Checklist for Cruise Safety

As a few recent high profile incidents have indicated that not every cruise operates as intended. Even if the ship does not run aground or suffer an onboard fire, passengers and workers can still suffer injuries in a variety of mundane ways. Preparing for the possibility of suffering an injury at sea and taking preventative action can save you and your family trouble in the future.

cruise safety by Jorge Quinteros on Flickr

Before Departing

1. Conduct Research

Large cruise operators will generally have improved training for in-house staff, greater resources to repair defects, and a larger number of amenities. However, these rules are not set in stone. If a particular cruise line tends to ignore customer complaints, you may be better off working for, or traveling with, another line. This does not guarantee that problems will not result, but it does reduce the probability of encountering an issue.

2. Read your ticket

Recovering damages after being the victim of negligence or another party’s intentional act while at sea is not as simple as it is on land. On land, victims simply sue in court seeking damages following a defendant’s tortious act. In international waters, victims have different requirements, also affected by their employment status.

For paying customers, the terms of the ticket usually govern any future lawsuits. The ticket itself will contain the venue, strict time limits for filing a claim, notice requirements, and any limitations on damages. Knowing these terms in advance is vital, as time limits are usually shorter than the governing statutes of limitations for civil cases and very quick notice is required of an injury. If you do not adhere to these terms, you may forfeit your right to make a claim against the line.

Any damages sustained by a crew member would fall under Admiralty law which specifically protects rights of people who work at sea, including employees on cruise ships. A maritime injury lawyer would handle these types of cases.

3. Pack extra supplies

Taking duplicates of everything is usually impossible due to luggage restrictions. Carrying enough food and water in the event of an accident to last for days is similarly impractical. However, you should not count on every type of supply being in abundance in the event of an emergency or in the event of unforeseen circumstances. Even if you are not injured at sea, the vessel’s return may be delayed by several days.

As a precaution, you should carry duplicates of essential supplies. If you require medication to remain healthy, carry additional medication with you on the cruise. Carry an extra set of eyeglasses if you require corrective lenses. Pack additional underwear, toothpaste, ointments, toilet paper, soap and shampoo. Bring a flashlight with extra batteries for navigation in the event of a power outage and a first aid kit for use in the event that you are injured and cannot locate a medical crew member. Carrying a whistle may also be prudent; not every stairwell and interior area is well traveled and if you fall and injure yourself, normal shouting may not reach other passengers.

While Underway

Use common sense. For cruise passengers, the entire point behind taking a vacation is to cut loose and enjoy yourself. Done to excess, this can lead to problems. A cruise ship in terms of population is essentially a small floating city with the potential criminal element of a land locked city. Careless conduct increases the chances of suffering a slip and fall injury on the deck or on an internal stairwell or of being victimized by crime.

Avoid excessive drinking and reckless conduct like hanging over the edge of the ship. In the event that you become inebriated and wish to retire to your room, have a trusted friend or crew member help you navigate the narrow and often slippery stairwells common on cruise ships. Do not play with life-saving equipment like life preservers or lifeboats. If your cabin is located down an isolated hallway, get someone to walk with you. Don’t carry large amounts of cash, or flaunt expensive jewelry as you may attract unwanted attention from those who want what you have.

For those employed on the ship, be sure to report all identified hazards to the ship’s management. The best time to avoid an injury is before it occurs. Flooring should always be kept as dry as possible. Wet stairwells are common on cruise ship exteriors and friction tape can wear off. If a stairway appears to be difficult to navigate due to some external factor like water, corrosion, or slippery steps, notify the boss. Other latent hazards like stairwells with loose handrails or exposed wiring should also be brought to management’s attention. When there are safety instructions issued, obey them.

Respecting the Officers

Why should you respect and obey crew officer directions? Because safety is also of utmost importance for them. They must abide by strict codes of conduct so passengers and crew can fully enjoy a safe trip. Officers have been specially trained to meet their company’s safety standards which could save you in the event of an emergency. Their certifications can include first aid, survival techniques, fire fighting and prevention, and crowd management in a crisis.

Reporting Incidents

Even though they have been highly trained, cruise workers aren’t immune to injury. In the event that you or someone you know suffers an injury, request medical attention immediately. Any cruise ship will have a physician and an onboard infirmary. However, these small setups are rarely designed to treat long-term problems or identify latent injuries. If the injury is severe, you may be removed from the ship and transported to the nearest mainland hospital. If the injury appears to be treatable on the ship, use the ship’s services and consult with a physician after the cruise has ended.

If there has been a crime committed, notify the nearest crew officer immediately and request an investigation, and appropriate assistance. Describe the incident as clearly and concisely as possible. In the event that a crew officer appears to have difficulty speaking your language, you should locate a second crew officer or ask for a professional translator to ensure that your situation is properly understood.

After suffering an injury at sea, you may benefit from consulting with an attorney. If you are an employee and are injured at sea, find legal help in an experienced maritime and admiralty law attorney. Most injuries are preventable. If the injury was not your fault, you may be entitled to certain compensation. However, claims may be restricted to the terms to which you agreed when you purchased your ticket or accepted your employment; as mentioned previously, this usually includes prompt notice provided to the cruise line of your intent to file a claim. If you are considering whether to seek legal counsel, do so sooner rather than later.


Teresa Stewart feels fortunately to have been victimized only by a case of seasickness during her cruises. She writes tips to alert the ocean-bound to safety awareness and the difference of legal procedures while on the water. Maritime injury lawyer group Doyle Raizner LLP takes personal injuries that happen offshore seriously, and they work to educate their clients on all entitled benefits. Their experience in the industry of cruise ships helps to get their clients full compensation for their claims.

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