As an experienced cruiser, I've got tons of tips to make your next cruise vacation a breeze.
How to Stay Safe and Well on a Cruise
Cruising is an enjoyable and positive form of travel where you can find yourself having all kinds of amazing experiences. Those who are more glass-half-full are probably thinking ‘what issues could there possibly be on a cruise ship?’ Others who are a little more glass-half-empty might feel more aware of the chance that something bad might happen and wish to prepare accordingly.
Don't get me wrong, cruises are not a minefield of risk—in fact, they is one of the safest forms of travel there is, and most come to completion without any real issues or incidents happening—but there is no harm in being a little prepared.
Just like any other kind of travel, it is worthwhile taking a few precautions to make sure you stay safe and sound throughout your cruise holiday. If nothing else, it will just put your mind at ease so that you can get down to the real fun.
19 Common-Sense Safety Tips for Cruising
After stepping aboard your cruise ship, it can be easy to put your cares aside and let some of your normal safe behaviours from home slip so that you can squeeze every drop of fun out of your trip. But there are some things you shouldn't get careless about, no matter how safe you might feel.
Most of these suggestions and considerations are just common sense. As you read on, you will probably think 'well yeah, that is obvious now I think of it'. The key thing to keep in mind is to be aware but not alarmed and make sure that you have a great time and act responsibly.
1. Keep Your Belongings Safe in Your Stateroom
All staterooms have a safe available for you to use. You can actually fit a fair bit in them if you play a little Tetris. You are very likely to be able to fit an average size laptop or tablet, a wallet and purse, spending money, watches and jewellery, and a mobile phone without too much trouble along with your passport.
Not that you can’t trust your stateroom steward to go about their work respectfully, but if there is no opportunity for something to go missing, then there is no need for yucky accusations to be full around.
There’s also the occasion when they are servicing your room and the door remains ajar whilst they complete their tasks, the opportunity could prove too much for a dodgy fellow traveler if they see something shiny out in the open. It is better all round not to risk it.
2. Find a Friend or Two
This is one for those of us who will likely choose to cruise alone. Try to find a friend who can keep an eye out for you, and you can do the same for them. Solo cruising doesn’t mean that you have to do everything alone, so if you find a cruise buddy or two, then you can hang out with them when it suits you. This is especially handy if you are going to locations at port that you're not 100% confident about.
When you travel with a friend or in groups, you are less likely to be singled out as a target of opportunity.
If you haven’t been able to rope someone into being your companion on your cruise, then just go about what you are doing with confidence and try not to look too touristy.
3. Don’t Overdo It on the Alcohol
I figure we have all seen at least one alcohol-fuelled incident where someone has hurt themselves or created some sort of disturbance. With the addition of a bit too much sun and a drinks package, some are bound to forget themselves and just go all in regardless of the disruption it causes those around them.
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Try not to overdo it, and be aware of how much you are drinking so things don’t get too crazy. Another thing to consider is not accepting drinks from people that you don’t know, just in case they slip something into it.
4. Keep Your Stateroom Safe and Secure
Now this one might seem a bit overboard, but make sure you always close and secure your stateroom door. The doors are pretty heavy and mostly close themselves, but you might find some don’t close as well as others, so make sure that it catches, especially when the seas are rough.
If you are super security conscious, you might even want to secure your door, but I prefer to maintain my safety as well as my security by maintaining a proper exit over having potentially unnecessary options of blocking the door.
If you have a balcony stateroom, then make sure that the external door is secured and locked when the balcony is not in use. This will also help the aircon to work efficiently.
Your stateroom door will have a peephole installed, so don't forget to use it if you have concerns about who is at the door in the middle of the night.
If you are prone to a fright, keep an eye out for notices in the daily planners about window cleaning if you are in a balcony room for three reasons:
- You don’t want to be out there when they start hosing the ship down.
- Cleaners tend to go running through each balcony, floor by floor during this process and if you're laying there with your headphones on, you are both going to get a fright.
- Finally, to protect your modesty, if you are wandering around your room in the starkers then the last thing you want is some poor window cleaner accidentally catching an eyeful.
When talking about your room to anything, try not to say it too loudly and try to be vague about the number of occupants if you are a solo traveller, so that people get the impression that there is more than one person in the room.
5. Stay Safe When on Your Balcony
I love a balcony cabin, don't you?
The sound of the water rhythmically splashing against the ship makes me feel at peace on the ocean. I also love that fresh salty air on a crisp morning that you get as you step onto the balcony. The sound and that sense of connection to the water and the world relaxes me and chills me right out.
As mentioned before, make sure that you secure the balcony door before you turn in for the night, even just for peace of mind.
It is also worthwhile to check the balcony and secure the door when you leave the cabin just in case some crew need to do some cleaning and ship maintenance which is usually done on port days. This is a great idea if you don't want them washing your bathers overboard accidently because you left them outside drying.
Never sit on the railing, A pretty obvious safety precaution but a few people see it as a bit of a challenge. There is no reason for anyone to be sitting on them, and they are by no means the most secure place in the world to sit.
It is pretty well documented that incidents have occurred through complacency, so just be mindful, and this will make sure that we don’t end up adding to these gruesome statistics.
6. Don’t Get Too Fresh With the Ship’s Crew
The crew of the ship might real nice in their crisp uniforms and they may speak to you in a manner that seems flirty, but just remember that they are working, so separating that from thinking they are trying to crack onto you is worthwhile.
If an accusation is leveled against them, then that could result in them being sacked regardless of whether anything actually happened, and you will probably feel less than welcome on the ship if it is a mutual endeavour.
7. Pay Attention During the Muster Drill
Before your holiday kicks off and the ship has even left the dock, the muster drill is a necessary evil. This opportunity is to ensure you understand what to do in the event of an emergency on board.
You will receive instruction on how to put on your life jacket and what to do and where to go if they sound the alarms for real.
While most cruisers focus, every muster has at least a few cruisers who try to talk through it or generally make a nuisance of themselves by using their phones or trying to neck their drinks so they can go straight back to the bar. You will even find that a few people will even try to sneak back into their cabins to hide.
The face of cruising is changing and will continue to as we adjust to the new COVID normal that is evolving. No matter what shape it takes, make sure you pay attention to the muster drill, as chance favours the prepared mind and if anything does happen, you don’t want to put yourself or your family at risk.
8. Don’t Carry Large Amounts of Cash on You
Unless you're a gambler, there is no reason to bring and carry a lot of cash around onboard. All financial transactions are carried out with a sail and sign card, which is effectively your onboard charge card and door key. If it isn't linked to a credit card, charge it with cash from your safe in smaller increments during your cruise.
When at port, take only what you need, and be sure not to advertise to the world that you are flush with cash. Use smaller denominations and don't use a money clip that makes it look like you have a wad of cash. The locals will also appreciate smaller notes as they have issues cashing larger denominations.
If you do bring a lot of money onboard, make sure you secure it in your safe or top up your sail and sign card. Making sure you cash out before you return to your departure port so that you don’t have to wait for a cheque to get your money back.
9. Get to Know Your Stateroom Stewards
I’ve yet to meet a steward that wasn’t kind and caring—it must be the type of people that apply for service roles. Don’t hesitate to take a moment to have a chat with them if they aren't rushing around; ask for their name and get to know them straight off the bat.
Build a rapport and you will find that if you aren’t feeling well or something in your routine changes, they will take the time to check on you and ask if everything is okay. They will likely also notice if someone out of the ordinary is wandering around.
10. Buy Cruise-Specific Travel Insurance
Stuff happens, and it is always good to be prepared as much as you can just in case. Travel insurance is your best bet for making sure that you are covered for times when something less than optimal happens.
It is worth noting that most normal insurance policies don't always specifically cover cruise travel or similar undertakings. Choosing the right travel insurance for you and your particular circumstances for cruising is a good practice to get into, while making sure that your policy covers you for any activities that you plan for your port days too.
Cruise companies may not even allow people on board if they don’t have the proper insurances.
The way I see it, no matter how healthy you think you are, I really think that if you can’t afford travel insurance, then you should probably look more closely as to whether you should be traveling.
All it takes is for one freak incident and you could be dealing with not only the shock and pain of an injury but potential medical expenses that go with it. If something does happen, you want to be able to get the best medical care available and not go broke in the process.
Travel insurance also comes in handy when if there are any kind of interruptions in your holiday or your bags go missing, not just medical expenses.
11. Get a Grip With Some Good Shoes
You will end up finding yourself doing a lot of walking and exploring on your cruise, so make sure that you wear a decent pair of shoes with a bit of support and no-slip soles, as you might find yourself walking on a number of slippery surfaces, especially around the pool and open-air bars.
Outdoor surfaces may also be a touch slippery in the morning with the condensation and heavy dew. The moist salty air settles overnight, so keep a weather eye on that as a potential risk to life and limb.
Cheap flip-flops really seem to hit the spot, but you will find even on the ship's surfaces, you will have buffed all their grip off of them within a day or two. I suggest putting a few extra dollars towards something comfy but with a no-slip sole, especially if you aren’t too steady on your feet at the best of times.
12. Scan Your Passport and Keep a Copy
Your passport is pretty essential when it comes to getting on a cruise ship, especially for international travel.
I always keep my passport secured in my safe when not needed and make sure that I have a copy in my pack when we have a port day. Why not save a copy to your email or Dropbox as well as leaving a copy with family to make it easier if you lose your original one when on holiday?
If you happen to be cruising in Europe and the surrounding locations, it is also my understanding that cruise ships will hold your passport for the length of the cruise so that they can clear customs as you pass through different countries.
13. Beware of Stranger Danger
Crimes do occasionally happen on cruise ships, and unfortunately, the crime that happens most is sexual assault.
It is unfair that people have to even consider that they might be victimised in such a horrible and disgusting way, but unfortunately things can happen, not that I condone this behaviour as it is never, ever deserved.
To make sure that you do not get taken advantage of or put in harm's way, be as careful as possible to avoid going into the stateroom of a person who you don't know. It's easy to get swept up in the romance, but it still pays to be safe.
14. Keep It Clean and Sanitize
This is one that no one should need to be reminded of after 2020's worldwide re-education.
Cruise ship staff will be sure to encourage everyone onboard to keep their hands washed. Make sure that you washy washy when they ask and also use the available hand sanitizers that are placed throughout the ship.
Sinks are there for a reason, so make sure to keep your hands clean. New ships in certain cruise lines have also started to incorporate hand washing stations at the entrances to dining areas, which is a great way to freshen up and reduce the spread of COVID-19 and Norovirus.
15. Social Distancing Doesn’t Have to Ruin the Fun
How much has the term 'social distancing' been used in recent history? Too much, if you ask me. Even though as a term it feels like it has been overused, it doesn’t make it any less valid as a control measure for controlling this pandemic or even just the cold and flu.
With the introduction of a vaccine, we will hopefully see things start to return to a more normal way of being, but there is no denying that social distancing has huge benefits.
Staying the course and not sharing your bugs with everyone just makes good sense, even in the best of times. Keeping more distance from those around you and avoiding large crowds or packing into the elevator all at once are just a couple of ways for us all to do our bit.
16. Keep Your Mask on When Indoors
I hear you, and yes, most don’t like wearing masks, especially when they are told they have to.
However, if everyone wears one when necessary, we will reduce the need to wear them into the future with any luck. They can reduce the spread of COVID-19 but they can also reduce the risk of picking up other bugs, which is great if you don’t want to cop a dose of a virus on your way back home after your cruise.
If you’re the kind of person who has a chronic health condition or is immune-compromised, getting unwell could massively affect your current level of health, then there really isn’t any harm in wearing a mask whenever you need to. I wear one for peace of mind but also so that if I get sick, I won’t infect those around me. I need them to be well so they can look after me and make me chicken soup.
The ship's elevators and activity spaces that are inside like theaters, bars and lounges can have end up having a lot of people in them at any one time, and wearing a mask around large groups is a great precaution to protect yourself and your loved ones.
17. Keep Medications Close at Hand
This is one that has always worried me, so I always actively make sure that I have enough medication available for the whole cruise and then some. I also do not let anyone else handle it and keep it in my carry-on during embarkation day so that it doesn’t go missing in accidentally lost luggage.
Always carry any prescription or medical-incident-related medication with you while you are onboard in case you have an issue and need it to be administered by yourself or a medical officer.
18. Pack Over-the-Counter Medications
Whether it is heartburn from a few too many of those yummy pastries or that street food just isn’t agreeing with you, it pays to be prepared for run-of-the-mill illnesses and tummy upsets.
It is always a good idea to have a decent selection of over-the-counter items that you might need. If by chance you forget to pack them, it will end up costing you a premium on the ship to replace them, and that is if you are lucky enough to find it at all.
19. Don’t Become a Stress Monster
Last but not least, don’t become a stress monster. Though I have broken down a few things here that make cruising sounds like a horror, the reverse is actually true.
Remember that cruising is fun and most cruise trips are just good fun and filled with great memories, so make sure that you enjoy yourself and concentrate on having fun, knowing that you have planned ahead enough to allay your fears and ensure you are safe and sound throughout your trip.
These handy hints aren’t meant to freak you out or make you think cruising is dangerous. They're simply a reminder that you need to use your head just a little bit whilst having fun to make sure you and your loved ones stay safe and well.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Paddy Michelson