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Safety Concerns; Cruise Passengers Should Be Aware

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Earlier this month the Carnival Splendor suffered an engine room fire which somehow left the ship adrift and powerless, other than that supplied by the emergency generators onboard. From the passenger’s perspective it created pretty nasty conditions; with no hot food, no air conditioning, no elevator service, and, for a day and half, no functional toilets. The ship had to be towed, by tug boat, the 150 or so miles to San Diego.
In my 15 years watching the cruise industry this was the most unusual incident I can recall, where the ship lost all services normally provided to passengers. This can very easily be referred to as the most rare of occurrences, and certainly something that is beyond the control of the passengers.
My Blog this week isn’t about these most rare incidents. Rather I want to address safety issues from a passenger’s perspective, and attempt to discuss what you can/should do to best contribute to a safe vacation.
There’s been recent safety issues with regards to crimes against tourists on some of the islands in the Caribbean, as well as Mexico, and the continuing problems with pirates from Somalia. And on rare occasion there are criminal activities onboard cruise ships as well.
However, as a whole cruise vacations are amongst the safest travel and vacation modes available.
In my mind one of the major factors contributing to problems with cruise passenger safety is that too many passengers “turn off their brains” when they cross the gangway. They seem to believe a cruise ship is automatically a safe environment, and they’re able to act with abandon, putting down their guard, and no longer even acting as diligently as they would at home in regard to safety.
This is particularly noticeable in the case of adults cruising with their young children, pre-teens and teens. I’m certainly not condemning every parent who cruises with their families of being “bad parents”. However, far too many assume that safety is less of an issue on ships, and allow them great freedom to make their own choices, than they would on land, or even on a land based vacation.
The cruise lines do put a great deal of effort into establishing a safe environment for children. But one has to realize that on ships now carrying up to 6000 passengers and up to 1400 crew members, the numbers of security people working onboard are no where close to what the numbers of police would be on land in a town or city of equivalent size.
I’m often amazed the rate of criminal activity onboard is as small as it is. Though rare, crimes do occur on cruise ships. Some crimes, such as break and enters are virtually nonexistent. But crimes against persons do occur on rare occasion, and passengers themselves bear part of the responsibility for those.

It is so easy to over indulge in alcohol consumption on cruise. People all too often concentrate on the “having fun” on “their vacation”, and simply drink more than they should; leaving themselves open to problems developing by abandoning their responsibility to take care of themselves.

The cruise industry has grown so vast, and it is certainly no longer a vacation only for the elite. There is as broad a cross section of people on ships these days as there is in any city, and like it or not, that can include a criminal element.

That’s not to say I believe criminals are targeting cruise ships with a plan to commit a crime. But there are those onboard who would commit criminal acts if the opportunity arose. And the less diligent people are in watching out for themselves because of the vacation atmosphere onboard, the more those moments of opportunity arise.

I’m certainly not suggesting that there’s a need for people to be paranoid about crime onboard. I am though encouraging people to keep their wits about them. Even if they are on vacation, there’s no need to abandon your good sense, and your responsibility to yourself, in order to have a good time.

The world can be a very dangerous place. And fortunately, for a combination of reasons, I believe a cruise ship environment is in many ways safer than you would be in your own hometowns. I just want to see the statistics continue to support that statement, and have some concerns that people are too willing to assume the cruise lines are going to keep you safe. They will, if you assist by remembering your own share of that responsibility.

When disembarking a ship during a port visit, leave all the jewelry, expensive watches, large amounts of cash in the safe in your cabin. It’s an old traveler’s addage… “do not look like a tourist”. For most of us that’s near to impossible. But don’t be a walking billboard advertising your wealth. On shore, take ID, a small amount of cash, and a credit card. Doing only that much helps to keeping you safe. Being aware of where you’re going, and the surrounds while you’re there are the next things that fall to your responsibility to keeping yourself safe.

Health issues are also, at least in part, your responsibility. Though all cruise ships have doctors, nurses, and an infirmary onboard, it is not equipped to be a hospital. They are quite capable of handling minor medical issues, and even do amazingly well (considering the enviroment) of stabilizing patients with more serious conditions. However, passengers do need to be aware of the condition of their health before they board. Serious pre-existing medical conditions, can lead to situations where you may need to be evacuated by air from the ship, and/or transferred to hospitals in foreign ports of call.

Illness can strike the body, with no obvious warning, just as accidents can occur onboard, just as falls, etc. But if you are feeling ill in advance of boarding, and ignore your body’s warning signs, you are acting irresponsibily, and putting yourself, and others at risk of having to deal with serious and unpleasant health situations on a space restricted vessel out at sea.

Even then, you can expect the cruise lines to do their utmost to assist. But don’t assume the costs of those efforts are free. The single most important thing you can do to ensure your safety in a health related incident is to ensure you have purchased appropriate travel insurance, covering pre-exisitng conditions, as well as health situtations you can’t foresee.

– A View From the Kuki Side of Cruising –

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Comment from Kenneth Eden
Time November 25, 2010 at 9:03 am

There has been a lot of truly negative things being said about the Carnival Splenor, and Carnival, by the press, be it TV, or newspapers, mainly from my point of view, in the USA. Lets point out a few things:

No reports featured actual passengers on the ship – the reports were mainly “suppose”, or I guess, or maybe as to what may have happened when and during the incident.

I had the pleasure of being on twio ships, both of which lost power and therefore there was no hot food, no water pressure – same scenario, maybe worse, than on the Splendor. One ship was with Paquet Cruises, the other Norwegian America Line. Paquet did an exemplary job for two days, well, Norwegian America did a deplorable job.

I saw a couple of half-assed interviews on Cnn, and maybe NBC. It seemed as though nothing really bad happened on board during the towing back. It also seems that since the overblown sensational reports without any actual proof have been dowsed by no truly horrid recounts from actual passengers, the story has become cold.

All one need do is go to, yes that is the Wall Street Journals site, look at 11/24/2010, first page, below the fold, look for the key word SPAM, read the article, and leave it go.

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