Cruising is one of the safest forms of travel, and most cruises pass without incident. But it is always worth taking a few basic precautions to stay safe. When you get on board it's easy to forget that you are sharing your vacation with thousands of other people, and all it takes is one person to spoil the experience.
Most of the following tips are common sense — go easy on the booze, don't flaunt your cash, keep valuables in your safe — but sometimes they are all too easy to forget when you're on vacation. The most important thing to remember is have fun, but be aware — just like you would on a night out at home.
- Pay Attention to the Muster Drill: Before your vacation gets started, you must attend the muster drill. This is where you learn where your muster station is, how to don a life jacket and what the alarms mean, should they be sounded. While most passengers listen attentively, every muster has a few people talking all the way through it, people on their cellphones, people trying to get a drink from the bar (all outlets are closed during muster) and couples who hide in their cabins thinking they've pulled one over on the authorities. Not clever. Even if you've heard the drill a thousand times, pay attention; don't see it as an inconvenience, but rather as an important part of your cruise experience.
- Keep Calm: If something happens, stay calm, get your life jacket and go to your muster station. Don't stop for anything else.
- Drink Responsibly: Alcohol is a major factor of personal safety incidents on cruises, so go easy on the booze and be aware of your limits. There's plenty of alcohol on board and it's easy to get carried away, so know how much you're consuming.
- Buddy Up: If you're cruising alone, find a friend early on. That way he/she can look out for you. You're also far less of a target when traveling in pairs. Don't advertise that you are traveling alone, and don't walk around alone in areas by yourself late at night.
- Practice In-Cabin Safety: Whether you're new to cruising or not, you'll notice that not all cabin doors automatically close, so give them a pull when you leave and a push when you are inside to make sure they click shut. If the door has a dead bolt, use it. If it doesn't, consider a door stopper. Cabin stewards carry them, so ask for one, or bring your own.
- Be Safe on Your Balcony: Keep the door locked at night. Also check your balcony before you go to sleep, and don't leave the door open when you are not in your room, especially in port. (Contractors who clean windows and do maintenance can easily gain access.)
- Use Your Safe: You can usually get a laptop, a tablet, cellphone and jewelry/watches inside. The majority of cabin stewards are honest, but it's not worth putting temptation in their way. Better still, leave your valuables at home.
- Get to Know Your Steward: Ask his or her name on day one and establish a rapport. Your steward will notice if someone other than you is trying to get into your room.
- Don't Carry Large Amounts of Cash: There is no reason to bring a lot of money on board. All on board transactions can be carried out with your room key as a credit card. When on shore excursions, take out what you need, but don't advertise it.
- Don't Accept an Invitation to Crew Quarters: This is not a good idea, ever. It could result in instant dismissal for the crew, and you will likely be asked to leave at the next port stop.
- Be Careful on Shore Excursions: The cruise lines organize the shore trips because they are moneymakers for them; in return, you get some assurance of quality and security. You can save a buck (or many) by going it alone, of course, but beware. Make sure you negotiate any fares and fees upfront. Most cabbies are honest when the cards are on the table, but if you do not agree in advance, the sky will be the limit and you may find yourself in a police station for failure to pay the fare.
- Bring Your Medications: If you have special needs or allergies, bring your own medications and supplies. And keep an “emergency kit’’ ready to go; it should include prescriptions, your cell phone, room key, glasses, and a photocopy of your passport.
- Wash Your Hands: To avoid shipboard illnesses such as the norovirus, wash your hands thoroughly and often, and use the hand sanitizers placed around the ship.