The Safety of Cruises

Is it safe to take a cruise? And, as a related question, are cruise ships safe? Many people worry about how safe it is to take a cruise, and this is to an extent understandable. Every so often, we hear or read about something bad happening on a cruise ship, like when a fire broke out on the Royal Princess (a ship in Princess Cruises’ fleet) in the summer of 2009 (although no injuries were reported), or when a female passenger fell off a Carnival cruise ship during this same summer. And this is to say nothing of the reports of pirates that periodically come up in the news. Even though these are rare occurrences, it is only natural to wonder about the safety of cruising after hearing such things.

In general, though, cruises are very safe. Thousands of cruises are completed each year, and it is rare that anything tragic happens on these voyages. If anything does occur, it tends to be relatively minor, involving something like theft. (For more information on how to personally stay safe and secure on board a cruise ship, check out this article covering cruise vacation safety tips.) As far as major threats to safety are concerned, like a ship sinking or being attacked by pirates, the odds of this happening are extremely small, but we’ll look at each individually just the same.

The likelihood of pirates ambushing a ship or some other terrorist attack occurring is slim. While there was an incident involving pirates in 2009, during which six pirates tried to board a cruise ship after firing at it with automatic weapons, no one was injured as a result of the attack, and the pirates failed to gain access to the ship. This event occurred about 500 miles east of Somalia, a place that in recent years has come to be associated with pirating, so if you are really worried about being attacked by pirates, you should perhaps avoid taking a cruise that passes through this part of the world. (Again, though, it is not as if pirate attacks on cruise ships are anywhere near common.) A terrorist attack is also unlikely to occur, as cruise lines take strict safety measures to keep their passengers safe, and this especially true after the September 11th terrorist attacks. Cruise ships scan cargo and all the baggage that passengers take on board, and access to restricted areas is severely limited. Cruise lines also have robust security staffs, often composed of (at least in part) former military personnel, to help keep cruise ships safe.

The odds of a cruise ship sinking are also vanishingly small. Cruise ships are subject to intense federal and international regulations, and these include checking the seaworthiness of the vessels frequently. A Certificate of Compliance examination is conducted annually on cruise ships, and there are quarterly evaluations too. These inspections focus on the structural integrity of the ship and the safety systems that cruise ships have in place. This latter fact brings up another good point about cruise safety: even in the very unlikely event that a cruise ship begins to sink, there are safety systems in place to evacuate passengers. A few years ago, a Canadian cruise ship hit submerged ice off Antarctica (which is itself an unlikely event – the captains of cruise ships are highly trained) and began to sink, but all the passengers escaped unharmed on lifeboats. Obviously, this is an unfortunate event, but it goes to show you that even if the statistically improbable occurs, there are still safety nets in place to catch your fall, as it were.

Overall, cruising is definitely safe, and you shouldn’t let a few wildly unlikely events deter you from taking a cruise vacation. Life is all about calculated risks, as the cliche goes, and when it comes to cruise vacations, the calculations are favorable to the vacationer.

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