In the wake of a reported rise in crimes at sea and introduced in late July, the proposed Cruise Passenger Protection Act is intended to give travelers insight into the cruise ship crime scene. Specifically, cruise lines and the federal government do not currently do what this new law would require: publicly report every alleged and significant crime committed aboard cruise ships.
Many in the travel industry believe that cruise ship companies have a selfish interest in limiting the reporting and investigation of criminal acts committed aboard their ships. Specifically, it’s bad publicity and could deter travelers from signing up for cruises.
Currently, these crimes are reported only to the Coast Guard but there is no requirement to make them public, leaving uninformed passengers with the impression that their floating vacation spots were practically free of crime. While the new act is in the early stages, three major cruise lines: Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Lines voluntarily published lists of major crimes allegedly committed aboard their ships. The list of crimes reported by the three major cruise lines gave travelers a peek into the truth about crime at sea.
It’s unclear yet whether the new passenger protection act will pass or not, and with an average of 10 million Americans enjoying a cruise vacation year over year, we thought it was time to put together a checklist for a safe cruise vacation for seniors, families and couples.
1. Check your ship’s sanitation report card
The best reports on a ship’s sanitation record come from the Vessel Sanitation Program of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They routinely inspect ships for cleanliness, repair, food preparation, water quality, pest management and other things.
2. Guard against theft
Most cruises include dressy occasions where formal attire is encouraged. In addition, many cruises have gambling available. Both situations are ripe for displaying expensive jewelry or other items and large sums of cash.
Keep your cash out of sight (in a money belt under your clothes is recommended).
Leave expensive valuables at home. If you must wear expensive jewelry, check it into the boat’s main safe.
Use the small safe in your room for tipping cash and smaller value items.
The cruise ship administration will not reimburse you for lost or stolen cash, jewelry, cameras and electronics. The best way to guard against theft is to take only those items you need and keep them safe with you at all times. See our techniques for keeping valuables safe while traveling for more tips.
3. Protect yourself from assault
One of the most common crimes on cruise ships – even without full access to the ship’s reported incident logs – is suspected to be sexual assault. When a passenger is intoxicated, they are less aware of their surroundings and less able to protect themselves.
Travel in groups as you move about the cruise ship as your first line of defense and keep your guard up.
Drink in moderation in public and wait until you’re safe in your room for more.
Young people are also at risk, so keep an eye on kids and don’t let them too far out of sight.
Report suspicious behavior. See an older man hanging around the teen clubs, or a couple fighting publicly, or someone paying too much attention to the elderly woman winning at poker, report it.
Ultimately, while senior crew members will be looking out for the safety of passengers, they can’t be everywhere at once and passengers have to take responsibility for their own personal safety.
4. Protect your own safety
It’s easy on vacation to let your guard down and get a little loose, but this can also be how accidents happen. Recent events in the cruise have also included disabled ships, severe weather delays, and other disasters that have left a lot of frustrated and unhappy passengers in their wake.
Pay attention at the safety briefing and be familiar with the path you must take to your emergency grouping area – be sure the kids know this path too.
Wear appropriate shoes – while cruise ships are usually quite safe, falling off a cruise ship is not unheard of … try not to go about the ship on bare feet, in slippery shoes, or in very high heels. Falling into the ocean is not a good idea.
Have a personal cruise emergency kit in case the cruise ship fails.
When it comes to a traveler’s personal safety on a trip, a lot of the work really comes down to protecting ourselves so think ahead and be prepared to protect your personal safety.
5. Take care of your health
Traveling on a cruise exposes a high number of people to a limited area, increasing the risk of person-to-person contact and the spread of disease.
The fine print in your cruise agreement spells out the cruise company’s limited liability for just about anything that might go wrong on board, including getting sick, getting hurt, and even medical errors. Here are some tips to help you take care of your health while you’re on your cruise.
Use your own restroom instead of public ones as much as possible.
Carry and use antibacterial wipes to clean the door knobs, switches, and faucet handles in your room and elsewhere.
Be cautious about what you eat and drink. Uncooked foods are a prime target for salmonella. Insist on drinking only factory-sealed bottled water on shore excursions.
A visit to the cruise ship doctor can also be quite expensive, so it’s best to have your own travel medical kit with common medications you might need. And keep your travel medical portfolio updated so you have your doctor’s number back home if you need it.