Are Cruises Safe?

cruise shipGiven the recent events from Italy, I’ve received a lot of questions about sailing the high seas. Is it safe? Should I be concerned? I got the scoop from my pal, travel writer and cruise expert Clark Norton, who has written, among other things, How to Save Money on Cruises. Here’s what he said:

Should you be concerned about cruise ship safety in the wake of the Costa Concordia disaster? Of course, just like you should be concerned every time you get in a car or on an airplane, train, horse or pair of skis. No form of transportation or vacationing is risk free—and cruising accidents always receive perhaps more than their fair share of publicity—but ships fare pretty well in the overall safety category. In the year 2010, the top seven cruise lines operating out of the United States reported a total of four "suspicious" deaths (no proven homicides) and 31 serious assaults out of about 10 million total passengers. That's a tiny percentage! What’s more, surveys have shown that frequent cruisers generally feel safe aboard cruise ships.

“If you're particularly worried, I would suggest doing some online research about a prospective cruise line's safety procedures and record before booking a cruise. But in the end, if getting to your cruise ship involves getting into, say, an automobile anywhere along the way, your chances of a mishap are much greater in the car than when aboard the ship itself. But individual auto accidents—while far more plentiful— are not likely to make the evening news.

“Most cruise lines have tight security precautions in place, such as cameras and officers, X-ray machines to guard against weapons being brought on board, and specially-coded picture ID cards that prevent non-passengers from boarding the ship. Cruise lines typically hold muster drills before or soon after departure so that passengers know where their lifeboats and lifejackets are (the Costa Concordia had not yet held its muster drill for recently embarking passengers when the accident occurred off the Italian coast; Carnival Cruise Line, the parent company of Costa, is now reviewing its safety procedures, and cruise giant Royal Caribbean has already tightened its procedures in the wake of the accident).

“Still, it's up to individual passengers to take some responsibility for their own safety as well. Besides avoiding deserted corridors or deck areas at night—and certainly not getting too close to deck or balcony railings, especially after drinking—passengers should know where their lifejackets are located and how to put them on.”

Well said! Follow Clark on twitter @clarknorton33

—Jenna Mahoney