Whether you’re a frequent cruiser, or someone considering your first cruise, disasters like what befell the Costa Concordia last month are sure to capture your attention. With a death toll now standing at 25 and seven more souls now presumed dead, this disaster has probably reassured non-cruisers that their decision to abstain is a good one. But what about the rest of us?
If you’ve cruised, you know what an amazing experience it is–the beauty and majesty of the sea with no ships or land in sight; the way the light changes on the surface of the sea depending on the light, the weather, the location. You know how nice the ships are–how clean, how spacious. You know about the food, the entertainment–and until just a month ago, you probably took your personal safety aboard completely for granted.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. If you stay at a resort, you presume it to be safe. Same with a hotel or motel.
But disasters happen. Years ago, the atrium of a Hyatt collapsed with a major loss of life. Tsunamis have swept away beachfront resorts. And ships have run aground. It can happen.
So what can you do to maximize your personal safety on a cruise ship? Here are a few tips:
Be aware of your surroundings. Always a good idea wherever you travel.
Follow directions. Up to a point, this is great advice. Passengers who were told to go to their cabins to wait for an announcement were among those who didn’t survive the Concordia disaster. The smartest ones went to their cabins, got their passports, medicine, warm clothes and life jackets and then went back up to a public area to keep a sharp eye on what was happening.
Stay relatively sober. It’s always in your best interest to be in control.
Leave your stuff, but keep your people close. Your clothes, your electronics, even your jewelry are not worth your life. Passengers aboard the Concordia were compensated for their things. There is nothing more important that your family and friends.
And to this list, I’d add one more suggestion: Sail from a U.S. port. While virtually all civilized countries have signed the SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) regulations, the U.S. Coast Guard has an even higher standard and ships sailing from U.S. ports must adhere to Coast Guard regulations as well as SOLAS.
Will there be another Concordia disaster? God willing, no. But it is possible, and while crews will now be better trained and safety drills more frequent and taken more seriously, you are still, in large part, responsible for your own safety.
Go on vacation–but be smart and be safe.