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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Simple Tips for Cruise Safety

“YOUR PERSONAL SAFETY WHILE TRAVELING IS — AND ALWAYS WILL BE — YOUR RESPONSIBILITY.” But just what steps should you take to keep safe on a cruise ship? Follow these common sense tips and you will be on your way.

Keep Your Guard Up: It is natural to let your guard down on vacation, especially on a cruise ship. Life is good, the water is warm, the booze is flowing, the food is scrumptious — the ship seems like Paradise Island. You are living large, and that’s precisely when you’re most apt to get into trouble.

You need to be aware of your surroundings on a ship just as you would in a big city. Don’t walk down darkened hallways; keep your distance when tempers flare; don’t accept drinks from strangers. If your gut tells you something is wrong, it probably is. And don’t keep it a secret, either; notify the Purser’s Office the minute you suspect trouble.

Use the Ship’s Safe: Leave the Rolex watch and the Gucci handbag at home — you’re on vacation, so you don’t need to worry about the time. Keep most of your cash and valuables (especially your jewelry, return tickets and passports) in the ship’s safe.

Watch What You Eat: If you are lactose intolerant, you will be lactose intolerant on a ship. If stateside seafood makes you puff up and itch, so will the onboard seafood. With the myriad options for dining on a cruise ship, you can certainly be adventurous. Just don’t be reckless.

Shipboard water is usually pretty good, but you should always insist on bottled water on shore. And make sure it is a sealed bottle (yes, “bottled” water can be refilled from the local tap especially by those trying to make a quick buck on shore).

Know how your food is prepared, too. Is it heavy on the mayo in the hot Caribbean sun? Is the steak served tartar? And if you are served something you don’t like, for heaven’s sake, send it back. So be aware, and don’t be afraid to ask that your food be prepared the way you like it.

Watch the Booze: Booze will always compromise your judgment, perception, and behavior. While everyone likes to have a few umbrella drinks aboard ship, don’t let them get out of hand. Why not? Because booze on a boat is the same as booze on land — only you are moving forward at 20 knots on a luxurious ship at sea.

Watch the Gambling: Crooks cruise too, so cash-in your winnings periodically and take them to the ship’s safe; if you win big, ask for an escort. Don’t ever make a scene; it will only draw attention to you and make you a target for crime. For the same reason, be careful about flashing your money outside the casino, too. If you win, congratulations! Just keep the celebration low-key.

Watch Out For the Crew: No, they are not out to get you, but you need to understand that these are folks whose standard of living is most likely lower than yours by a considerable margin. You will likely be perceived as the wealthiest of the wealthy. Most crewmembers are honest and hard working, but don’t give them any opportunity to take advantage of you. Jewelry on the night table — even your loose change or iPod — is but a quick grab for a cabin steward, a maintenance worker, or the kitchen worker who refreshes your fruit plate.

Land Ho! Be careful on your shore excursions. The cruise lines organize the shore trips because they are moneymakers for them; in return, you get some assurance of quality and security. You can save a buck (or many) by going it alone, of course, but beware. Make sure you negotiate any fares and fees upfront. Most cabbies are honest when the cards are on the table, but if you do not agree in advance, the sky will be the limit and you may find yourself in a police station for failure to pay the fare.

Report Anything Suspicious: Keep your eyes and ears open. If something looks odd to you, it probably is. Is there a creepy guy hanging outside the teen club? A man who is asking dozens of single ladies to dance? A couple that is fighting in public left and right? Take a walk to the Purser’s Office and let the staff know. They will appreciate it, and you might just head off tomorrow’s top story.

Now that you are rethinking that cruise you just booked, sit back and take a deep breath. This information should not be a cruise vacation-breaker. It’s just common-sense advice taken from Main Street and put on the Lido Deck. In fact, cruising is a fabulous experience, and it’s probably a lot safer than crossing your own street.

Just think safe, and it will be smooth sailing all the way.

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