How Safe is a Cruise?
The debut of two brand-new new cruise ships -- Cunard's
But talk of cruises inevitably raises the subject of cruise safety. A few weeks ago, a 79-year-old British man disappeared from a cruise ship in the English Channel. He's only the latest in a list (http://www.cruisejunkie.com/Overboard.html) of passengers who either vanished or fell overboard.
The cruise industry contends a trip on the high seas is safer than a drive to the airport and a stay at a hotel. But just how safe is it?
There is little evidence that people are not booking a floating vacation because of safety concerns. But this summer, President Obama signed the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, which requires cruise lines to report all deaths, missing persons, theft, sexual harassment and assaults. However, the
Until that happens, experts say, safety can depend on your behavior.
Stay in your cabin and order room service for the duration of your cruise, and short of your ship sinking, you'll probably be just fine.
But stay up all night drinking, do your "I'm-the-king-of-the-world" impression from the bow of the ship, and take the unauthorized shore excursion to the slums -- well, maybe not.
That's not to say the cruise line isn't responsible for your well-being. It's just that there's only so much it can do to keep you out of harm's way while you're at sea.
Cruise industry representatives claim sexual assaults are practically unheard of at sea -- according to the industry, you have a less than 0.1 percent chance of becoming a victim onboard. However, as cruise expert
"It is common knowledge in our field that cruise ships are flat-out dangerous for women," said
Passengers can protect themselves by taking some common-sense precautions, including keeping your cabin door locked, not opening your door for strangers and checking in with a travel companion, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.
Gastrointestinal outbreaks spread easily from person to person and can occur aboard cruise ships or in hotels, nursing homes or day care centers.
But there's a reason the Norwalk virus is sometimes also called cruise-ship sickness: because it happens on cruise ships. Here are the ones (http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/vsp/surv/gilist.htm(NUMBERSIGN)2010) reported to the
More people are at risk for gastrointestinal illnesses while traveling than ever, according to the CDC. "Cruise ship passengers and crews are also at risk for new patterns of old diseases or newly recognized causes of diseases," the agency warns.
You can prevent an infection by frequently washing your hands, carefully washing fruits and vegetables before eating them and cleaning and disinfecting contaminated surfaces, according to the CDC.
SICK AT SEA
Cruise experts say today's ships are so big, you won't even know you're at sea. Mention the word "seasickness" and those same insiders reassure you with talk of stabilizers and almost-always calm waters.
But waves still happen. And seasickness happens.
That's no exaggeration. Some waves are even bigger, like this set (http://www.liveleak.com/view(QUESTIONMARK)i(EQUALSIGN)975_1283799588) that hit the
Rough weather can normally be avoided by steering clear of cheap, off-season cruises (the
IS THERE A DOCTOR ON BOARD?
Medical care on cruise ships isn't necessarily up to Western standards. "The last place you want to become ill or injured is on a cruise ship far away from a U.S. port," said
Cruise lines don't assume liability for the medical care you receive on a ship, according to many cruise contracts, so experts recommend taking out a good travel insurance policy with a provision for medical evacuations.
Even with all of these unacknowledged dangers, it's possible to have an incident-free cruise vacation, and a vast majority of passengers return safely from their cruise.
Knowing the perils -- not downplaying or ignoring them -- is a key to avoiding them.
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