. Cruise ships that sail in U.S. waters are regularly inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard for any irregularities or safety issues that might be of concern, along with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Protection as part of its long-standing Vessel Sanitation Program.
All cruise ships (regardless of where they sail) operate under international rules, known as Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), which regulate everything from fire safety to navigation and maritime security. Cruise lines also have to abide by local government regulations when calling on countries outside the U.S.
Cruise ships are technical entities, so small fires, electrical outages and propulsion problems do occur. But chances are you'll never even be aware of any such problem and cruise safety is virtually never compromised by such incidents.
But what about once you're onboard with hundreds or even thousands of other people? Here are our nine tips for keeping yourself safe on a cruise ship.
Alcohol is a major contributing factor of personal safety incidents on cruises, so go easy on the booze and 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.
On that note, be mindful 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.
If you're a solo cruiser, find a friend early on. You're 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 someone else, make sure you have a buddy system in place, and make a plan to meet up at certain times.
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 deadbolt, use it. If it doesn't, consider a door stopper. Cabin stewards carry plenty, so ask for one or bring your own. There are even door stoppers with built-in alarms available for purchase.
When you hear a knock at your cabin door, look through your peephole before opening. Don't loudly say your cabin number when near others, and don't give it to strangers.
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 your balcony door locked at night.
Thoroughly 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 if you do.)
Your safe is not just there to take up space in your closet. Though often small, you can usually get a mid-sized 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.
Ask for your cabin steward's name directly on day one. Establish a rapport. They will be much more likely to notice if someone other than you is trying to get into your room.
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 cabin key card as a credit card (which you should keep an eye on always).
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.
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.