PART 2 – Keeping Your Family Safe and Healthy On the Ship and On Shore.
As mentioned previously, if you are contemplating taking a cruise, you may be wondering about the safety of cruise ships and their onshore ventures. The unfortunate stories on the news may have left you with questions on just how safe cruises are. To help reassure you on the safety of cruise ships and to make an informed decision, here are some facts you may not be aware of.
Keeping Your Children Safe:
A big concern for parents is the safety of their children. Cruises that are geared toward the family offer programs that entertain the children, while providing a safe environment.
Many mainstream cruise ships offer a Kids Club for ages 3 (must be potty trained) to 17 with age-appropriate games and activities. These clubs have gated access and are supervised by trained youth staff. Small children need to be signed in and out by their parents; whereas older kids and teens can sign themselves in and out. The staff are not responsible for children once they are signed out.
Even though your kids are in a ‘contained ship’, letting them run free without supervision is not be a good idea. There are strangers on board as well as other safety concerns to be aware of.
Some cruise lines have dedicated nurseries where parents can drop off their babies and toddlers, while others may have a play area for little ones, but the parent must be present. Most offer late night group babysitting services for children ages 3 to 11 until about 1:00 a.m. or later.
Kids and teens that misbehave or are found drinking underage, are subject to disciplinary action and could be forced to disembark (along with the rest of the family) at the next port.
Safety Tips for Children:
By following the same precautions you do at home, you can help keep your children safe.
- Many ships do not have lifeguards at their pools. Swimming is at your own risk—so children should not be left unattended around the water. Have young children wear life jackets when by the pool—it only takes a second for them to fall in.
- Remind your children to keep the cabin door locked at all times and not to open it for anyone—including crew members. It’s also not a good idea for them to go in someone’s room that they met on the ship. It’s best to wait for the person in a public area.
- Let them know that they should not accept any drinks (juices or soda, etc.) from strangers. People have been known to put drugs in drinks and give them to children and adults.
- Have teens check in regularly at designated times and communicate with them frequently on your whereabouts as well.
- Warn your children of the dangers of climbing on the ship’s rails.
- If you have more than one child, using the buddy system is a good idea.
As with any vacation on land or sea, wherever there are crowds, there are safety risks to be aware of. Even though you are in the relax mode, it is wise to pay attention to what is going on around you and not let your guard down around strangers.
Adult Safety Tips:
- Avoid talking publicly about how much money you have, valuables you brought with you, or about other financial matters. This information could fall into the wrong hands.
- Go easy on the alcohol and do not accept drinks from strangers or allow them to help you back to your room. Remember that the ship is moving—being intoxicated could cause you to fall and injure yourself—or become a target for crime.
- It’s not a good idea to let strangers know what cabin you are in.
- If traveling solo, avoid walking around by yourself at night, and do not advertise that you are alone.
- Be sure to close your door and use the deadbolt while inside or shove a door stopper up against the door.
- Use the ship’s safe to store valuables and use the room safe for smaller amounts of money, wallet, etc. Leave irreplaceable or sentimental valuables at home.
- Don’t accept an invitation to crew quarters—this could be considered a serious offense, and you may be asked to leave the ship at the next port.
When cruise ships stop at ports of call, you have the option of taking a ship-sponsored shore excursion or touring independently. Cruise lines sell shore excursions to help you get the most out of your stops. The ship guarantees to wait for all passengers involved in ship-sponsored tours—but not for those who opt to tour on their own.
When making your decision, there are factors to consider such as the amount of time your ship is in port (may range from 4 hours to 10 or more), the accessibility of local transportation, road conditions, terrain, language barrier, and more. Some ports are not as suited to touring independently.
If touring with the locals, be sure to know in advance when the tour will be returning. Allow enough time to get back to the ship—it is not required to wait for you.
Safety Precautions while On Shore:
Thieves and scam artists oftentimes prey on tourists from cruise ships. By being aware of their tactics, you can outsmart them at their own game.
- Do some research on the ports of call you will be visiting. Be aware of places to avoid, crime trends, travel warnings, and any other helpful information. Check out guidebooks or with the U.S. Department of State (travel.state.gov). You can also ask the cruise director or shore excursion manager for their advice.
- Avoid scam artists. Local thieves on shore have been known to dress like cabin stewards from the cruise line. They offer to get food or drinks for tourists, and then take their money and disappear.
- Thieves oftentimes work in groups to distract tourists—one person may bump into you or spill on you, while the other steals your valuables.
- Try to stay in a group or with at least one other person.
- Do not get in a taxi if there is another person in it, even if they offer to split the fare. This is a typical scam. Do not use just any taxi—make sure it is a licensed taxi. Check with the cruise director for their advice on taxis, or go to a hotel and ask them to call one for you. Before getting in, make sure the photo on the license matches the driver. Travelers have been attacked (or worse) when riding in so-called “taxis”.
- Dress to fit in with locals and avoid wearing expensive jewelry.
- Don’t hand your camera or cell phone to a local to take your picture—it could get stolen. Cell phones tend to be at the top of the list for items that thieves target during shore excursions.
- Be aware that groups of children have been trained to rob tourists as well. They may set up a diversion and then grab your purse, wallet, or other valuables.
As mentioned in the previous article, wash your hands frequently, and especially before eating to avoid becoming ill from norovirus, a contagious virus caused by eating or drinking contaminated food or by touching infected surfaces.
Prevent Food Poisoning during Shore Excursions:
Do not drink the water or have ice cubes in your drinks—this includes juices or soda fountains that use local tap water. Avoid eating fruits and vegetables washed with the local water, and do not eat raw fish or undercooked meat.
Dealing with Motion Sickness:
On large ships, you can barely feel the boat moving; however, if you are on a smaller vessel, encounter rough seas, or are sensitive to movement, the possibility for motion sickness exists. Here are some suggestions:
- Check with your physician in advance for their recommendation or talk to the ship’s medical staff.
- Choose a cabin near the middle of the ship where there is less rocking.
- When on deck, focus on the horizon, rather than watching the water or other objects pass by.
- Other possible solutions (that some have found helpful) are: Sea Bands, ginger pills or gum, ginger ale, motion sickness pills, or the Transderm Scop patch (requires a prescription and one patch should not be worn over 3 days).
There are risks with any type of travel. You can either decide to avoid travel in case of what might happen or take that long-awaited cruise—knowing that most likely, you will have a terrific time.
For more travel insight, check out my book,