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Cruise Ship Safety: Eight Things They
Don't Tell You That You Need to Know

Cruise vacations are enjoyed by 10 million Americans every year. Most of these getaways provide all of the "excitement" a vacation should -- exotic ports, pampering, good food, relaxation -- and not a whole lot else.


From 2002 to 2005, 24 people disappeared from cruise ships.

But for some, an unexpected crime or accident has turned their cruise vacation into a nightmare. The cruising partygoer who falls overboard, never to be found again. The single traveler who's sexually assaulted, or the outbreak of norovirus that sickens thousands.

In fact, from 2002 to 2005, 24 people disappeared from cruise ships, according to the International Council of Cruise Lines, and 15 cruise lines reported 178 complaints of sexual assault and four robberies.

Safety concerns aboard cruise ships have recently escalated to Congress, where cruise ship victims are calling for the government to force the industry to tighten their security measures.

Since the doctors, nurses and security personnel on cruise ships are all employed by the cruise industry, the victims say there is a potential conflict of interest. Some questioned whether the cruise ships' staff was out to protect the passengers or the financial interests and image of the cruise industry.

Still, experts say that cruising is still one of the safest ways to travel.

During a five-month period from April to August 2007, there were only 207 serious incidents (including four missing people) on cruise ships that were reported to the FBI. This represents less than .01 percent of passengers who cruised during that time.

Of the crimes that did occur, sexual assaults were most common, followed by assaults with bodily injury and theft of items over $10,000.

Now, when you first get onboard, the cruise ship will call all passengers to the decks to go over some mandatory, emergency safety precautions. Your first step to a safe cruise is to put down your rum punch and LISTEN to these instructions.


Cruise ships are like small cities. You should take all the precautions on a cruise ship that you would in any urban environment.

It's all too easy to let the festive mood sidetrack your more practical side, but this information will tell you what to do, and where to go, in an emergency.

But the cruise line won't tell you everything. So, here we've compiled eight important things that you need to know to keep yourself and your family safe and sound, while enjoying a pleasant and memorable (in a good way) trip.

  1. Use common sense. Don't throw all caution to the wind just because you're on a ship. Cruise ships are like small cities, some carrying thousands of passengers, and while most of them are probably just out for a good time as you are, it only takes one bad apple to ruin your trip.

    Good common sense tips for a cruise ship include not walking down dark hallways, walking away from disagreements or fights, not inviting someone into your room that you don't know, and not giving out your personal information to strangers.

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You can use them wet or dry to effectively remove germs from your hands, such as after a handshake or before eating. And because they're made of highly durable ultramicrofiber cloth, you can use them for 100+ washes before you need to replace them -- making PerfectClean Hand Wipes incredibly economical for vacations and everyday use.

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  1. Leave valuables at home. Many people have access to your cabin on board, just as is the case in any hotel room. You can keep money, plane tickets and your passports in your cabin's safe, but be aware that even these usually have bypass codes that your cabin steward may know.

  2. 3. Sexual assault is the most common crime committed on cruise ships. Women, especially, should be careful not to leave their drinks unattended, and not to accept drinks from people they don't know, lest they be tainted. For everyone, limiting your alcohol intake is also important. Most fights and falls on cruise ships happen because an innocent vacationer has too much to drink.

  3. Most people who fall off of cruise ships are never recovered. Cruise ships must conduct a reasonable search for passengers gone overboard, but they are not always successful. So, don't lean over the railings. It sounds obvious, but you might find yourself tempted to mimic the famous "Titanic" scene that does just that. In all seriousness, many people fall from cruise ships because they're trying to climb on a railing (such as to get from one balcony to another), which is not a wise decision.

  4. If a crime occurs, the laws it's subject to depend on where the ship is. If the crime is committed in a port, it's subject to that country's laws. At sea, it's subject to the country that governs those waters. If you're not in territorial waters, then maritime law applies.

  5. Cruise lines are supposed to report a serious crime that involves a U.S. citizen to the FBI, however it's up to the ship's security officers to decide what's a "serious" crime and what's not. Further, crimes committed against non-citizens are not included.

    If you're involved in a crime, you should find out whether it will be reported to federal or local authorities. If the crime is not being reported at all, you can still report it yourself.

  6. The cruise industry spent $2.9 million on federal lobbying during one 18-month period. As a result, some conjecture that the cruise industry has very little governmental oversight, and may underreport their crime statistics.

    "I don't have a comfort level that statistics from the cruise industry are accurate," U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays told the Associated Press. "I've never known statistics that are voluntary to be accurate."

  7. Most cruise lines are foreign-flagged ships. This means that they're subject to only some U.S. laws.

Though most experts say that cruising is a safe way to travel, the cruise industry has taken note of the recent safety complaints.

Royal Caribbean, for instance, is installing peepholes on cabin doors, has hired female investigators and counselors, put suicide hot lines in place and required mandatory sexual-harassment training.

"Ultimately this process is not about statistics or even about past incidents, although both are important," said Gary M. Bald, Royal Caribbean's senior vice president of global security. "It is about preventing even a single negative experience on a cruise ship. This is no small task."

Recommended Reading

The Six Primary Cruises Everyone Should Consider: A Cruise Primer

Piracy on the Seas: Believe It or Not, It Still Exists and May be Surging Again!

The Seattle Times September 28, 2007

ABC News September 19, 2007

The Seattle Times March 10, 2006

The New York Times February 26, 2006

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