If you’ve never been on a cruise, you may wonder whether it’s safe? With stories in the news about disasters at sea, it’s no wonder you may want to know the answers to this question.
There are threats to consider. Although, to reassure you, I have been on many cruises, and nothing has ever gone wrong. If something were to happen, I would feel reassured that the cruise lines have health and safety procedures in place to deal with a worst-case scenario.
However, things occasionally do happen. With this in mind, here are the eight threats to consider on a cruise ship and how to ensure you’re safe.
1. Natural Disasters
While cruises are a great way to see the world, occasionally, there may be a natural disaster where you’re sailing to.
Hurricanes do happen from time to time, especially in the Caribbean. Sometimes cruises get cancelled because of the hurricane, or they get redirected. To learn more about safety at sea if there is a hurricane, you can find out more in my article on ‘What happens if there is a hurricane?”
Tsunamis happen very rarely, and luckily, tsunamis are hardly noticeable at sea. The main impact is near coastlines. Cruise ships also have tsunami detectors and procedures in place in case of a tsunami warning.
Icebergs can be a risk if sailing around the Arctic. Unlike the Titanic, modern ships now have radar and sonar systems, which alert the crew of anything well in advance. On top of this, routes are planned based on reports that show the flow of the ice to avoid potential hazards.
Other extreme weather conditions, such as storms, may cause rough seas. These can affect safety and visibility, but cruise ships are built to withstand extreme weather, and the ship’s course can be altered.
2. The Ship Sinking
Millions go on cruise ships every year, however, over the last 100 years, only 22 cruise ships have sunk. Most of these times, this is while the ship was berthed or towed.
The modern safety features and protocols on cruise ships ensure that in the unlikely event of a ship sinking, very few lives are lost. When going on a cruise, one of the first things you have to take part in is a mandatory safety “muster drill”. This means that if the worst-case scenario were ever to happen, all the passengers would be aware of what to do.
During this drill, you’ll hear the alarm sound, learn where the life jackets are and where to assemble in case of an emergency. These drills are an essential aspect of ensuring safety on cruises, and the crew members are well-trained in handling a variety of emergency situations.
3. Unsafe Destinations
Unfortunately, areas in the world have political tension, outbreaks of hostilities, or even war. Occasionally there will be a cruise going to a destination that poses a risk to peace and safety.
Cruise lines will be keeping a watchful eye on the political environment. If a destination were to become unsafe, they would adjust the itineraries by cancelling a scheduled stop, diverting the cruise to a safe destination or remaining at sea until it’s safe to move on.
Cruise lines have a network of contacts in the ports and are known to work with international authorities. This allows them to have the most up-to-date information about each destination. Contingency plans will be in place, which will be regularly reviewed, and passengers will be regularly updated about the itinerary and any changes.
If you ever go on a river cruise down the Nile in Egypt or cruises that go through the Black Sea, you’ll notice high levels of security. This is because of the higher risk of piracy. You may think this is just something in films, but unfortunately not.
Most pirate incidents occur in the Gulf of Aden, nicknamed ‘Pirate Alley’. Yet, out of 230 recorded attacks in this area, only six were against cruise ships, and not a single one resulted in anything. Pirates tend to give cruise ships a wide berth, preferring cargo ships with minimal crew instead.
Cruise lines have a variety of procedures in place if anything were to happen. Defensive strategies range from maintaining blackout conditions and deck closures to lowering noise emissions. Other strategies include evasive manoeuvres or increasing the ship’s speed to outpace the pirates, or they’ll deploy high-pressure hoses to dislodge any attackers trying to climb aboard.
5. Crime at Sea
Like anywhere in the world, there is crime, including on cruise ships. Sexual offences are reported as the most frequent crimes on cruise ships, followed by significant physical attacks causing severe harm and major incidents of theft.
According to the US Department of Transportation (2019), the reported crime rate aboard cruise ships was 0.18 incidents per every 100,000 passengers. This is extremely low, so the likelihood of anything happening is minimal.
If anything were to happen, the crew are trained to deal with these cases and prevent escalation.
While cruise ships don’t have police on board, ships sailing to or from the USA must have at least one crew member trained in crime prevention, detection and reporting. A Security Director is also present who oversees the ship’s security department.
CCTV cameras further reinforce surveillance and keep a close eye on public areas.
6. Health and Medical Problems
In recent years, due to the pandemic, people have become more aware of public health outbreaks. This is when a virus can be passed on by being within close proximity to someone. Unfortunately, if there is an outbreak on a cruise ship, it can be easily passed on as there are usually a lot of people in a small space.
Cruise ships have been known to have Norovirus outbreaks. However, to prevent this from happening, passengers are usually asked about any symptoms before getting on the ship. Or if you get symptoms whilst on the ship, you’ll be asked to stay in your stateroom to help prevent the spread of a virus.
However, most ships encourage frequent handwashing and are regularly being cleaned to help prevent outbreaks like this. If you’re interested in the cleanest cruise ships in the world, you can check out our list.
Another time where you may feel vulnerable to health and medical problems is cruising while pregnant. It can be great to take advantage of some time to relax before your little one arrives, but you may be concerned about your health onboard.
To put you at rest, it’s good to know that all cruise ships have doctors if there is ever a medical emergency. This means if anyone had a problem, they would be able to get medical help quickly. This may be particularly reassuring if you’re cruising while pregnant.
7. Cruise Ship Fires
Over the past few years, there have been a few fires on cruise ships. However, you’ll be pleased to know that no one has ever been seriously injured. While the notion of a fire breaking out is alarming, you can rest assured that there are precautions in place to minimise the risk of this happening and if anything were ever the happen, the incident would be handled quickly.
If a fire was to break out, smoke detectors and fire alarms are installed throughout the ship. Also, automatic sprinkler systems will be ready, and the crew also have fire safety training to ensure everyone is safe.
8. Human Induced Incidents
The safety of the cruise ship is not only the responsibility of the crew members but also the individuals on board. Unfortunately, in recent years there has been a few human-induced accidents, meaning that accidents have been caused by passengers either on purpose or accidentally. Even though you are on holiday to relax, it is important to take care.
Suggested read: What Happens If You Jump Off A Cruise Ship?
There are times and places where passengers need to take extra responsibility. For example, as every parent knows, you have to be alert when babies and toddlers are about. On a cruise, you have to be particularly careful if you have a room with a balcony.
Suggested read: Are Cruise Ship Balconies Safe for Toddlers?
Onboard, you’ll find that safety barriers are in place, and many ships offer childcare facilities with fully trained staff. For more information on cruising with a toddler, including additional tips and advice, have a look at my article here.
Also, if you’re travelling with teenagers, you may want them to have their independence but also want them to be safe. Sadly, there have been a couple of accidents involving teens going overboard due to drinking too much alcohol. However, cruise lines often have curfews for those under 18 when they are not with an adult, and alcohol policies are strictly enforced.
Suggested read: Carnival Balcony Climbing Incident
Lastly, if you’re solo travelling, it’s key to remember that you should treat the cruise the same as if you were travelling alone anywhere else in the world. It’s unlikely you will have any problems, particularly as solo cruising has become so popular. You may find groups who are doing the same as you.
Just remember to use common sense, follow your instincts and if a situation feels uncomfortable, walk away and alert a member of staff.
The Bottom Line
So, are cruises safe? Yes, despite all the threats listed, cruises are very safe. But just like anything in life, things do happen, but it’s highly unlikely something would occur on your cruise.
Cruise lines put passenger safety first, and they’re equipped with the latest technology, safety procedures and highly trained staff. So next time you’re on a cruise, enjoy the break, as you’ll be in good hands!
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