You may be on vacation, but that doesn’t mean bad luck takes a holiday. The capsizing of the cruise ship Costa Concordia earlier this month points out the need to keep safety in mind even aboard a luxury ocean liner.


It’s important to note that the images of the Concordia tragedy are so startling because such images are so rare. About 15 million people each year sail aboard a cruise ship without incident. And the grounding of the Concordia – and the deaths of at least 15 people – has triggered a worldwide review of safety standards. Carnival Corp., the cruise ship giant that operates more than 100 ships, including the Concordia – announced it will review safety and emergency response procedures across all its cruise lines.


Tourists boarding a cruise ship in a United States port can take comfort knowing cruise ship safety regulations are enforced by the U.S. Coast Guard – no matter the home country of the ship. U.S. Coast Guard inspectors review the plans of each cruise ship before construction and inspect the ship during construction. Inspectors also observe fire and abandon-ship drills by the crew. The local Coast Guard captain of the port has authority to keep docked a vessel that doesn’t meet standards.


Still, accidents happen, and cruise industry experts offer some tips for safe sailing:


  • Chose a cruise line that specializes in your native languages, suggests Paul Motter, editor of Having to decipher emergency instructions given in five different languages may give way to panic.
  • Pay attention to the muster drill given at the beginning of your journey. While first-time passengers may hang on to every directive, frequent cruise goers may find this part repetitive and not give it the full attention it deserves. Think of it this way — for all the times you’ve flown in an airplane and heard the emergency tips, would you really be calm as a cucumber if something happened? Listening to the safety drill can be a life-saving refresher for everyone.
  • Don’t dally should you hear the evacuation signal – seven short horn blasts followed by one long horn blast.
  • Find the quickest route to the lifeboats without using an elevator.
  • Make the walk from your cabin to the nearest lifeboat or muster station.
  • Know where your lifejacket is located. On some larger ships, life jackets are kept at the muster stations rather than in individual cabins.

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