Where is my life jacket? Practical pointers for cruising safety.

by Donna on February 5, 2012

The capsizing of the Concordia was a disaster. The sinking of the Titanic was an epic disaster. A century later we still remember the Titanic. Fallout from this past January’s disaster is continues. What does this mean for the hundreds of thousands of current and future cruise passengers? How do you decide whether or not to take a cruise vacation, especially if you are a first-time cruiser and concerned about safety? What are the facts you need to know and how do you choose the right cruise?

The protection of passengers is central to all cruise lines. In the aftermath of the Titanic, all cruise ships were outfitted with sufficient life boats for passengers. All cruise passengers must participate in a mandatory safety drill, learning how to put on their life jacket and where to go to get into their assigned lifeboat. In the aftermath of the Concordia, all major cruise lines have undertaken a comprehensive review of safety and emergency response procedures, including the timing of lifeboat drills. This is in addition to the stringent health standards and inspections cruise ships regularly undergo.

Every year millions of people enjoy cruising without a single mishap. Cruise ships go to every corner of the globe, including places only accessible by boat. Multiple reports have shown it is the safest way to travel. The IMO, International Maritime Organization, sets global standards that all major cruise companies follow. SOLAS, the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, dictates standards regarding lifeboats and drills to familiarize passengers and crew with emergency procedures. The U.S. Coast Guard has additional regulations.

So what can you do? What precautions can you take?

First of all, talk to your travel professional before choosing a cruise line or ship. He or she should be familiar with different lines, their history, an their reputations. Personal experience counts more than glossy brochure pictures.

Once on board, before claiming your lounge chair and ordering the day’s special drink, get familiar with the ship. Know where your life jacket is. Learn how to put it on and make sure your kids or traveling companions do the same.

Learn where your muster station is—it should be listed on the back of your stateroom door. Cruse ships are required to have a muster drill within 24 hours of boarding and most have a muster drill before leaving port, but the Concordia did not and the disaster happened less than 24 hours after departure.

Keep a “just in case” emergency kit in a waterproof bag. Include any prescriptions you absolutely need, a flashlight, copies of your passport (or the passport itself), wallet and credit cards (ships are cashless, so you won’t be carrying it), spare eyeglasses, and a cell phone (when it is not in use.)

Consider scanning all your relevant travel documents and storing them “in the cloud”. Google Docs is one such cloud based computer program.

Wear a medical alert bracelet if you have a compromising medical condition.

Now, sit back, relax, and remember accidents at sea are very very rare. Enjoy and have a wonderful trip!

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