How to Stay Safe on the High Seas

Ten Tips From Author And Maritime Attorney Charles Lipcon


Taking a cruise can be relaxing and fun, as long as you’re prepared.

Charles Lipcon investigates the cruise ship industry in “Unsafe on the High Seas,” examining sexual assaults, shipboard disappearances, cover-ups, noroviruses, unaccredited doctors, inadequate security and ticket contracts. Read some of his most salient tips below, and find out how to ensure that your dream cruise doesn’t end in a nightmare.

1. Get shots for contagious diseases, such as flu, measles, mumps and rubella.

2. And before you step out your door, make sure someone is picking up your mail and newspapers so you won’t leave any telltale signs that might attract burglars

3. Bring an extra pair of eyeglasses and your own first-aid kit, and know how to use it in case of an emergency.

4. Watch your step. To avoid bumps on the head on middle-of-the-night bathroom trips (especially if you’ve bought an inside stateroom), and bring a night light. Outside your cabin, and with all the serving stations on decks, spills are frequent, and slippery floors cause accidents. So you need to take care when you walk — no head up in the clouds!

5. Check your insurance coverage. Most policies and Medicare do not cover medical treatment on cruise ships. Consider buying supplemental health insurance.

6. Notify the cruise line of any pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes, a heart problem or pregnancy. It will be better able to assist you in case of an emergency.

7. If you have serious medical problems, it is a good idea to discuss with your family doctor whether you should go on a cruise. There is a good chance that any immediate care that you might need won’t be available when you need it.

8. Bring copies of your medical records noting your current medications and dosages, blood type, allergies and immunizations. Tuck extra prescriptions and over-the-counter medications in your suitcase, as well as your doctor’s contact information and your next of kin’s.

9. Inquire about the onboard medical personnel before you sign up for a cruise. If an agent tries to brush you off, keep calling until you’re satisfied with the answers to your questions. Oh, and try to get those answers in writing.

10. Urge Congress to pass legislation to protect passengers in medical emergencies, and to require that cruise lines adopt stricter hiring rules for all medical personnel. (Cruise ships currently use doctors who work as independent contractors, so you have no recourse to the cruise line if something goes wrong.)