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Another day, another cruise ship dominating the landscape in Sydney Harbour. It’s a busy time of year for cruising and the ships look spectacular, conjuring up romantic images of glamorous adventures on the high seas.
And Australians absolutely love cruising. In 2011, more than 634,000 Australians set sail on a cruise, a 34 percent rise in passenger numbers on the previous year.
Safety on deck
Like any form of travel, it’s not all smooth sailing and there’ve been a few disasters recently that would put off even the hardiest and most committed cruise fans – the Carnival Triumph in the US earlier this year where passengers were stuck at sea in appalling conditions without food & water and the tragic Cost Concordia accident last year in which 32 people died when the ship hit rocks off the Italian coast.
With the announcement last week that a replica of the Titanic is being built and will travel the same route between Southampton and New York, it seems timely to provide some tips for cruising safely:
Tips for cruising travellers
- When you get onboard for the first time, check out that evacuation map on the back of your cabin door. Physically follow the route to your lifeboat station, so you’re familiar with where you’re going if you have to do it for real.
- Take an interest in the lifeboat drill on the first day. If you are in good physical shape, ask a crew member to show you how to operate the launching mechanism. If your ship really is sinking you may be facing a situation without much help from the crew – they’re as scared as you are and may already be “directing the rescue from a lifeboat” – it’s more common than you’d hope!
- If the order comes to abandon ship, follow the instructions of crew as calmly as you can. The captain knows that getting a few hundred people off a ship takes time; he won’t wait until the last minute to get you off, so no need to panic or push and shove.
- One of the biggest problems with abandoning a ship is that many of the passengers are elderly. A younger fitter person may be confident they can get themselves into a lifeboat, but the elderly often aren’t. This causes a lot of apprehension and even panic. Do your best to assure those people, and help them when you can. Less panic means a better chance everyone will survive, so it’s in your best interests to keep them calm. Never jump overboard into the ocean. It’s usually a long way down and water isn’t soft when you’re dropping like a stone. Out at sea, the deeper water will be colder than you expect, and that will affect your ability to survive.
- Cruise liners can take incredible punishment from the ocean and stay upright. But if you’re aboard a liner during a severe storm it’s sensible to take shelter. Don’t go to the piano bar where the chairs and tables and maybe the piano are sliding from side-to-side. Do not go out on deck, 50 knot winds will whip you off your feet and maybe even throw you overboard. It may be best to stay in your cabin and be comforted by the knowledge that modern cruise liners have to pass very strict stability tests before they’re allowed to operate.