Step on a cruise ship, and you’re likely thinking about umbrella drinks, hanging out by the pool, and working on your tan. Safety and health are just about the last thing on your mind.
That’s understandable. On vacation, not only does no one want to think about bad things that might happen… there’s usually so much excitement that it doesn’t even occur that there could be danger.
Of course, with the health crisis, that thinking has changed for many people. While cruise ships definitely had their share of COVID cases, they received much more than their share of negative headlines. One positive is that people are thinking more about how to stay safe while sailing.
But staying safe on a cruise ship involves more than simply not getting sick.
The good news is that overall cruising is a fairly safe activity. That’s not to say that it’s completely void of any danger. Injuries, sickness, and even deaths do occur, unfortunately. The odds, however, of something happening to you are low, and with a little bit of foresight, you can further reduce your chances of something bad happening and spoiling your vacation.
What you may not realize, however, is that much of the harm that can come to you on a cruise isn’t a major event like falling overboard (although it does happen). As with being on land, many of the injuries you might experience on a trip are much smaller, but still serious — things like slips and falls or dehydration.
Below, we’ve rounded up a number of must-have tips for staying safe and healthy on your next cruise. And while some of these items are major — including to never sit on a handrail — most of them are designed to help you from seeing smaller injuries that can still cause plenty of havoc on your vacation.
Staying Physically Safe on a Cruise
Want to make sure that you enjoy your trip and come back safe and sound? While few people think about it, there are a number of hazards on the ship, such as slippery areas that lead to falls. These tips will help you stay well while you enjoy your cruise.
Wear Shoes and Sandals With Good Grip
On the ship, you’re likely to do quite a bit of walking on potentially slippery surfaces. From passing rain showers to deck cleaning to splashes by the pool, there are a lot of chances for puddles to form.
Of course, that means slips and falls are a potential danger. If you like wearing those cheap flip-flops that cost about $3 and quickly become smooth on the bottom, go ahead and toss them out before your cruise. Anything with a smooth sole makes it seem like ice skating when it gets wet. Instead, invest in something with rubber grip and tread that will help you have sure footing as you walk.
Use the Handrails Around the Ship
There are lots of stairs to climb as you go around the cruise ship, but even on flat surfaces you’ll often find handrails — such as when you walk down hallways. These aren’t just for decoration. Handrails are important safety devices meant to keep you from falling. Even if you are sure-footed, a rocking ship can easily cause you to stumble and lose your balance. Use the handrails around the ship to help keep a fall from causing an injury.
Don’t Overexert Yourself
Climbing ancient ruins? Scuba diving? Snorkeling in choppy waters? There are plenty of ways for you to overexert yourself on a cruise — especially if it’s an activity you aren’t used to doing. You should also keep in mind that the heat and humidity of Caribbean ports can take some acclimation. It can quickly drain your energy and make it easier to suffer heat-related effects. Take it slow and be sure to drink plenty of water.
Know Where Life Jackets Are Located
The chances of you having to put on a life jacket while on a cruise are minimal. Still, it’s a good idea to know where they are located in your cabin. Most of the time they are found in your cabin closet.
No need to actually take it out and try it on, but just be sure you know where to find it. If you are traveling with kids, also make sure that you have a kid-sized jacket in your room. If not, ask your cabin steward to provide one.
Know the Location of Your Muster Station
Before you set off from the pier on debarkation day, you’ll have to go through a muster drill. In this exercise, you head to your assigned meeting spot in case of an emergency. Your spot is determined beforehand and you should have the location noted on your keycard for the room. Even though the staff can assist you in locating your muster station, it’s a good idea to remember where it is on the ship. You’ll want to be able to quickly find it in case of emergency.
Never Sit on a Ship’s Railing
To most people it is common sense. But to others, it’s a thrill, or they simply do it without thinking. No matter the reason, never sit on the railing of the cruise ship. This includes your balcony or on the pool deck. Unfortunately, accidents do happen with passengers sitting on rails and then falling overboard. Once overboard, it’s rare that a person is ever found again.
Staying Healthy on a Cruise
The health crisis that shut cruising down for months changed our lifestyles in so many ways. Now, staying illness-free is a big concern among many on the ship.
Wash Your Hands or Sanitize Often
The most obvious advice in keeping healthy is one you’ve known since kindergarten. All the health authorities and cruise lines encourage you to wash hands frequently to avoid getting sick. This is especially the case before eating.
Sinks are available in the restrooms across the ship and some lines have started to install them outside of dining areas. No sink in sight? That’s ok, there are hand-sanitizing stations around the ship, including at the entrances of restaurants. Be sure to use them regularly to limit the potential spread of any virus.
Keep Your Distance
Before the pandemic, social distancing wasn’t in our vocabulary. Now it’s a phrase that’s burned into our memory.
There’s a good reason distancing such popular advice among the medical and health officials — it works. Even after COVID (if there is “after” COVID), keeping more distance from others isn’t a bad move, as it should help diminish other illnesses as well.
That means avoiding large crowds or lines, using stairs instead of elevators, and sitting farther away from other groups when dining.
Mask Up When Indoors
No one wants to wear a mask — especially on vacation. For better or worse, however, they look like they will be with us for a while.
If you are someone who doesn’t want to get sick or someone who falling ill can cause major problems (e.g. you are older or have health issues), then there is no harm in wearing a mask around the ship indoors. Not only can it help protect your health, but it can also give you peace of mind while you cruise.
Spots like elevators and indoor areas such as theaters and lounges can have thousands of people pass through them daily. There’s no harm in wearing a mask when around large, crowded spaces.
Pack Over-the-Counter Medications
Sometimes the worst happens and you do get sick on a cruise. The only thing worse than feeling bad is not being able to treat your symptoms.
It’s a good idea to pack an assortment of over-the-counter items to counter anything from headaches to upset stomach to sunburn.
If you’re in a pinch there will be a store on the ship selling these items, but they are expensive. It’s much better just to bring some from home so that you’ll have them right away if you need them.
Avoid Being a Victim
Don’t be scared on your cruise. The vast majority of trips go off without a hitch, but with millions of people cruising, inevitably, someone does fall victim to a crime. These tips can help you avoid that.
Keep Your Wits About You While You Drink
Drinking and cruising go hand in hand. But don’t use that as an excuse to get hammered and completely lose your wits. Lots of trouble can be had by having too much to drink — from becoming belligerent to falls on a rocking ship. If you plan to drink, it’s best to keep it moderate or at least have someone you trust to keep you in check while you have fun.
Be Careful About Going to Other’s Rooms
Of the major crimes reported on a cruise ship, sexual assaults are the most often reported (you can see crime reports for cruise ships here). One way to avoid being a victim is to be careful about going to the cabins of people you just met on the cruise. If you feel at all unsure or unsafe, it’s best to use common sense and keep from being alone with someone you just met.
Keep Your Cabin Door Locked
Every cabin door will automatically lock when closed so that someone passing by can’t just open any door. Even so, it’s a good idea to use the deadbolt and the door latch for added security while in the room. It’s also a good safeguard in case the room attendant accidentally tries to come in while you’re in the middle of changing clothes or taking a shower!
Use the Cabin Safe
All cruise cabins come with a small safe, usually found in the closet. It’s the type where you enter a four-digit code to lock and unlock it. These safes aren’t big — they are smaller than a microwave — but they can help you avoid being a victim of a crime of opportunity.
You should always use them as a place to store valuables like your phone, wallet, or cash when you are out of the room. It’s also a good spot to put anything you don’t want to the room steward seeing when they come to clean the cabin.
Know That Ports of Call Aren’t a Theme Park
With the feel of the cruise ship — where everything revolves around the cruise passengers — and the port welcoming areas, it can seem like you are visiting a theme park built just for you. But be aware that once you leave the port area, you are pretty much on your own. Petty crime does happen.
Major accidents happen, even if you are on an excursion. For instance, a volcano eruption in New Zealand caused injuries among a number of cruise passengers there for an excursion.
If you do plan to adventure out, use common sense. Don’t drink too much, travel with others, and don’t be flashy with money or jewelry.
Don’t Stress: Most People Cruise Safely
While we’ve outlined a number of ways to stay safe on a cruise above, you should recognize that the vast majority have their trips go off without a hitch. The tips above aren’t meant to scare you or make you think cruising is dangerous.
Instead, it highlights some common-sense moves you can make to ensure your vacation is fun and goes off without an incident.