How safe are cruise ships, and how do you stay safe while on a cruise? This was one of the most common questions for cruise passengers, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the statistics show that cruising is extremely safe, especially when you take some simple precautions.
Cruise ships are an extremely safe way to travel. According to statistics compiled by Cruise Ship Deaths, around 30-million passengers went on a cruise in 2019, with an average of 200 deaths per year between 2011 and 2021 – the vast majority of them from natural causes.
When compared to the airline industry, which carried 4.5-billion people in 2019 and suffered 289 fatalities, it seems like cruise ships are much less safe than flying, but if you take the miles travelled into account, cruising had the fewest fatalities per billion passenger miles, according to a report by maritime research company G.P. Wild International.
In addition, cruise passengers spend much longer at sea than airline passengers spend in the air – while the majority of cruise ship deaths are due to natural causes, the majority of airline deaths are due to operational accidents.
The same report by G.P. Wild International found that overall cruise ship operational incidents declined by 15 percent between 2009 and 2014 (the Costa Concordia sinking and Carnival Triumph fires notwithstanding).
With 30-million people taking to sea on cruises annually, there is of course the possibility of becoming a victim of a range of crimes, the most common, unfortunately, being sexual assault.
Statistics regarding crimes at sea are difficult to verify, but according to Depart of Transport officials in the US, federal authorities reported a total of 106 crimes, including 76 sexual assaults, 13 serious assaults, eight thefts of more than $10,000 and two kidnappings on US-based cruise ships in 2017.
During 2017, some 11.9-million American cruise passengers went to sea. When compared to the country in the world with the lowest crime rate (Switzerland, with just 7 violent crimes per 100,000), the cruise industry is even safer at just 0.9 crimes per 100,000.
Cruises are extremely safe then, but that doesn’t negate the fact that there are some simple common sense steps you can take to ensure your safety and comfort on a cruise.
Pack the right things
Be sure you pack not only the clothes and medications you will need, but also a few things for your safety, such as sunscreen.
Sunburn is the number one most common injury reported on cruise ships, and children are especially vulnerable.
When cruising from Dubai and Abu Dhabi during the winter cruise season, sunburn is a real risk as the sun in the Arabian Gulf is much more fierce than the cool weather might lead you to believe.
You should also pack a good amount of hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes. This was advisable even before the COVID-19 pandemic, as any busy public spaces, whether on land or at sea, increase the risk of catching any contagious illnesses, such as the common cold or norovirus.
So wash your hands regularly, and carry a hand sanitizer with you whenever you leave your cabin (although most cruise ships have hand sanitizer stations all over the vessel anyway). Take antibacterial wipes along when using the bathroom at any port of call you visit.
Crime on cruise ships
Theft is the most common crime reported by cruise passengers, and flashing lots of cash, or even just carrying large amounts of money with you, is of course not advisable.
Luckily, all the countries visited on an Arabian Gulf cruise out of Dubai are extremely safe, but the only time you’ll need any cash on a cruise ship is if you’re going to visit the ship’s casino.
Even then, there are very few cruise ship casino that only accept cash, most will take your cruise card.When ashore, stick with using a credit card for any transactions you wish to complete and only carry small amounts of cash for discretionary spending.
Stay safe around the pools and rails
Some of the common causes of drowning on a cruise ship come from people not being responsible near the pools, saunas, and other watery spots around the ship.
Tragically, far too many cruise passengers don’t keep a close eye on their children on the pool deck, which has forced cruise lines to hire lifeguards to protect children using the pools.
Supervision is key to avoiding drowning incidents: keep a close eye on children, and only let your children use the pools when there is a lifeguard present if you’re not going to be able to maintain constant vigilance.
Cruise ships are also designed to be extremely difficult to fall off, but passengers keep finding ways of falling overboard (the highest number of incidents in a year was 27 in 2015, followed by 25 in 2009).
When you have had a few drinks, its probably best not to get too close to the railings, and never approach them in rough weather.
Always attend the muster drill
The sinking of Costa Concordia in 2012 sparked many a comparison to Titanic, which in itself says something about how often passenger ships sink.
The sad truth is that passenger ships do sink far too often, but the vast majority of them are under-regulated ferries in Asia and Africa, the modern cruise industry has only experienced 16 cruise ship sinkings between 1980 and 2012 (and no cruise ships have sunk since Concordia).
However, sinking isn’t the worst fear of most cruise ship crew. It’s fire. Ship Detective reports that there have been 44 fires aboard cruise ships between 1979 and 2014.
The risk of sinking or fire is therefore extremely rare, but any risk requires precaution. For this reason, cruise lines hold muster drills prior to departure and they’re mandatory to attend.
They can be boring, though, so passengers always try to skip them, but don’t. The muster drill helps you learn where you will go if there’s an emergency on board.
The drill provides details on what alarms may sound, how to prepare and wear a life jacket, and what to do when disembarking from the ship during an emergency.
Be sure you pay attention to the muster drill. If you try to skip it, you could be kicked off the cruise before you’ve even left the dock.
Categories: Cruise Lifestyle