Many people take cruise vacations for the holidays, and for good reason. We all want to leave behind cold weather and bask on a tropical island, sipping a piña colada and getting our tans on. But as dreamy as the idea sounds, things can and often do go wrong at sea and in foreign ports. This year will soon come to an end, but it brought with it a higher than average rate of cruise ship accidents. Though between cruise lines, federal agencies responsible for conveying accident and crime information and the public, things can still happen that render a passenger the victim of negligence or criminal activity.
If you are planning a holiday cruise getaway, we know you will have a great time, but we would be remiss as maritime lawyers not to advise you on how to stay safe while having fun. Granted, there are certain incidents that aren’t easily foreseeable or cannot be prevented, but the vast majority of accidents and crimes onboard cruise ships are the result of someone’s negligent actions – mostly the cruise lines themselves for failing to provide adequate safety to those onboard.
So, in an effort to make sure your holidays at sea are filled with joy and yuletide cheer, we’ve provided a few tips on how to enjoy your vacation and avoid getting in harm’s way.
First thing’s first, make sure to pack an emergency kit with you. Holiday cruises are decked with beautiful and festive ornaments, which means it can be that much easier to slip on some tinsel or trip over a display. Though most cruise lines have a doctor onboard, only minor illnesses and injuries can be treated. We’ve talked about how cruise ship doctors aren’t always the most experienced or dedicated, so before you experience a disaster onboard, make sure to bring with you some bandages, alcohol swabs, gauze, and medicine so you can be prepared in the event someone in your party gets sick or has a small injury. For larger injuries, you have a right to be transported to the nearest hospital for care, if the cruise ship isn’t able to provide you with it. Always remember that you have rights as a passenger, and the cruise line has an obligation to provide for your health and well-being while you are in their care.
Another great way to avoid mishaps on a holiday cruise is to establish a game plan with your cruise mates to ensure you are all on the same page. Ships these days are huge, which means it’s easy to get lost and easy to get confronted with a dangerous situation. Sexual assault is prevalent on cruise ships, as are robberies. Perpetrators are most likely to strike when they see a single traveler – especially one who’s found themselves in a dark, desolate hallway on the vessel. To avoid these types of incidents, make sure to establish a meeting point on the ship where all members of your group will meet at certain times to touch base. This way, if one person is missing, you can quickly alert crew members so no time is wasted when initiating an investigation.
It’s also wise to bring Walkie Talkies or other communication radios on your cruise. Cell phone reception completely sucks on any ship once you leave port and even in foreign countries, you might not have service. Radios work at all times and only require batteries to operate. They are VERY handy for families who are traveling with children so you can always stay in communication.
Another thing to remember when it comes to cruising is that crew members, like other passengers, can be just as likely to possess bad intentions. Many of the victims we represent at our firm have been targeted by a ship’s very own staff. Molestation, rape, theft, murder, these are all crimes that have been traced back to crew members. How do you avoid a criminal crew member? Easy, never trust anyone. We’re not saying not to socialize, but be very careful who you decide to be alone with and who you invite to your room. Crew members have been known to drug passengers, so keep an eye on your drink at all times and always make sure you have a buddy with you at all times to help you in the event that you become the victim of a crime.
Our firm also launched a free app for smartphones called Cruise Ship Lawyer which can also be a great benefit when traveling during the holidays. The app, available for both iPhone and Android users, features data reporting capabilities so you can save information regarding your accident or injury, a flashlight to help you see down dark corridors or on deck at night, and it even has a Skype function so you can contact us the instant something happens.
By following these simple steps, you can make sure your holiday cruise vacation runs as smoothly as possible. From all of us here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A., we wish you and yours a very Happy (and safe!) Holidays!