Today, Roger from Winter Park Florida asks “I have to admit, after many cruises, I am starting to be a little bit concerned about our safety both on and off the ship. Is it just me or does it seem that more passengers are getting hurt, assaulted or otherwise becoming crime victims on cruises?”
Good question Roger, and one that has indeed been coming up more often lately. I don’t know that more crimes are being committed but they sure do make the headlines when they do. There are a whole bunch of sources to check on statistics and I suppose a case could be made both supporting and denying the increase/decrease of safety issues. But let’s start with some things we can do ourselves to insure our own personal safety
Protect your identity
Make copies of your passport, driver’s license, credit cards, wallet contents, and travel documents. You also should make a copy of the credit card “lost or stolen” notification phone numbers. Leave one set of copies at home with a friend or family member who is easily accessible by phone (the person you know with no life who is always home is good), and take the other set with you, packed separately from the originals. Designate one person in your travel party as the “document person” who holds everyones documentation but have another person in the party hold copies of everything as well.
It is a good idea to make a couple of extra copies of you passport to use to take ashore but I have yet to do it. I almost always walk off the ship with my Ship card and divers license and that’s it. As soon as we get to the cabin I lock up the passports in the safe and forget about them until time to go home. Some people like under-the-clothing money belts which are a pretty good idea, My father taught me to keep valuables in my front pocket, which is harder to steal from when we were at a county fair once, that lesson has stayed with me and worked well.
Packing Your Luggage
Don’t buy expensive luggage. Plain-looking luggage is less likely to be a target. Some thieves might equate expensive luggage with expensive contents. Like “Oh, there’s some fine Gucci luggage, there must be a mink stole, diamonds and rubies in there for sure” Pretty much any designer label is a bad idea for luggage safety. Make e a list of everything you have put in your luggage, and take pictures of it while packing in case of loss. Maybe have the kids play kickball with it before that first use or if you want it to really look like it has bee flown about some, run over it with a truck.
Don’t pack medications, eyeglasses, electronics (learned that the hard way when we packed a laptop computer once- display was acid-trip quality) and valuables in your checked luggage. Better yet, don’t take valuables like expensive jewelry or unnecessary things like your George Foreman Grill with you on the cruise at all. Although you need to put external (and internal) tags on your luggage, don’t list your full home address on the outside. This is a signal to expert thieves that you won’t be home.
DO list your ship, sailing date, name, cabin number and your cell phone number. You really don’t want to advertise to everyone at the local airport where you live. Although you don’t want expensive luggage, you do not want cheaply made luggage that may pop open in transit.
Many bags look alike and distinguishing your bag from others for easy finding at the airport is a good idea but be careful about that too. We used yellow and black hazard tape bought at a hardware store for years. I didn’t think about it at the time but that probably made our luggage less attractive to thieves concerned over their own personal safety.
In Your Cabin
When you first get to your cabin, check the bathroom (think Psycho) and closet while the cabin door is still open. While a ship is in port, many more people have access to it than you might imagine. . Don’t leave valuables lying around in your cabin in plain sight. Put your wallet, documentation, money and valuables in the cabin’s safe . Be sure to use ALL the locks on the door when you are asleep. Don’t open the door to strangers. Protect your cabin key card and cabin number. If you lose your cabin card, go directly to the Pursers desk and have it replaced. Most cruise lines have a secret code-like way of putting your cabin number on the card that a common passenger would not figure out but you can bet savvy criminals have the secret code and will go take your stuff if they find your card. Lots of people use lanyards to hang around their neck, keeping the cards on their bodies at all times. That’s probably a good idea because if you keep it in your pocket like I do it can get demagnetized and then it won’t work.
On the Ship
Although cruise ships are relatively safe, common sense is needed even at sea. Stay in the public areas, and remember that a cruise ship and its crew and passengers are like a small city, not like your family. If you are cruising with your children, set rules just like at home. Establish curfews for your teenagers, and caution them to not accompany crew members to non-public areas. Don’t give your children “the run of the ship” while you are in the club, show, or casino. Our rule was always “Don’t do anything that might require me to talk to security or identify your body” and those kids are alive and well today.
Obviously, stay behind the guard rail that keeps you from falling off the ship. Frankly, you have to try pretty hard to fall off. If you did, odds are you were being a fool by sitting on the hand rail (yeah genius, the ship does move and you can lose your balance) or being an idiot in one way or another. Some day there will be alcohol-sensing hand rails that will let out a loud alarm when an intoxicated passenger gets too close “DANGER- STAND BACK DUNKEN FOOL!” it might say. For now we have to rely on common sense and be just a little bit careful so we don’t fall off the big boat into the big ocean way down below.
While In Port
If you are going to be a crime victim while on a cruise, it is most likely to occur when you are ashore. Most crimes committed against cruise passengers are those of opportunity. We have never had a problem here but we take some common sense measures to be sure we don’t. I remember going to a county fair as a boy with my father. He said to put my wallet in my front pocket to keep from it being stolen. I followed that advice and have always looked for ways to be safe in this area. There are “bad parts” of any city and that surely applies to ports of call as well. Look for hoodlum-type people with shifty eyes but don’t make eye contact, just know you are in the wrong place and trace your steps backward to the friendly and safe tourist area.
Carrying a lot of cash is a bad idea too. Do what you have to in order NOT to flash a big wad of money when you need a buck for a soda. Thieves are watching and now know not only that you have cash to be stolen but where you put it. Some people use travel belts or the like that secure money and valuables under clothing. This is a good idea too.
You can’t put your camera inside your clothing and have it ready to take pictures but you can surely hold it at all times. I did this for our first dozen cruises and then realized I had seen all the ports of call and most of the ships through a viewfinder. Guess what? The view is better with nothing stuck in front of your face. For this reason we trade off who is “the photographer” now and I actually get to see our vacations live and in person too.
Give these tips a try and I bet you don’t have a problem with safety at sea.
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