In a perfect world, we’d board a cruise without a care and leave any concerns about crime, illness, terrorism or accidents behind us on the quayside. If only that were possible…
Cruise ships are getting larger, and with the increased size and passenger numbers, there are some extra risks. There are more potential accidents, and the larger crowds mean you may not be seen if you fall, for example. A busy café or bar also makes it easy for someone to quietly take a phone or camera from your table without being noticed. We must take extra care.
Health and Safety At Sea
Travelling in a foreign city, we’d never leave a handbag or camera unattended. We wouldn’t go dancing and leave drinks on the table out of our sight, and we wouldn’t leave a bag in the care of a stranger at the swimming pool.
For some reason, on a ship these things all feel like they should be safer, but there are hundreds of reports that disagree. On a cruise, we feel like we’re part of a new family – a community – but just as any family has the occasional bad egg, so too can a cruise. What’s more, we can’t assume crew members are the culprits – a lot of the time, crimes are committed by passengers too.
An organisation called International Cruise Victims (ICV) publishes victims’ stories and provides support. These stories include drinks being spiked, theft, sexual assault, and even cocaine smuggling.
ICV also tells the stories of passengers injured on board their cruise ships due to all sorts of accidents, and illnesses that were incorrectly treated. In one case a helicopter should have been called for immediate evacuation to a hospital, but the ship’s doctors kept the patient on board.
What can we do?
Don’t stop cruising!
But do take a few basic precautions to make your voyage safer:
- Don’t carry money, wallets or purses around on board – lock them in the safe in your cabin, or in your suitcase.
- Do keep essential medication with you at all times. Your cabin could be a long way away if you suddenly need an inhaler or heart pills…
- Don’t leave valuables such as cameras at the poolside when you go swimming. Rather take them back to your cabin if you can’t leave them with a friend/family member.
- Don’t leave drinks unattended.
- Don’t get too drunk. We all enjoy a few drinks and festivities, but someone who can barely walk or passes out at the bar is an easy target anywhere.
- Make sure someone knows where to find you at all times – whether you’re planning an evening in the casino or an afternoon nap.
- Take care when walking and wear shoes that aren’t slippery.
- Don’t sneak into restricted parts of the ship.
- Follow the same health and safety rules that you would on land – are cabin doors accessible and easy to open? Are there tripping hazards if you need to get to the door in the dark?
- Pack all the medication you’ll need for the duration of the cruise, plus basics such as painkillers, so you don’t have to wait to see the ship’s doctor for minor issues which can become expensive…
- … but if it’s more serious than a headache or scraped knee, see a doctor immediately and make sure you get the correct treatment.
- Purchase the appropriate cruise insurance so you know that doctors, medication, and even emergency airlift evacuations are covered and there’s no delay in getting the correct treatment.
There have been a few reports of counter-terrorism training exercises in maritime settings here in the UK – one even took place on the Thames – and other governments are also stepping up security at sea to prevent possible attacks.
Reports indicate that there’s a threat to passenger and commercial ships so we must be vigilant, especially on a shore excursion or when the ship is in a port:
- Report any suspicious activities or items
- Don’t try to investigate those suspicious items or activities yourself – report it and move away quickly
- Follow any instructions given by security personnel if there’s an emergency.
Of course, protecting yourself financially in case terrorism does affect you – directly or indirectly – can help to take away some of the worry. Safe Journey insurance can be added to any cruise insurance (which usually excludes acts of terrorism) from only £4.96 per person for up to 8 days. It provides comprehensive cover – including disinclination to travel if there’s an act of terrorism within 40 miles of any port on your itinerary, up to 6 weeks prior to your departure.
In the USA, a “Cruise Passenger Protection Act” (CPPA) has been introduced, aimed at improving passenger safety on board and ensuring that cruise lines address any problems correctly.
The act sets out the rights of victims of any on-board crimes and sets out guidelines for vessel owners in cases of illness, accidents, or various crimes – whether in a US port or further afield.
Similar legislation exists in the UK and EU, including regulations for security systems, health and safety, and inspection of vessels, and these are likely to be updated too, to improve passenger safety.
We welcome extra safety measures, but we can’t forget to take care of ourselves too. Remember that real life can happen, even on a dream cruise, but there’s a lot we can do to keep ourselves out of harm’s way.