So you're planning to set sail for warm waters on a cruise ship. Or maybe you're one of those lucky people who won a "free cruise" over the telephone.
No matter where your vacation will take you, there are some basic precautions you should keep in mind on your trip.
Cruise ships are relatively safe, but being on the high seas and traveling from place to place creates a unique set of risks.
1. Enroll in STEP
Since your ship travels from place to place, contacting home in an emergency can be very difficult. By registering for the Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) you make it easier for officials to get in touch if anything goes wrong.
2. Scan your passport
Again, if you find yourself in a jam overseas, you'll need to have your passport on you. While you need to keep it physically with you, scanning your copy and keeping it in an e-mail lets you access it anywhere, even if it's lost.
You could also leave a scanned copy with a friend for safekeeping.
3. Check for travel warnings
Before you leave, check the Department of States's website for health and safety warnings about your destinations.
4. Pack smart
Don't leave any prescription medicines at home. There's no guarantee the cruise ship can provide them, so you'll need to bring your own supply.
5. Go easy on the liquor
Boozing is the number one cause of accidents on a ship, so drink within your limit.
6. Be aware of your surroundings
Don't think of your ship as a friendly bar, imagine you're traveling on a big floating city. You should keep your cabin door tightly locked (they're notoriously tricky), don't give your room number to strangers, and don't accept drinks from them either.
7. Use your safe
The best place to leave valuables is at home, but in a pinch you can store them in your room safe. We're not saying you can't trust your room stewards...just be careful.
8. Be smart about shore excursions
Don't take a lot of cash with you, and keep any money tucked inside a belt or protective holder. Don't flash any expensive jewelery or gambling winnings either.
Before leaving the ship, stop and ask your cruise director if there are any "no-go" areas in your latest port.
9. Pay attention during the muster drill
At the start of your cruise, the crew will walk everyone through the ship's alarms, procedures, and safety equipment in a big demonstration. Pay attention. These tips could save your life.
10. In case of emergency...
Treat any serious emergency on board the ship like a house fire: leave with your life jacket for the designated station right away, and don't stop at the bar or to collect your things.
Thinking of setting sail anytime soon?