With summer right around the corner, Americans are starting to look forward to sunshine, warmer temperatures and vacation.
But for those thinking about adventuring out to sea on a cruise-liner this year, there’s some important information to consider. Over 20 million people take cruises worldwide yearly, and while the vast majority do so safely, it’s important to make sure you think things through ahead of time in order to have a safe, relaxing time.
Jonathan Mark runs the popular site Cruise Fever, which he started in 2011 with his brother. Together, the two scour the web (and, through cruises of their own, the world) to provide readers daily updates on things like pricing, ship safety, and news. So what does this bonafide expert have to say about staying safe on a cruise?
Here’s what you need to know.
Research your ship before you go.
While it’s unlikely that you’ll be choosing a ship with issues, it’s not a bad idea to look into the one you’ve picked before you leave. Mark says you can check the latest health score on every cruise ship on the CDC’s website — and that’s not the only tool. “Every ship that sails to and from the U.S. is required to have at least two surprise inspections each year,” Mark says. “Over the past year, 14 cruise ships earned perfect 100 health scores. A list of those can be found here.”
Pay attention during the safety drills.
The safety of your ship itself isn’t something you should be worried about. Mark says that cruise liners must comply with what’s called SOLAS or Safety of Life at Sea, a treaty that sets requirements like “number of lifeboats, fire safety provisions, and functionality of communication equipment.” This information can put your mind at ease, but don’t let that dissuade you from participating in the safety drills. “The ‘muster drill’ or ‘lifeboat drill’ is a practice in which every regular cruise passenger must take part, even if it is his/her 100th cruise,” says Mark. “Even though it’s the least ‘fun’ part of the cruise it’s important for both the passengers and crew.”
Watch your alcohol consumption.
Although cruises can be a fun time to unwind and relax, Mark warns travelers not to lose control. “Just because a drink package allows you to drink 15 alcoholic drinks per day does not mean you should [drink that many],” says Mark. “While in port it’s important for passengers to be familiar with their surroundings and with any travel advisories that have been issued.”
Be cognizant of what to pack.
“There’s a saying when it comes to packing on a cruise: ‘Whatever you were planning on taking, take half the clothes and double the money,’” says Mark. “Also older ships have fewer power outlets so an adapter that has extra USB plugs can be a lifesaver.”
But also remember what not to pack.
Just as important as remembering what you should bring, Mark says, is remembering what you shouldn’t. “Any illegal substances should not be brought on a cruise. Just because something is legal in the state you live in does not mean you can take it out of the country with you.”
If you’re traveling solo, make connections with those around you.
Mark, who often travels solo, says he’s never felt unsafe on a ship. But if you do, it’s important to report it to crew members. “Most cruise ships will have a get-together for cruisers traveling solo,” says Mark. “This is a great way to meet other passengers. If you are traveling by yourself in port, stay on the beaten bath and in the touristy areas. This is another area where common sense comes into play.”
Overall, keep your wits about you.
“The biggest way people put themselves in danger on a cruise is to not use common sense,” says Mark. “Cruises are statistically the safest way to take a vacation. This causes people to put their guard down when they should in fact use the same precautions as if they are on a land-based vacation.”
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