The cruise ship market is awash with images of exotic and beautiful locations around the world. Relaxed passengers recline in deck chairs consuming an exotic range of cocktails and snacking on a range of delicious delights. These images beckon us away from our ordinary day to day lives with the lure of sunshine and the sea.
While vacation cruising is considered a safe way to travel for holiday makers around the world, there are a range of overt and covert dangers presented to travelers in general. Solo travelers are exposed to similar risks on board, however there are a number of additional factors to be considered for the solo female cruise ship passenger.
Cruising Appeal For The Over 50's
The appeal of cruising over other forms of travel is universal. Firstly, there is the convenience of only having to unpack once, followed by knowing where you will be dining each evening, regardless of what country or port you visited that day and finally, the endless range of on board activities and entertainment available are all features that appeal. For the over fifties, the value of a cruising as compared to other forms of travel is significant. Many people over the age of fifty are on a fixed income, so it makes sense as there simply is no better way to get the best value than by taking a cruise.
Millions of passengers take to the seas each year, and the numbers are steadily growing. As a consequence, in 2010 the United States government passed the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, encompassing a range of safety protocols and crime reporting requirements. Prior to the enforcement of the Act, cruise ship companies reported on board crimes to the FBI, however the details of the incidents were not released to the public. More often than not, many incidents at sea went unreported or unnoticed due to the lack of jurisdiction in international waters.
The Act puts the power of choice well and truly in the hands of the consumer allowing them to undertake their own due diligence by having a clear understanding of the types and numbers of incidents occurring on board a particular cruise ship.
The are many benefits to passengers since the implementation of the Act including:
- Minimum height for ship rails - 42 inches above the deck.
- Upgrade to cabin safety including - security latches, peep holes and time sensitive key technology.
- Closed Circuit Television - CCTV.
Some of the ways in which passengers can manager their personal safety and security include the following;
Undertake Your Own Due Diligence
Much like researching the type of cruise you are considering, its just as important to do your research on the safety and security records of the ship. Take the time to review the statistical reports including the safety protocols used by each ship. Additionally, by understanding the types of crimes common to on board life, passengers are better prepared for most possibilities.
Know Your Environment
Once passengers are on board and at at the time of departure from the terminal, a safety drill is undertaken where all passengers are required to participate in the ship's safety drill. It's during or after this time which presents a perfect opportunity to to tour the ship, including the location of your life jacket, tender boats, safety and medical stations and evacuation points.
Fire Safety On Board
All cruise ships are required to maintain a team of highly trained and dedicated fire fighters on board. Each and every member of the ship's personnel are trained in shipboard fire management and undergo regular training at sea. The average response time to a fire is only a few minutes, as a range of firefighting equipment is stored in lockers throughout the ship.
In the unlikely event of a fire where an evacuation is ordered, passengers will be evacuated from the ship and enter the lifeboats to await rescue in a short period of time. Always remain calm and listen to the instructions provided by the ship's crew.
Disease spreads like wildfire on a cruise ship, and it can be terrible to experience a bout of Norovirus, Gastroenteritis or Staphylococcal food poisoning. Wash you hands frequently with soap and water or use an antibacterial gel to kill germs. Avoid contact with handrails, elevator buttons or other common areas. A great product to take on board is Gastro-Stop, which takes care of any stomach bug and the associated symptoms within hours. A trip to the Doctors office on board can be a costly exercise, so it pays to be prepared.
One of the benefits of cruising means you can drink as much as you want with little consequence. However many of the same rules apply on a cruise ship as they do elsewhere. Don't accept drinks from strangers, and be mindful of your consumption. Passengers can easily fall victim to predators on board or fall overboard as a consequence of being intoxicated.
Have A Common Sense Approach
When heading ashore, its important to have a common sense approach by reading up on any local customs and dangers which may be present. Don't flaunt your wealth by dressing flamboyantly, wearing expensive jewelry or showing off with buckets of money. Keep cameras and purses in you lap when dining and not draped over the side or rear of the seat.
When booking cruise ship shore excursions, it may be more expensive than that on offer by the locals, however day trippers regularly fall victim to local scammers who know that in a number of hours their victim will be long gone, meaning there is little consequence for the villain. Day trippers make for easy prey. Ensure that your transportation back to the ship leaves plenty of time spare before the ship is due to depart port, so you wont be left 'high and dry' as your ship sales off into the sunset without you.
If you notice someone stalking around the hallways or following you around the ship, report this immediately. Suspicious activity is just that, suspicious. By reporting any incidents promptly, the crew can act promptly and accordingly with the information provided to them. Unfortunately cruise lines have long history of failing to properly disclose the incidence of sexual batteries, sexual and physical assaults, theft and other crimes. The incentive to under report was obvious to all, as publicized crimes substantially reduces sales volume. Fortunately, due to mandatory reporting, this is no longer the case.
After the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001, cruise lines implemented 'Level 3' standard security measures as provided by the U.S. Coast Guard's 'Security for Passenger Vessels and Passenger Terminals' regulations. Some of these measures include:
- Screening of all passenger baggage including carry-on luggage, ship stores and cargo.
- Intensified screening of passenger lists and passenger identification.
- Close coordination with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and other federal agencies to ensure that any passengers or crew suspected of being on the INS "Prevent Departure" list are promptly reported to the federal authorities.
- Restricting access to any sensitive vessel areas, such as the bridge and the engine room.
- Implementing on board security measures to deter unauthorized entry and illegal activity.
- Requiring all commercial vessels to give 96 hours notice before entering U.S. ports. Previously ships were required to provide only 24 hours notice.
- Maintaining a 100-yard security zone around cruise ships.
Keep Calm And Carry On
In the event something on board does occur, remain calm at all times. If the muster siren is heard, proceed to your cabin and correctly fit your life jacket and head briskly, without running directly to your assigned muster point. Do not stop for anything. Listen to the instructions provided by crew and don't panic.
Trust Your Instincts
Always trust your instincts when faced with any threatening situation. If something doesn't feel right, remove yourself as quickly and safely as possible from the situation. Report your concerns to a crew member for investigation.