You want it all — sun, relaxation, a chance to visit new places. Your every need taken care of by a trained crew. No need to pack and unpack. It’s paradise, or is it? The recent grounding of the Costa Concordia reminds us, it’s not always fun and games on a cruise ship.
It makes you wonder how safe are cruise ships anyway?
A detailed look at available data regarding cruise ship safety (groundings and sinkings), air plane crashes and automobile crashes is very reassuring.
The most dangerous part of your cruise will be driving to the port or airport.
To put it in perspective: In any given year 5 times more people die in an airplane crashes world-wide than on sinking cruise ships. More importantly, 125 times more people die in a car crashes in the USA alone than on a cruise ship sinking anywhere in the world. And all of these events are rare.
Cruise Line Safety: In the last 5 years approximately 1000 people have died on cruise ships which ran aground or sank. That averages 200 people per year. Over three quarters of those deaths occurred in a single disaster: the M/V Princess of the Stars, which sank in the Philippines during a typhoon in 2008.
Airplane Safety: World-wide, on average, there are 150-200 crashes per year of planes carrying 6 or more passengers (no data for 2010-11 yet) with aproximately 1000 deaths per year. Most of these crashes are smaller aircraft.
Automobile Safety: For 2009 (the last year that data are available) 25,000 people died in car crashes in the USA alone. World wide data are not avaiable.
A cautionary note: Cruise ships have a low incidence of sinkings and groundings but one recurring theme is notable: survivors of the major crashes report that the crew aboard your cruise may not be able or willing to help you in the event of a catastrophic accident.
How can you prepare for a cruise ship sinking?
- Attend the lifeboat drills which are typically held in the first 24 hours after setting sail.
- Learn where the life jackets are stowed and how to put them on. Learn how to assist members of your party who need help with life jackets.
- Learn where the lifeboats are located. You may need to save yourself in the event of a major disaster.
If cruise ship sinkings are rare what should you worry about on ships?
Your own health.
The vast majority of people who die aboard cruise ships succumb to heart attack. This should not be surprising since it is by far the leading cause of death in the USA. Before you depart, get a check up from your doctor, make sure you are fit and ready for your planned activities.
Gastrointestinal diseases such as Norovirus can ruin a vacation. Fortunately the CDC conducts twice yearly unannounced inspections of cruise ships with US ports of call and publically reports the sanitary conditions. Frequent hand washing and use of hand sanitizers are protective.
Your own safety.
Unfortunately when you have 4000+ people aboard a ship, crime can sneak aboard too.
Theft of personal items occurs from time to time. It is very difficult to lock things up on a cruise ship. Use your room safe or you can ask to use the more secure safe at the concierge desk. Even better, don’t bring expensive or irreplaceable items with you.
Tragically sexual assault occasionally occurs. Most of the cases reported involved young women and teens lured into passenger rooms or other private areas. Cruise lines take these incidnets seriously and prosecute perpetrators. However, a frank discusssion with members of your party about not meeting people you don’t know in private quarters seems prudent.
Only a few homicides were reported. The typical scenario is an attack by a spouse or lover. Homicide aboard ship is so rare and seems to be perpetrated by people known to the victim it is not likely to affect you.
Cruise ships offer a wonderful way to relax, see the world, and be pampered. Once in a while tragedies and accidents do occur aboard ships. Fortunately, such events are quite rare. Use common sense regarding personal safety and realize that you are far safer aboard ship than you are driving about town.
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- 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Travel Health Insurance.
- What Everybody Ought to Know About Vaccines Before International Travel.
What are your thoughts about cruise line safety? Share your stories below: