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A cruise is a popular choice for vacationers who are looking for a relaxing opportunity to explore the world. There are many benefits to a cruise, like a wide array of dining opportunities, excursions, on-ship entertainment, and the chance to meet many other travelers who are all looking for a similar experience. In 2019 alone, more than 29 million people cruised globally, a substantial number of people that shows how popular this option truly is.

However, as with any large facilities, transportation methods, or lodging, there are plenty of opportunities for accidents. According to an award-winning Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, P.A., things like foodborne illnesses, mechanical failures, assaults, drowning, or slips and falls are just a few of the many different ways that passengers can suffer injuries while aboard a cruise ship. 

Take a look below to get a better idea of how common accidents are on these ships, as well as what you can do if you are involved in one.

Who Oversees Cruise Ships?

Cruise ships in the United States are overseen by the United States Coast Guard and are subject to regular inspections to help ensure that the ships and their crew meet all safety regulations. Furthermore, the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010 sets forth specific security and safety requirements for cruise ships that both embark or disembark in the U.S. and requires that all criminal activity must be reported to the FBI. The U.S. Department of Transportation releases a quarterly report about incidents on cruise lines, but again, the scope is limited to what is reported under the CVSSA.

The European Maritime Safety Agency handles this role for European-based cruise ships, as do a number of sets of rules that clarify safety and security requirements for vessels that are embarking or disembarking from European ports.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is another central organization that sets international standards for maritime safety and security, extending to all types of international vessels — including cruise ships.

As you can imagine, a vessel that operates in international waters, as well as a multitude of other countries’ waters, is subject to a variety of different laws, regulations, and standards that must be followed in order to maintain the safety of its passengers.

Are Cruise Ships Safe?

There is no organizing body with the specific purpose of aggregating cruise ship accident data, meaning that there are not consistent and public databases that highlight cruise ship safety issues. However, the Cruise Lines International Association has reported that while global cruise ship capacity increased by more than 68% percent between 2009 and 2019, and operational incidents have fallen by more than 40% — an encouraging statistic indicating improving safety trends in the industry.

Furthermore, a report titled “Comparison of Violent Crime Rates at Sea and on Shore” by James Alan Fox, Ph.D. found that cruise passengers are nearly 119x safer from homicides on cruises compared to U.S. land, 3.2x safer from sexual assault on cruises compared to U.S. land, and 130x safer from aggravated assaults on cruises compared to U.S. land. While this data is based on a limited set of information, as explained in the above section, the author concludes that “While no vacation destination is completely free of risk, cruising is clearly a relatively safe option.”

How to Stay Safe on a Cruise

Choosing a reputable cruise company with an established safety record is a great place to start. The CDC provides inspection scores through its Vessel Sanitation Program, which is based on a cruise ship’s ability to provide guests with a safe and sanitary experience. While these reports are not guarantees of future experiences, they can give you a great sense of the trust each ship has earned during its service.

While aboard the ship, communicate any safety issues or concerns with staff, including about conditions aboard the ship or about specific passengers that may be indicating concerning behaviors. The staff is there to keep you safe, and you have every right to take steps to protect yourself from discomfort or the potential of injury.

Furthermore, the U.S. Department of State recommends that travelers take extra precautions while visiting foreign ports, such as keeping away from isolated areas or separating from the excursion group, and keeping your personal belongings on you at all times. If possible, avoid bringing valuables with you in these situations.

Finally, it’s important to know that if you find yourself in a compromised situation where you or a loved one has been hurt, your best bet is to contact an experienced maritime attorney as soon as possible. They can give you real-time advice on how to navigate your current situation. Given their decades of experience, they can act like a lifeline as they guide you through this scary experience and ensure that you are protecting yourself both at the moment and in regards to the future as they begin to consider your legal options.

Happy cruising!

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