Undoubtedly people love to take cruises. Cruises offer the chance to see the world in a convenient, affordable way. There are people who like the ability to have their meals included with the cost of travel, and they like the simplicity of taking a cruise because everything you need is onboard.
While there are perks for some travelers when it comes to cruising, there are also plenty of downsides to be aware of.
The COVID-19 pandemic really highlighted some of the risks of cruising. There were outbreaks on ships overseas before they occurred on a large scale in America. Many travelers were not only catching the virus from one another onboard but were also getting trapped at sea because ports wouldn’t allow them back. There were countless videos of the nightmare situations that cruise passengers were facing in early 2020.
Along with that situation, the following are other considerations everyone should keep in mind as far as the risks and safety of taking a cruise.
Major disasters on cruises, like running aground or sinking, are pretty uncommon, but between 2005 and 2018, there were almost 450 cruise ship accidents reported. In 2019 alone, around 30 million people boarded cruise ships, and there are thousands of minor accidents each year. Many of the onboard injuries that occur are slips, trips, and falls. More than 12% of those onboard accidents are characterized as serious.
There’s not one single government organization that investigates cruise accidents like the FAA does for plane crashes, so it can be harder to find definitive data on the topic.
Two of the biggest accidents in the past decade were the Costa Concordia and the Carnival Triumph.
In 2012, the Costa Concordia ran aground, sinking off the coast of Italy. The accident occurred because the vessel hit a reef, shearing its hull. Then, as a result of that, seawater seeped into the ship, causing the engine to shut off. That incident led to the deaths of 32 people.
In 2013, the Carnival Triumph had a fire starting in the engine room midway through the trip in the Gulf of Mexico. The boat began floating without power, leading to unsanitary and dangerous conditions, with passengers and crew being rescued after three days.
Below, we’ll talk more about some specific types of accidents and how they can affect cruises.
2. Illness Outbreaks
There are often outbreaks of illnesses aboard cruise ships. The COVID pandemic was one notable outbreak, but there are frequently others as well. There are often outbreaks of gastrointestinal illnesses onboard ships, for example.
The norovirus is one that frequently spreads among travelers.
Many of the most contagious illnesses that lead to outbreaks on ships can lead to symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting, as well as abdominal pain and low-grade fevers.
Cruises can be a breeding ground because a lot of people are in confined spaces with one another.
There are a lot of common areas people on cruises are sharing, and along with stomach bugs, respiratory illnesses like COVID as well as colds and the flu spread around.
Bacterial infections from E. coli, shigella, and salmonella have been reported on cruises, and when there are outbreaks of these, they’re often categorized as traveler’s diarrhea. A lot of bacterial illnesses onboard ships are foodborne.
3. Fires and Explosions and Engine Troubles
Around 60 people a year are injured on cruises because of operational mishaps. These can include small fires but also explosions and collisions. It’s rare for these things to happen, but certainly not out of the question.
Also, cruise ships are vulnerable to getting stranded. For example, in 2019, more than 1,300 passengers were stuck when the Viking Sky ship experienced engine troubles while it was off the coast of Norway. The ship was facing choppy waters and strong winds, and more than 400 people had to be rescued. Of those rescued, 28 had to go to the hospital.
4. Going Overboard
Since 2000, it’s estimated that around 300 people have gone overboard on cruises and also ferries. Every year, 19 people, on average, go overboard. Between 2009 and 2016, there were eight deaths because of overboard incidents.
You might not think of crime happening on cruises, but in reality, it does, and it may be going up. There are eight types of major crimes that are most often reported on cruises.
One that’s disturbing and increasingly prevalent is sexual assault. In 2019, there was a 67% increase in sexual assaults on cruises compared to the previous year. Carnival Cruise Line had the most reported sexual assaults.
Assault other than sexual assault can occur, too, especially in environments where a lot of alcohol is being consumed.
Theft can and does occur on cruises too. In general, if you cruise, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings just like you would anywhere else. Being in the enclosed, controlled environment of a cruise can give you a false sense of security, but you have to make sure you’re cognizant of everything and everyone around you.
There have been a number of reports in recent years about crew assaulting passengers on cruises, as well as assaults that happen between passengers.
Slip and fall accidents can occur anywhere, and cruises aren’t an exception. Slip and fall accidents can happen by the pool, on an open deck, on a dance floor, or in other common areas.
Deck surfaces are slippery, and there’s often seawater and other liquids on them.
Also, buffing or waxing floors can contribute to this risk.
Cruise ship collisions are rare, but if vessels do collide with one another, the results can be life-threatening. As well as colliding with other boats or vessels, collisions can include underwater debris and land masses.
Nothing in life is without risks, and this includes traveling on cruises. If you are concerned about being on a cruise, there are steps you can take to protect your safety. This includes good hand hygiene, making sure you choose a reputable cruise line and ensuring you don’t drink too much or more than you would normally.
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