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Ever since the unfortunate incident aboard the Costa Concordia in January, there has been much discussion about the lifeboat drills conducted onboard cruise ships. Do they work? Are they effective? And what – if anything – needs to be done to prevent the kind of confusion that ensued aboard the Concordia – which, incidentally, is a much larger topic of discussion.
It’s the kind of question I get a lot from prospective cruisers, and it’s usually followed with the add-on question: are cruise ships safe?
The short answer: yes, without a doubt.
A cruise is one of the safest vacations you can take, much in the same way that flying is one of the safest modes of transportation available, despite what the news media and Hollywood would lead you to believe.
Can you run into trouble on a cruise? Of course – but you can run into trouble outside your own home. The same holds true for hotels, all-inclusive resorts, trains, yachts, catamarans, and log cabins tucked away in the wilderness, if that’s your thing.
The important point that seems to have slipped by the wayside is that everyone has a responsibility during these lifeboat drills, including you and me. You need to know how your lifejacket is put on and secured. You need to know where your muster station is, and how to get there. If you don’t know, ask. Don’t assume that there will be people guiding you in an emergency; you should know how to get there unaided if at all possible.
True – the cruise line is responsible for your safety and well-being onboard the ship, but there’s that old saying: you can lead a horse to water… Don’t be the horse that gets led to the stream, only to be confused by what to do.
Each cruise line has their own individual policies for mustering passengers. Some articles have called for these to be standardized, but I personally feel that would be a mistake. After all, the way you muster nearly 6,000 passengers on a megaliner is going to have to be much more involved than mustering a few hundred passengers aboard a smaller ship, and each vessel has its own unique design challenges that must be taken into account.
I’ve done muster drills more times than I can count – much in the same way I can recite the safety briefing onboard several airlines off by heart. But even on an airplane, I still look around at where my exits are. Why? Because not all planes are created equal – and neither are cruise ships.
Unless you sail in the same stateroom onboard the same ship every year – and I know some of you do – you’ll need to pay attention to the drill. Even if you are the one couple that has their favorite suite on their favorite ship, it’s still important – and these days, mandatory – to attend. Failure to do so has resulted in more than a few guests receiving advance disembarkation assistance – and you don’t want that to happen.
So the next time you cruise, take a few moments during the muster drill to really listen to what they have to say to you. Pay attention; don’t joke around in the background or make light of it, and definitely don’t bring your drinks to the drill.
The rum punch will still be cold when the drill ends in 15 minutes, and you can celebrate the start of your cruise in earnest!
From the Deck Chair will return tomorrow.
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