With all the recent reports of Norovirus outbreaks, slip and fall accidents, shore excursion injuries, and even passengers going overboard, it’s understandable if you’re questioning the wisdom of going on a cruise. However, news of cruise ship accidents shouldn’t deter you from booking your next vacation on one of these ocean liners, especially if it’s been a dream of yours for a long time. Many people go on cruises every year and have a great time without getting sick or becoming injured. Still there are always risks, so if you want to be one of these people who gets to enjoy their trip without any major incidents, keep these safety tips in mind.
Before You Board
You have a lot of options when it comes to choosing your cruise line, and you need to make your decision based on more than just which ship has your favorite musical or the best rocking climbing wall. Do your research to determine which ships have the highest safety standards.
Check for cleanliness. The Center for Disease Control has a Vessel Sanitation Program that regularly inspects ships and rates them on their cleanliness, food preparation, water quality, pest maintenance, and more, then assigns the ship a report card that anyone can see online. As part of their program, they always release updates about illness outbreaks on various ships, so you can easily find out if the vessel you’ve booked passage on has had issues with something like Norovirus.
Check travel warnings. You would think that cruise ship companies would have the good sense not to send their ships into a potentially dangerous area, but that’s not always the case. You can check our government’s travel website to get updates on risky regions and to learn how US travelers can get emergency assistance.
Look up the ship doctors. You might be surprised to hear this, but ship doctors don’t always need to be licensed to practice in the US, and the standards of medical care in the ship infirmary may not be up to your standards. Before you book, contact the cruise line and find out if their medical staff is properly licensed.
On the Ship
Pay attention to the emergency protocol. Cruise lines are required to inform passengers about the protocol for different emergency situations. Make sure you listen closely so that you can stay calm and take the appropriate steps if an emergency does occur.
Look out for bad food. There will probably be plenty of delicious food on your cruise, but be careful about what you select. If the food has been sitting out in the sun and has perishable ingredients like mayo, steer clear.
Know your drinking limits. The alcohol is generally flowing pretty freely on cruise ships, and there’s nothing wrong with celebrating your vacation with a tropical cocktail, but be careful not to drink to the point that you’re significantly impaired. A little over a year ago, a 30-year-old cruise ship passenger fell overboard and nearly drowned after a bartender over-served her.
Be aware of your surroundings. Keep an eye out for potential trip or slip and fall hazards, like puddles of water on the deck , lounge chairs pulled out into walkways, or spills in the dining hall. If you notice something that you think is a tripping hazard, report it to the crew right away.
On a Shore Excursion
Research your shore excursions. Many passengers choose to book shore excursions through the cruise line because the company vets the vendors they use. If you do decide to book your own excursion, do your research on the organization and check reviews from past participants. Remember that even shore excursions through the cruise line or with a well-reviewed organization can come with certain risks, so be aware of your surroundings and don’t do anything you’re uncomfortable doing.
Know your physical limits. As fun as certain shore excursions might sound, be honest with yourself about your fitness level, and ask yourself if you feel physically comfortable doing the activities required.
Check the weather. If you’re doing anything like parasailing, scuba diving, or even going ashore for a hike or bike trip, check the weather forecast and sea conditions. Since money is at stake, cruise lines and shore excursion organizers don’t always use the best judgment when deciding whether or not to continue with an activity.
Know Your Rights If You Are Injured
It’s a sad truth that it’s still possible to be injured even when you exercise precautions, and if that’s the case, you have the right to hold the cruise line or negligent individual accountable. You should contact a cruise ship accident lawyer as soon as possible, though, because cruise accidents fall under maritime law and have a strict statute of limitations.
If you’re about to embark on a cruise, you shouldn’t spend the whole trip worrying about getting injured, but you should keep the above tips in mind in order to have a safe, happy, and healthy journey.
About the Author
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of The Law Office of Andrew Winston. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, and was recently voted by his peers as a Florida “SuperLawyer”—an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state—and to Florida Trend’s “Legal Elite.” His experience in successfully handling numerous cruise ship accident cases recommends him as one of the most competent and skilled lawyer in the area of maritime personal injury law and wrongful death.